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. 322 Comments.

  1. footage for hidden figures is being shown at tiff so if it gets good applause it could get osca rbuzz

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  2. hidden figures of a good applaud in tiff. its building some positive buzz . If this film is a hit it could lead to more juicy supporting role for kevin

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  3. i only did it when black or white and hidden figures came out. Hidden figures is one of the most anticapted movie coming out

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    • In 2014, it was Black and White. Last year, it was McFarland, USA. I went back and looked at some comments from that time and found this little gem:

      mcfarland has 80 percent rotton tomaotes suck on it lebeau

      I’m not even sure where that came from, but okay. Whatever.

      This year, you’re getting your hopes up over a movie in which Costner has 4th billing directed by the guy whose last feature was also his directorial debut, St. Vincent. Let’s wait and see what happens before we start discussing its Oscar prospects.

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  4. Its just frustrating see actors like keaton travolt and rourke all get comeback while costner can not seem to find one. He is more talented then those 3

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    • ummm….maybe Travolta, but not those other two. Costner so often has a flat delivery. It can default to sounding natural, but too often it just sounds like he’s reading his lines rather than having a human experience in the moment. I don’t dislike Costner. He has some natural charm. But pure acting talent? Not high on his list of attributes.

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  5. His acting is subtle he is far from boring Keaton i find bland. Keaton just says his line does not add anything to his roles. keaton was very wooden in my life.

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    • Keaton is know for energetic sometimes manic performances. Costner is perfect for stoic characters but he could never play a character like Beetlejuice. He’s never approached a performance like the one Keaton gave in Birdman. He doesn’t have that in him. Nothing against Costner but his range is tiny.

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    • I like Costner just fine, but I disagree on Michael Keaton being wooden, as I’ve always considered him to be a pretty live performer. I’d say the only issue with Mickey Rourke was his seeming desire to be perceived as more of a tough guy than an actor, and disappearing from screen for a long time. There isn’t much argument that John Travolta has had an extremely uneven career though (far from perfect), and he had the fortune to be in such a culturally transcendent film like “Pulp Fiction”, and unfortunately for Costner (or maybe not: he’s probably pretty happy anyway), I think it’s tough nowadays to be part of a culturally transcendent film, since even films that are considered as such are only so temporarily (like “Avatar”).

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  6. He was great in mr brooks. That was similar to birdman. Both character had mental illness . To me keaton uses same voice never adds emotion. costner was full of energy in silverado . keaton could never play a normal every man average joe like kevin did

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    • Keaton has played those parts as well. Gung Ho and Mr Mom come to mind. But he brought an energy to those parts that Costner lacks. Even playing a psycho in Mr Brooks, Costner remained understated. William Hurt had the showy part in that movie.

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      • Let that sink in. In a movie alongside William Hurt Costner came off as understated.

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        • Hysterical. I don’t know if you have seen the movie or not, but Hurt chews a lot of scenery essentially playing Costner’s murderous impulses. He’s by far the best thing about the movie. Without him, it would be fairly dull. But his performance submerges a B movie on ooey gooey cheese.

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        • Wow, I never thought of it that way; holy crow!

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    • I liked “Mr. Brooks” too (serial killers are kind of my jam), but the film wasn’t much of a public comeback vehicle for either Costner or Demi Moore (I think Dane Cook intended the film to further launch his acting career as well).

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  7. Silverado he had energy/ A perfect was a far cry from the calm character he played. To each their own but I just never got the appeal of Keaton.To me hes flat I dislike him in a good cop , pacific heights , my life the paper and speechless.

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  8. There are actors worse then costner. I think kevin is more talented then kutcher ,arnold and will smith

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    • Of that group, I will give you Kutcher (an actor I would never think to bring up because who thinks about Ashton Kutcher) and maybe Arnold. Maybe. Not Will Smith. Not by a long shot.

