What the Hell Happened to Kevin Costner?

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In the early 90’s, he was arguably the biggest star in Hollywood.  His films were hits.  His directorial debut swept the Oscars.  Kevin Costner was at the top of the A-list.  Twenty years later, his films go direct to video and he’s been reduced to playing Pa Kent in the new Superman movie.

What the hell happened?

Kevin Costner’s first film was a little gem called, Sizzle Beach USA.  The movie sat on the shelves until after Costner became a star and then was released on video to cash in.

Costner can also be spotted very briefly in Night Shift!  He plays “Frat Boy #1″ in the party scene at the morgue.

Costner filmed scenes for the 1983 hit, The Big Chill.  He played Alex, the college friend whose suicide brings the rest of the cast together.  Unfortnately, Costner’s flashback scenes were cut and he ended up playing a corpse.  His face was never seen in the movie.  But he did lay still very convincingly.

Director Lawrence Kasdan was a friend and promised to make it up to him by casting him in another role later.

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Meanwhile, Costner continued paying his dues in movies like The Testament (pictured) and Fandango.

In Testament, Costner had a small role opposite Rebecca De Mornay.  She and Costner played a young couple who decide to leave town after losing their baby.

Testament was originally filmed as a an entry for the PBS TV series, American Playhouse. It received a small theatrical release before eventually airing on PBS. Reviews were mostly positive.

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In 1985, Kasdan finally made good on his promise by casting Costner in Silverado.  Silverado was Kasdan’s attempt to bring back the Western, a genre that had more or less died following Blazing Saddles.

Costner later admitted that he was disappointed not to play the hero role.  Instead, Kasdan cast him in a showier supporting role.

Silverado got mixed reviews and performed modestly at the box office.  It failed to bring back the Western genre, but it did succeed in introducing audiences to Kevin Costner.  It also marks Costner’s introduction to one of the three genres which would define his career.

Costner finally got to play the hero two years later in Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables.  The film got its star power from Robert DeNiro as Al Capone and Sean Connery in a role that would finally win him an Oscar.  But Costner’s Elliot Ness was unquestionably the center of the movie.

The Untouchables was a big hit with critics and audiences alike.  If Silverado introduced audiences to Costner, The Untouchables proved that he could be a leading man.

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Later that same year, Costner appeared opposite Sean Young and Gene Hackman in No Way Out. 

No Way Out was a sexy thriller.  The kind that would become really popular a few years later with Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct.

While it got good reviews, it did moderately well at the box office.  But it showed that Costner was a star on the rise.

Next: Bull Durham and Dances With Wolves

Posted on August 20, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor, WTHH Director and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 166 Comments.

  1. even if his next 20 movies are hit he will still be on the site

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    • Yep.

      Then it will be the story of his rise and fall and one of the biggest comebacks in movie history. It would require some rewriting, but the article would not disappear.

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  2. i seen costner interview hes not the egotistical jerk he was in his in heydays iam sure he would find it funny he jokes about the failures of his movies . Iam sure being in the spotlight he handles critisim

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    • One would hope.

      I know Sean Young didn’t care for her article. She came by and said as much in the comments. And Val Kilmer supposedly sent someone to speak up on his behalf. I have yet to hear from a celebrity who was happy to be included. But I would respect the heck out of someone who did.

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  3. sean young is crazy she is know to have mental problems lol kilmer deserve it hes an egotistical ass who dont sign autographs to fans . These actors are in the spotlight so they have to expect some criticism

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  4. they make millions of dollars whats a little critisim worth

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  5. its not like you dont highlight the ups of there careers you do put them in a positive light too your not insulting them or degrading them

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    • I do make an effort to be fair with the understanding that I’m also going to be giving them a gentle ribbing. Although I do sometimes feel guilty over all the fat pictures of Val Kilmer. That wasn’t very fair of me.

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  6. if kilmer was a nice guy i would think u were a jerk for the fat pics but kilmer is an ass to fans he dosent just tell him he dosent want to give them autgrpah he insults them . ps here is an article u must read about the black and white about it give costner oscar nom http://www.showbiz411.com/2014/08/04/kevin-costners-hot-comeback-film-could-be-oscar-bait-gets-early-look-in-hamptons

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  7. costner should work with good directors again his last big name director was eastwood he worked with and caught eastwood in his few flops. I think it would be good to work with binder who obviously from upside brings out the best in costner

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  8. I’m loving the WTHH happened series, JUST discovered it after typing, “What happened to Val Kilmer” in Google search, LOL. It’s interesting to go back and revisit actor/actresses previous performances to try a & see what happened.The thing is though NO ONE stays on the “A-list” forever at most I could see 5 to 7 years.

