What the Hell Happened to Kevin Costner?

costner 2013

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 - Sizzle Beach USA

Kevin Costner – Sizzle Beach USA

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.

Kevin Costner - Night Shift - 1982

Kevin Costner – Night Shift – 1982

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

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner – The Big Chill – 1983

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.

de mornay - testament

Meanwhile, Costner continued paying his dues in movies like Testament.

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.

Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson - Fandango - 1985

Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson – Fandango – 1985

In 1985, Costner starred opposite Judd Nelson and Sam Robards in Kevin Reynolds’ coming-of-age comedy, Fangango.

Costner, Nelson and Robards played recent college grads who embark on a road trip circa 1971.  Costner’s character has broken up with his ex played by model-turned actress Suzy Amis in her acting debut.  Robards’ character is engaged but is having second thoughts about getting married.  Nelson played the friend with a car.

The movie started out as a student film by Reynolds while he was attending USC film school.  Steven Spielberg liked his student film well enough to fund a feature-length version of the movie.  But Spielberg was disappointed in Fandango and had his name removed from the final film.

Costner audition for the lead role in the student film but was not cast.  He auditioned again for the feature-length version and won the part.  He and Reynolds became good friends.  They would go on to collaborate several more times including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld.

Robards and Amis also had future collaborations.  Robards, the son of Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall, married Amis in 1986.  They had a son together but divorced in 1994.

Spielberg chose not to give Fandango a wide release despite mostly positive reviews.  Director Quentin Tarrantino has high praise for the movie which he was able to track down during its limited time in theaters:

Fandango is one of the best directorial debuts in the history of cinema. I saw Fandango five times at the movie theater and it only played for a fucking week, all right.”

Over time, the movie has developed a small but loyal cult following.

Next: Silverado and The Untouchables


Posted on August 20, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor, WTHH Director and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 485 Comments.

  1. this flick is first time Costner been in a movie that is both critically acclaimed box office hit since jfk. his last 2 box office hits bodyguard and man of steel both got bad reviews


    • “JFK”? That was when the 1990’s was still acting like the 1980’s and I was in 8th grade at Hoover Middle School (Hoover sucked). Costner was HOT HOT HOT back then career-wise. It is tough to simultaneously please critics and audiences while making money, while at the same time being pleased with the project you worked on. Scoring all four of those is quite a coup.


  2. yes its sad how fall Costner fell but I must he is doing much better now then he was doing from mid 90s to the 2000s. it is hard to please critics and audiences . its tough to stay on top forever. look at deniro and pacino there not as bankable as they used to be. iam guess since u where 14 in 1991 when jfk came out iam guessing u r 39 now. people are sheep Costner makes hits they kiss ass then he makes 2 flops all of sudden he was never a good actor. Costner is just talented now as he was in heyday . the way I see it Costner felt after dances with wolves he accomplished all he could and did movies he wanted to do. not cared if he was on top or not


    • Your guess is right with my age, and yeah, it shouldn’t be expected that performers will continue have the same type of success that they had at their peak. In Costner’s case, he was in control of the projects in which critics and audiences went sour on, but still, it isn’t like when those films were shot he thought, “Audiences will hate this”. It’s like what the one football coach names John McKay said about certain plays that didn’t work: “It isn’t like you draw up a play a say, ‘Now, this will NOT work”.


  3. some movies look better on paper then screen. with Costner he tried straying away from family territory by doing dark stuff like a perfect word while critics loved it audience turned away. by the time he went back to the genre that made him popular audience grew tired of him .the success of dances must gave him an ego made him think he could do anything which what made him do things like postman. he tripped over his own ego. hidden figures is in my opnino is the kind of film he should made after postman.


    • In hindsight, yeah, a film like that would’ve been better, but I guess how it all played out was inevitable, and not at all uncommon.


  4. like I said dances was a curse in disguise for him he started thinking he could do no wrong. dances was predicted to flop before it started . there where reports about going over budget Costner had to put in his own money for the rest. newspaper started duddibg it kevin gate. but when it came out Costner put those naysayers to shame. he is humble now . I can tell you Costner is in his heyday would never dare to take supporting roles like hidden figures. Costner is not first guy to let fame get to his head its common thing in Hollywood. I remember when I was 11 there was early hype 13 days would be his comeback it got great review like hidden it was given limited realease dec and wide jane to qualify for Oscars. however not only did it tank in box office it was Oscar snubbed. I truly think it was Oscar worthy


    • A curse in disguise, I think that’s an accurate way to put it. It’s like how sometimes are strengths are our weaknesses, and for performers sometimes they think what has been successful before (heck, that common in Hollywood overall) will continue the work. Sometime it’s tough to gauge if that’s what the audience wants to see, because sometimes they want more of the same, or want to move on. I guess it’s pretty difficult pleasing a bunch of strangers:-)


  5. i think after the failure of waterworld it should strayed Costner away post apoylipse films. he turned down air forces one which was bad move. I heard he even turned down Apollo 13 which was bad move but he did hidden figures so made up for it. iam actualy surprised Costner never appeared in ron howard flick like hanks he makes a lot of feel good inspirational type just like hanks .. their career are similar I could picture them in eachother roles. hanks was even considered for field of dreams and jfk. Costner was considered for private ryan. they both play everyman type films. hanks and Costner tend to make similar films to each other.