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      • For sure, those are distinctly different performers with each having a completely different approach on how they go about things: Will Smith has always attached himself to numerous blockbusters (his roadmap to success), Arnold will always be known as an action hero, and Aston Kutcher has probably had the career that some believe Keanu Reeves has had.

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  9. Will has given some good performance but overall he has showed less range then kevin. Kevin is stronger actor. Costner is no where near as bad as people make him out to be. He just happened to pick some of flops people mistake it for bad acting. He held his own weight in jfk with some top notch actors. He was funny in tin cup; He stole the show in upside of anger which critics loved him in

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  10. I am sure you can think of actors worse then kevin lol. He was amazing in a perfect world. He may not always pick a list flicks but he puts on good performance. Every actor has been accused of playing same character. JAck nicholson is viewed as great actor but he has been accused of playing his real life persona on screen several times. Pacino is always loud characters

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  11. Its ok if you disagree . Kevin costner has admitted films are subjective and he is aware there are people that dislike his films but things would be boring if we all liked same flicks

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    • Acting is definitely an artistic expression that is subjective, like drawing/painting (I doubt anyone is 100% on Leonardo Da Vinci or Frida Kahlo) or writing (I’m sure some people think that Ernest Hemingway is a hack). Those industries aren’t like business or sports, where comebacks and certain merits are more clearly defined.

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  12. my personal favorites are hanks costner hackman denzel deniro cruise and jack nicholson

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  13. That’s a fine list; as for Gene Hackman, it seems he’s settled in nicely as an author nowadays.

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  14. lol lets not compare keanu to kutcher keanu is capable of heavy draamtic roles. Keanu can express emotion through facial expressions kutcher is blank . Kenau has gotten good reviews before kutcher rarely does

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  15. Aside from the fact they both played idiots before I can not really much in common with them. Kutcher was a typically actor who was former model keanu was a classically trained actor who has done Hamlet on stage.Before Bill and Ted keanu got rave reviews for rivers edge and permanat midnight. Kenau has taken more risks then kutcher. Kutcher did make me laugh as Kelso but he cannot really portray a character with depth his best strenghts are playing bumbling fools with spaced out expressions.

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    • I was just saying that the perceptions of supposed doofus roles that Keanu Reeves played is the reality of Ashton Kutcher’s career (besides, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” is infinitely more dumb than “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”)., but I’m not comparing their performances at all, (because that wouldn’t even be funny), just a perception.

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  16. i feel keanu resume has been more diverse he done more different things yes people might still view keanu resume as mostly playing doofuses but hes done more variety of things then kutcher

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  17. Captain Logan makes Eric watch one of his favorite movies from childhood, Field of Dreams.

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  18. I also think costner is more talented then ben affleck

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  19. its not random we where mentioing actors early costner is better then i named another one affleck

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  20. you agree with me kevin is more talented then ben

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    • Ha ha…no, I agree that your Kevin Costner reference wasn’t random, as it was part of a larger discussion along with Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves, and Ben Affleck being thrown into the mix. I honestly don’t like going with the “Who’s better?” theme, because I feel all those actors have something to offer. Heck, those “Who’s better?” arguments aren’t even definitive when it comes to sports, where there are raw performance numbers & titles of all kinds (or lack thereof) to work with. Who would’ve been better in a role, or something of that type could be more my speed and less touch and go, since I see no way out if I started thinking like a daredevil in the questioning of who’s better.

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  21. but do prefer ben to kevin. yes every actor bring something different in role. Even if there playing same role. batman for example bale played batman with confidence and charm ben tried showing his vulnerable weak side.

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  22. As i mneitoned kevin was not lucky to have a john travolta like comeback but kevin had his chance twice with kill bill and django. But i guess kevin wants to make films he enjoy not audeince will see. the films he likes are films people would loved in his heyday but the current younger demogrpahic that mostly sees movies do not find the current films interesting there taste mostly lies in cgi effect films comic book films .

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  23. Costner has oscar buzz for hidden figures its to early to tell but we will have to see.It owuld be neat if kevin got his first nom in 26 years

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