    To me a WTHH is when someone seems poised for stardom, or comes into stardom, & disappears out of nowhere. Or controversies & other unfortunate situations causes the person to never fulfill their potential, anyway keep up the excellent work.

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    • That’s it exactly AJ. You’ve got the concept down. I’m glad you found us. Val Kilmer has been a gateway for a lot of my readers. I always hope they will get hooked and stick around. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope to hear from you again.

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    • You bring up a valid point about the A-list, AJ. No one stays on that coveted A-list forever, eventually everyone falls off, even the biggest of movie stars do eventually. As an example, I grew up as a kid watching old James Stewart movies on tv, and back in his heyday of the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s and even into the 60’s he was a big box office draw, yet by the time I was a kid he was already in his 80’s and far beyond his box office draw days. Was he still an A-list actor in his 80’s? No. Was he a living legend? Absolutely. That’s where lines may become blurred with certain actors, to say a living legend is not on the A-list any longer can offend some. Was Elizabeth Taylor still a box office draw in the 1980’s and the 90’s? No, not at all. Was she a living legend? Of course she was! I hope that makes sense….

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      • Bless you, Craig! I have been trying to make that distinction for years. A lot of people want to argue with me that their favorite actor or actress is “permanent A-list”. But there is no such thing. The A-list is constantly changing as power fluctuates. Your past performance may qualify you as a legend. But the A-list is all about the present and the future.

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  9. but i know black and white will help costner career he might get a nom when he wants to it he can pull a good performance upside of anger good example.

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  10. true even cruise although a list i slipping a bit in last years with flop of lions of lambs and edge of tomorrow but still is a list and great career.The 2000s have been bad for harrison ford only 3 movies in 2000s were hits what lies beneath ,indiana jones and 42 but rest were flops i wouldnt be surprised if he had a page on him too but hes still looked upon as an a lister and a legend

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  11. What’s this black and white movie with costner about? The first time i’ve heard about it is here. It’s seems like everyone’s saying it could be his comeback

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  12. http://www.showbiz411.com/2014/08/04/kevin-costners-hot-comeback-film-could-be-oscar-bait-gets-early-look-in-hamptons heres is link long story short costner fights for custody of his black granddaughter it premiering at tiff and early reviews saying its costner best performance could get oscar nom

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  13. Sounds pretty dramatic. Like i said before i’m not a fan, but it would be nice to see him in a different kind of role.

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  14. given the right material he pulls it off. this movie might created alot of controversy given the racist theme but iam sure it will be interesting

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  15. i know you are busy lebeau but if you have the time are u going to mention company men which he was in 2010 or mention that man of steel did wonders for his career he is going to have altogether 5 movies in 2014 plus critics said he stole the show in man of steel despite not having alot of screentime

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    • Did Man of Steel really do wonders for his career. I thought it gave him a bump. If anything, I think the Hatfields and McCoys probably helped him more.

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      • That was a TV movie didn’t really count man of steel was the highest grossing movie in his career and he started getting more offers after that it have kind of been small role but he stole the show although Turing down django was a dumb move for him he’s getting more work hopefully he gets a nom for black and white and they don’t give his slot to untalented affleck who looks flat in gone girl

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        • I would say Hatfields and McCoys counts more than Man of Steel. Man of Steel was a high grosser. But in relation to expectations, it came up short. Also, Costner wasn’t the reason people went to see Man of Steel. He gets no credit for its success. What it did do was remind people that he’s still out there. But Hatfields and McCoys showed he can make money.