    • Well, technically Costner was in a Ron Howard film, “Night Shift”, but it’s a real blink and you’ll miss him kind of deal:-).


  6. he was an extra with keaotn. I pictured hanks in Costner roles. in a way lol Costner is poorman hanks lol


  7. its too bad he could not have been Oscar nominated for it. its shame hes only been nominated once. I think had upside been released during Oscar season maybe he and joan allen would gotten Oscar noms. in my opnion it should gotten best picture nom too


  8. him and joan had excellent chemistry. one review of Costner performance I read was not every middle aged star need quiente to revive film career it was interesting review.


  9. I hope they do more flicks togather . I wish mike binder had released this film close to Oscar season. the scene where kevin breaks down the door is priceless. kevin can truly act . which is why he should stray away from action films 3 days to kill he does suit action mold . co medy or drama more his forte .he does not always pick best scripts but Costner puts charisma into them, I was upset he turned down quieten twice he would done well in gritty role like those


  10. I see kevin appearing in supporting hits.


  11. Tomorrow is the biggest single sports event in the World: the Super Bowl. As a warm-up check out our review of the 2013 sports drama Draft Day starring Kevin Costner. You can read our review here:


  12. from what I hear his screen time in hidden is much more then man of steel


    • It should be WEHT (or WHT) or better yet, the sentence could be spelled out; I wasted my 3 remaining good brian cells trying to figure out what WHET was, now I’m all wet and feel like I’m in Waterworld. For The Love of the Game, call The Postman!


    • Where Did Whitney Go Wrong?

      [R295]/[R297]/[R300] “I Will Always Love You” was released first and was already at #1 when the film was released. That song blew up the charts and it broke all kinds of records. That song was everywhere immediately. It ABSOLUTELY propelled the success of the film. The film, by the way, didn’t even make it to #1 at the box office. It made great money, but didn’t have a huge debut. It did well over time, in large part because the song lasted so long on the charts and on constant rotation on radio.

      “My Heart Will Go On” is a better example of a song that was made successful by the film. It likely would have been a big hit for Celine Dion anyway, but it was the association with Titanic that made it colossal.


      reply 307 a day ago

      I was around back then and “I Will Always Love You” absolutely influenced the box office of the movie. The movie never would’ve been such a hit without that song. “I Will Always Love You” wasn’t just a hit song, it was a big pop culture moment, one of the biggest of the last 25 years.

      BTW, after Whitney died I watched The Bodyguard for the first time in 20 years and it really hasn’t aged well. If you watch it now, it looks like a Lifetime movie.


      reply 308 a day ago

      The Bodyguard was awful. And “I Will Always Love You” is precisely the kind of bombastic schlock that was a waste of Whitney’s voice. Dolly’s quiet version suits the song much better. The “I’m Every Woman” remake was fantastic though.


      reply 313 a day ago

      I love The Bodyguard. Whitney was not an amazing actress but she is lovely in the film and she and Kevin have great chemistry.

      They obviously tailored the film to not give her hefty dramatic moments (ie. the death of her sister – she doesn’t even get a crying scene or a reaction scene).


      reply 314 a day ago

      Personally, “I Will Always Love You” is one of my least favorite of Houston’s hits; while it showed off her amazing range I didn’t care for her arrangement. But who cares what I though – certainly not the millions and millions who bought her album. It was a MASSIVE hit for her and it propelled The Bodyguard Soundtrack to 17 million plus in album sales (according to most sources it is either the 12th or 13th best selling album of all time and hands down the number one selling sound track of all time). So who made who into a massive smash hit? It was likely both. Costner was a huge box office draw in those days and Whitney was a chart topping artist who had scores of awards to back up her album sales. She was also gorgeous – an obvious draw for viewers. The movie was awful IMO, but no more than other blockbusters of the period. Honestly, all the stars aligned on this one. That said, her hit has certainly aged better than the movie.


      reply 327 21 hours ago

      [R328], no it didn’t. The film was a slow burner and hit the $400 million mark in 1993. It took 2 months to reach $100 million in the US. The song and soundtrack were immediate hits worldwide, breaking a bunch of records upon release.