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          • Costner headlined two theatrical movies this year, 3 Days To Kill, and Draft Day, an action thriller and a sports film. Both films flopped, but that’s almost besides the point. The fact is, so many years after his star faded and approaching 60 years old, movie studios gave him a shot again at headlining a couple of films. That’s a second chance few actors ever get, so that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. I would say that second chance is directly due to the big ratings success of Hatfields and McCoys. I would be tempted to say his supporting role in the Superman movie helped, but since those two films opened eariler this year then they had to be in production/filming before the Superman movie opened last summer. Maybe hearing that Costner will have a supporting role in a big summer tentpole like Superman gave the studios extra confidence to go ahead with his headlining films, since that film would give Costner extra visibility before his headlining films open, that’s always a possibility. But again both films failed to earn their money back so his time headlining films again should prove short lived. I expect Costner will continue to get supporting roles in Jack Ryan-type films for the next few years, so he’ll be ok.

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            • You have it exactly right.

              Costner’s career is in what I consider a “bonus round”. It no longer matters if his movies are hits or not. I mean, I’m sure it does to him because if he was starring in hits he could get more money and power. But at this point, he should just be happy to be in the public eye again. His resurgence is impressive. I never thought we’d see as much of him as we have in the last few years.

              It’s hard to say how much of that has to do with Man of Steel. I don’t mean to suggest Man of Steel didn’t help his career. I’m sure it did. The fact that he gives the most memorable performance in the movie benefits him. Like I said before, I think MoS reminded people that the like him. But the resurgence started with Hatfields and McCoys. That was the project that brought him back.

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  16. but it didnt build his career hes a movie actor not tv actor.it cam up a little short but was still the 3rd highest grossing movie in 2013 your right he wasnt the reason people saw it however it reminded movie producers given the right material he could pull it off he did get credit for it because you ask anyone and they will agree he was the best part. But lets see how black and white does cause i dont want affleck to get costners oscar nom slot costners deserves a comeback before ben its no fair costners had to wait longer hes more talented

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  17. i barely hear anyone talking about Hatfield man of steel was the first time since bodyguard he appeared in a movie that gained a lot of publicity

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    • Here’s the difference. He STARRED in The Bodygaurd. He APPEARED in Man of Steel. Appearing in a popular movie beats the alternative. But it’s not going to put you on the A-list.

      With Hatfields and Mc Coys, Costner wasn’t just the star. He was a producer. It was directed by his pal Kevin Reynolds. It was like he put the old band back together. And this time, they had a smash hit. Much money was made. Expectations were exceeded. And Costner gets most of the credit. That’s a career boost.

      Man of Steel made a lot of money. It also cost a lot of money. Don’t be fooled by its bigness. It did not perform up to Warner Brothers’ expectations. What success it had owes little to Costner and everything to Superman. The movie was going to be a hit whether Costner was in it or not. The success of Man of Steel isn’t going to make Costner more powerful in Hollywood. It just gave him a bit of buzz that should help him get a few more parts. Probably supporting roles similar to the one in Man of Steel.

      You have to understand that A-list has nothing to do with what you’re friends are talking about. It’s about what the studio movers and shakers think. Trust me, H&M did a lot more for Costner’s career than his extended cameo in Man of Steel.

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      • It is not an extended cameo there quit a bit flashbacks and what money hatfield had a lot of ratings but not money appearing in an a List movie may not be perfect but appearing in a hit is still a start and open Alit of doors hatfield proved nothing it did not hit theatres just cause it’s a hit on tv don’t mean it’s a hot in theatres

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        • Nah, I have to agree with Le Beau’s comment; Kevin Costner’s presence in “Man of Steel” didn’t move the needle at all (Diane Lane is in that film too, and she’s my favorite actress of all time, but I think her presence was perfunctory). However, television film and television in general has grown in stature (some say it has surpassed theater films in quality), and “Hatfield’s & McCoys” is a well-received miniseries. Also, let’s not forget “Draft Day” (I say go Ravens!); it didn’t do great at the box office, but should make a decent profit from disc sales.