      reply 333 21 hours ago

      [R345], no, but because of the song and the accompanying video this movie looked like a chance to see glammed up Whitney sing in the context of an amazing love story. That Costner was thought of someone who made great films certainly helped.


      reply 346 12 hours ago

      The way people are going on and on about Whitney [R346] she alone is the reason The Bodyguard was a hit. The say because the song was a hit it made the movie a hit is ridiculous. People will buy soundtracks because of a movie, but, unless it is a musical, they don’t go to a movie because of a song.


      reply 347 12 hours ago

      [R352], your determination to be dense as hell is almost admirable. The Bodyguard was about a singer/actress and the film was sold in part on seeing glamorous Whitney singing. Absolutely one of the draws to the film is if people LIKE THE SONGS SHE SINGS in it. Especially if one of those songs is one of the biggest singles of all time. Same thing happened with Purple Rain–people flocked to see it in part to see Prince perform all these killer songs.

      You seriously don’t think that there were kids who went to see Vision Quest because “OMG Madonna sings “Crazy for You” in it!” They changed the name of the film in some of the international markets to “Crazy for You” to capitalize on the success of the song.


      reply 354 11 hours ago

      The Bodyguard is number 7 in yearly box office domestic gross for 1992 and isn’t even in the top 10 for 1993.


      reply 355 11 hours ago


    • 15 Movies That Completely Ruined Actors’ Reputations


      In the early 1990s, no actor/director was bigger than Kevin Costner. After landing the lead role in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, Costner set off to direct a movie himself, leading to the enormously successful Dances with Wolves, a film that won seven Academy Awards, including a Best Director Oscar for Costner.

      Dances with Wolves marked the high point in Costner’s career, and while he was in a string of not-so-great movies afterward, Waterworld is the one that is really responsible for the nail in the coffin.

      Set in a bizarre future where the world is entirely covered by ocean, Waterworld had a troubled production from the very beginning. The enormously inflated budget continually spun out of control, and even worse, the film was one of the biggest box office bombs of the 1990s.

      Though he still manages to find work, nabbing the role of Pa Kent in DC’s Man of Steel series, Costner’s career was never quite able to bounce back after the legendary mess that is Waterworld.


  13. this link makes Costner heading retired or washed up . but his last film was a hit . molly game looks interesting


    • I really can’t respect the acronym factor of the article, which would make me question if much effort was put into the point of view either. I QTA (Question The Answer).


    • Directors Chewed Up by The Machine – Page 3

      After being untouchable (hehe) in the early 90’s Costner finally had a bust with WYATT EARP. That flick failed right around the time that all the stories about WATERWORLD’S production went mainstream. It basically led to everyone waiting for WATERWORLD’S failure from the get-go.

      post #126 of 305

      Yeah and Costner immediately rebounded with Tin Cup, which was a hit. S*** would have been OK if he didn’t temp fate following the Waterworld fiasco (the first notable time a big studio film tanked domestically but turned a profit thanks to the overseas markets) with The Postman. That’s really the film that f***ed him.


  14. funny thing is Costner almost turned down the role in hidden


  15. I think its weird there more articles making his invovlment in man of steel bigger deal then his role in hidden. hidden was successful critically and commercially he had more screentime in hidden . there should be more articles making big deal about his role in hidden


  16. I just got back from hidden figures it was amazing movie Costner had plenty of screentiem he was good but not award worthy. I feel Costner is not as loved as he was in his heyday but not as hated as he was when his career first started dipping, it seems ben Affleck who unlike Costner was able to recover his bankability still gets more hate then kevin. I would say kevin is forgetten about now . if he makes a flop not even the razzies care about it anymore I was surprised razzies looked the other way for the criminal flop I guess his flops do not even get talked about but he did recive praise for hidden figures the movie was the first time in a while Costner appeared in a film since jfk that gained critical and commercial success. I will say he might be bankable currently like Affleck but he is able to play a wider range of roles then ben. not that awards matter they don’t but kevin has received an acitng nod oscar ben never has


  17. I did end up watching hidden figures amazing movie. Costner was good in the role. not an Oscar worthy performance but good nonetheless . I am happy this movie gave him a box office and critical hit where he has plenty ofscreen time


  18. hidden is one of the best movies he made in a long time


    • I was this past Sunday (during the Oscars), while on my way home, listening to KCBS radio out of San Francisco. Willie Brown, who was the mayor of San Francisco was discussing the Oscar nominated movies along w/ film critic Jan Wahl. Brown when discussing “Hidden Figures” suggested that Kevin Costner has grown a habit of taking Gregory Peck type roles. Now I don’t know if that necessarily means that Kevin Costner is for all intents and purposes, the closest thing that we have to a “modern day Gregory Peck” (kind of like how Tom Hanks is regarded as the modern day Jimmy Stewart or George Clooney is regarded as the modern day Cary Grant) or that he often takes roles that you could easily imagine Gregory Peck would be in (i.e. leaders or authority figures if not courageous, nobly heroic good guys who saw injustice and fought it).


  19. his next flick is directed and written by aaron sorking. 3 of aaron films got best picture noms few good social network and moneyball so it could be good sign


  20. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is Darker Than You Remember

    We look at how Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves came to be, what worked, and what didn’t.


  21. Kevin Costner

    Watching the Bodyguard here for the first time in about 25 years since I saw it at the theater and on video. God what a sh***y film. Every movie cliche in the book. I was only 25 when I saw it twice in the early 90s. Thank God your taste improves as you get older. Bet Scorsese still has nightmares about losing the Oscar to Costner. Any fans of Costner? I think his Oscars were the kiss of death. After his wins he did one lousy film after the other. But before his wins-Bull Durham, The Untouchables, No Way Out. All great films.

    —Anonymous (417 views)

    31 replies 28 10 hours ago

    I still can’t believe that my all-time favorite movie (GoodFellas) was beaten by that crappy collection of cliches (Indians good and noble, white man evil and bad) Dances With Wolves.

    Costner’s early films were decent, like The Untouchables and No Way Out. His best performance was in The Big Chill.


    reply 11 6 hours ago

    He was such an odd movie star. Good actor in many films, even some great performances. But no real charisma or it factor. He was blandly handsome in that solid TV actor kind of way. He belongs with Mark Harmon, Ted Danson and Bruce Boxleitner. It’s just bizarre that he won 2 Oscars.


    reply 16 5 hours ago

    He had a lot of great movies, regarding commercial movies, and Dances with Wolves was a great movie, especially for an actor-director and actor-producer, actors very rarely are good directors; Lawrence Kasdan was a very good script writer and is a legend, he was mainly into commercial stuff, but he also had artistic ambitions, there was e.g. one of his first movies which he wanted to do pretty dark, but then went for the mainstream version instead, or I think in general he wanted to do artistic movies but then sold out.

    The Bodyguard was I think his first real script or so, it was very important for him, he wanted to do it for Steve McQueen and Diana Ross, and then it stuck in development hell forever. [R18] Big success, as far as I know.


    reply 19 5 hours ago

    He produced some good work. His acting capabilities only fit certain kinds of roles. He did some acting parts that lacked impressive results.


    reply 21 4 hours ago

    He had a nice little mini Comeback last year with “Hidden Figures”. Maybe we’re not done with him just yet.


    reply 23 4 hours ago

    Costner has had a very strange career. When he chooses the right projects and is good, he can be very good. But when he does the opposite, the results can be cringe-worthy. In both instances, however, he’s very dedicated to film-making and doesn’t take his job lightly. (Has he EVER done anything quite as schlocky as some of De Niro’s recent film?) It goes for acting, directing or producing. If he has one big negative, it’s probably his sexual addictions which might get him into trouble again if he doesn’t control himself.


    reply 27 3 hours ago

    His best performance was as the corpse in “Big Chill”. “Dances with Wolves” was awful–the noble white guy being nice to the Indians. Nice ass, but sh***y performance. He’s had an inexplicable career and his inability to play anything that could translate into character parts probably will save us from watching him in his declining years.


    reply 28 3 hours ago


  22. “Wyatt Earp” ruined his career.


  23. Actors who got their directors fired

    Kevin Costner

    As as the case with The Island of Dr. Moreau, the production problems that plagued Waterworld were matched only by the bickering between the film’s director, Kevin Reynolds, and star, Kevin Costner. Though they were frequent collaborators, having worked together on Dances with Wolves and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Costner and Reynolds’ working relationship broke down under what Reynolds later described in a 2008 Sunday Times interview as incredible pressure due to the fact that it was “the most expensive [film] ever made.” Though he did insist that they’ve repaired the relationship now that they’re “older and wiser,” and having come to the realization that “life is too short.”

    Reynolds was less diplomatic years earlier, around the time of the film’s 1995 premiere, when he told EW, “In the future Costner should only appear in pictures he directs himself. That way he can always be working with his favorite actor and his favorite director.” Zing! Costner, also speaking to EW in January of 2012, seemed to have evolved his perspective on the feud over time. He said, “We had differences. It happens, especially when the stakes are as high as they were with Waterworld. But out of fire comes steel. And I’ve always had a real belief in him as a director.” In fact, Costner was speaking with the press at that time to promote his well-received miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys, which Watson directed, providing definitive proof that all of their burying-the-hatchet talk wasn’t just Hollywood lip service.


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