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  18. i think it did and his small role wasn’t that small it was almost as big as crowes. costners role helped a bit.http://whatculture.com/film/man-of-steel-kevin-costners-magnum-opus.php read the article it mentioned that man of steel is sort of his comeback all of articles when they talk about costner coming back they sight man of steel as one of the movies to do it. so man of steel help his career more then u think rather u like to admit it or not https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRaTFu1kmqM watch this youtube video after they mention postman they mention sometimes superman can resurrect movie careers and they show his role in man of steel even if it dont count maybe black and white can do it

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  19. he got cast in man of steel 2010 draft day three days to kill came out in 2014 but u know what craig hanson u might be right iam guessing hearing that he will be in man of steel gave producers the idea that he might be on his way to be box office gold and they want to capitlize on it but watch the youtube video link on post before this one they mention it resuract his career 3 days to kill but draft day may have flopped but if black and white give him oscar nom it could lead producers to want to cast an oscar nom actor for publicity

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  20. it was sad when you say bonus round hes my 2nd fav actor and i want him to get a comeback i was hoping black and white will do that but we will have to wait and see. he dservers a comeback he was dumb for turning down django and kill bill i guess afflecks career not considered bonus round i hope he dont get a nom for gone girl hes not as talented as costner he dont deserve nod

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    • Here’s the good news. He had a comeback. This is it. He’s enjoying a really impressive comeback right now. There’s nothing to be sad about. A few years ago, Costner was over. He was done. Byt he has come back big time and he’s going to continue working. Odds are, he’ll never be A-list again. Actors don’t tend to make the A-list after a certain age. Sean Connery pulled it off, but he’s the exception. Still, Costner’s likely to continue working for as long as he chooses to do so. He fought his way back from limbo against steep odds. That’s terrific news for his fans.

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  21. michael caine was box office poison then cider house brought him back his best work was when he was older if he can do it so can costner Plus lebeau i know you think oscar noms dont do much but if he does get nom for black and white wont that mean wonders for his career and do u think if he didnt turn down kill bill he would be a lsit again

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  22. black and white reviews are looking great he could get a nom

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  23. http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/octavia-spencer-kevin-costner-are-caught-in-custody-battle-in-first-black-and-white-trailer-20140904 here is the trailer for black and white reviews are in he might give keaton and affleck a run for there money

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  24. Costner nailed it in Draft Day. That was so HIS role! No phoning anything in. See Daffy’s review for more detail. I will be watching it again for sure.

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  25. have seen reviews for black and white there amazing

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  26. his movie got a standing ovation at tiff got reviews saying his performance got oscar buzz lets pray he gets a nom his oscar worthy performance was mr brooks

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  27. the movies reviews were not the best but i smell oscar nom if promoted right draft day 3 days to kill jack ryan flopped his last hit man of steel he needs this nom the reviews said he gave the best performance in his career said it was oscar worthy he needs this nom cause his next projects dont look promising mcfarland looks bad criminal looks stupid .he neds this nom its no fair affleck is getting hits and costner had to wait longer the competition is tough the academy is stupid if a movie gets bad reviews they overlook the performance i know costner dosent always make the best decisions mr brooks bad bad reviews but critics said his performance was oscar worthy .

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  28. here is my predication for 2014 best oscar noms bendic imation game costner black and white ( if movie marketed well his role is said to be oscar worthy) keaton birdman carell fox catcher phoniex

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  29. for those who said 3 days to kill it budgeted at 28 million made 58 million a little more then twice its budget its not a huge hit but from a business stand point not a huge flop it opened number 2 against lego movies too i think it did ok

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  30. black and white lets pray it gives him a nod because man of steel was probably closet time he will have to having his name on a movie that made money in theaters that dosent count i guess . he needs this nom but iam afraid since costner screwed over alot it wont happen hes was dumb to turn down kill bill and django

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  31. lebeau u think if costner didnt turn down bill in kill he his career would do better he turned it down for open range which didnt hurt his career but didnt help either also maybe if he didnt turn down supporting role in django he would doing good he turned it down because he was busy filming hatfields and man of steel

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  32. lebeau u say message in bottle did so so it made 140 million that is more then okay i would say its his last leading role that grossed that much

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  33. I have to say Lebeau, adding the Seinfeld “Magic Loogie” clip really brings this whole Kostner article together nicely! It really elevates the whole article to the next level! And I’m not the least bit biased in saying that! Ha ha

    You know what’s funny is, Wayne Knight appears in both the film JFK and as Newman in the Seinfeld parody of the film! Some wonderful synergy going on there….

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    • I wonder if that was part of what inspired the idea in the first place.

      The Costner article is actually on my short list for getting an update. But adding the clip is a nice short term improvement. Thanks for the suggestion!

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      • No, thank you for adding it! It’s interesting because Seinfeld was one of the most successful and iconic tv shows of the 90’s, but yet the JFK parody is quite unusual for the show; just off the top of my head I can’t think of any other outright movie parodies the show did in it’s decade on the air. Pop culture references, sure, but not outright film parodies. You are probably right, Wayne Knights’ participation probably did spark the whole idea in the first place. Besides getting a good laugh, again the clip also shows how JFK went beyond being a hit movie and entered the pop culture. Not many movies accomplish that.

        On a side note, speaking of Wayne Knight….. have you ever looked up his career? He’s had an amazing career as a supporting actor: he’s appeared in JFK, Jurassic Park, Seinfeld, Basic Instinct, Dirty Dancing, Born On The Forth of July, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Toy Story 2, Curb Your Enthusiasm….. with a resume like that I would love to buy the guy a beer and hear some stories, because you know he must have some good ones! He’s always been one of those utility players I really like.

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  34. lebeau u forgot company men

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  35. he should direct again open range did ok dances with wolves smash not a western like a gritty human drama

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  36. when r u gonna add company that role kind of made him relzie being supporting actor is not bad

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  37. The top 25 Kevin Costner films:

    http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/kevin-costner/32987/the-top-25-kevin-costner-films

    Did any movie star make braver choices than Kevin Costner, at the peak of his powers? We count down his 25 best films…

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  38. 10 Actors Who Must Regret Turning Down Major Film Roles:

    http://whatculture.com/film/10-actors-who-must-regret-turning-down-major-film-roles.php/8

    1. Kevin Costner – Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

    Kevin Costner was one of the world’s most famous, sought-after actors during the late 80s and early 90s. He starred in the likes of Dances With Wolves, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, JFK and The Bodyguard, and was invariably excellent in every role he played. When talk arose of him playing Andy Dufresne in the 1994 classic The Shawshank Redemption, he seemed perfect for the part. His star quality would make it hugely successful money-wise, and he had the talent to nail the white-collar banker wrongly accused of murder.

    Costner inexcusably decided to reject the role, however, because of his commitments to Waterworld; comfortably one of the worst films of the last 20 years. Despite making a fair amount of money, the film was panned, and Costner’s career never continued its meteoric rise from that point on. Shawshank, meanwhile, is now widely considered as one of the best films of all time, and Tim Robbins’ performance as Dufresne was absolutely brilliant. It earned him an Oscar nomination, but he lost out to Tom Hanks, who had also declined the role.

    If Costner had just said yes, rather than making the woeful decision to star in Waterworld, the likelihood is that he would have nailed the part, and continued to enhance his reputation as one of Hollywood’s most consistent leading men.

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    • Yeah, but wasn’t “Waterworld” one of Costner’s movie babies. Besides, he was going through that “everything has to be a sweeping epic” phase of his career. I think “The Shawshank Redemption” was just too small of a picture for him at the time.

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      • You are 100% correct.

        This is one of those “What Culture” articles. That site is nothing but clickbait. Obviously, Costner couldn’t abandon Water World which was indeed one of his vanity projects to go off an star in Shawshank. Also remember, Shawshank wasn’t a home run at the box office either. It didn’t become popular until it started running non-stop on basic cable. Passing on Shawshank was hardly a career-breaking move. It didn’t exactly make Tim Robbins an A-list star, did it?

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  39. Shawshank did get a lot of Oscar attention made up for lack of money plus he was a huge draw in 90s it might have made money Tim Robbins wasn’t a box office draw Morgan freeman was but that’s it turning down kill bill and Django was dumb

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    • Kevin Costner already had an Oscar for sweeping epic #1 (“Dances With Wolves”), so if he was to earn another at that point of his career, it would have to be a project that he was heavily invested in. At that time, “The Shawshank Redemption” just wan’t in his league (or his “Field of Dreams”), as it was more or less a a “sleeper”.

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    • Looks like he got snubbed for black and white no golden globe nothing Duvall got nom for judge it got bad reviews so did ansiton for cake costner deemed oscar worthy in it by critics despite the movie getting bad reviews his oscar chances are done man of steel was closet he will come to having theatrical movie make money even i he wasn’t the star it was his last high profile role

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      • FYI Tim Robbins was oscar snubbed in that movie Morgan got a nom but not Tim it did get a best picture nom so being lead in that movie did help his career

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