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. 336 Comments.

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


  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


  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


    • 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.


  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


    • 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.


  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.


    • 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.


    • 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”).


  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


    • 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.


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


        • 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.


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


    • 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).


  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.


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


    • 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.


      • 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.


  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


  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


  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


    • 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.


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


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


  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


    • The Ashton Kutcher curse


      Kevin Costner (The Guardian)

      Kevin Costner is an undeniably talented actor with a notoriously mixed record when it comes to critical success, something that has largely evaded him since the golden period in the late ’80s and early ’90s when he forced his way onto the A-list with his portrayal of Elliot Ness in The Untouchables and directed/starred in multiple Academy Award winner Dances With Wolves.

      In recent years, Costner’s career has seen many ups and downs, though his biggest slump arguably came after he appeared in 2006’s The Guardian as a decorated member of the Coast Guard tasked with showing a young upstart (Kutcher) the ropes. It’s a film packed with every worn-out cinematic cliché you can think of, and it started Costner off on a losing streak he’s still struggling to turn around—as evidenced by the reviews of his latest ill-fated effort, 2016’s Criminal.


  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.


    • 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.


  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


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


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


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


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


    • 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.


  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.


  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 .


  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


  24. I would not say costner is hated currently as he way he when his career first started to dip. However he is not as loved as he was in his heyday . He is more forgotten now. No gives him flack for making a flop anymore cause he is not expected to star in a hit film. Razzies do not even bother nominating him when he makes a flop. He has not had a razzie nom in 15 years


  25. When he makes a flop it is forgotten and not talked about. Therefore razzie tend to forget about because it does not generate as much negative hype as other flops such all about steve


  26. kevin is doing a good thing. taking supporting role in interesting work. He is doing what kevin bacon did in 90s when his leading career fizzled


  27. Hidden figures has oscar buzz so it could be good for kevin career. It is still too early to tell though


  28. Make America mediocre again case file #73: Swing Vote


    It’s not easy for a man who is rich, famous, handsome, and a bona fide movie star to also be a giant dork, but somehow Kevin Costner manages it. The onscreen Costner has a number of defining moments, perhaps none bigger than his epic attention-demanding monologue in Bull Durham. But the defining moment of the offscreen Costner is probably that wonderful moment in Madonna: Truth Or Dare when he comes backstage after one of her orgiastic performances and opines that it was “neat.”

    This was Costner in miniature: When confronted with one of the preeminent sex goddesses of her era at her prime, he doled out a wholesome compliment more appropriate for a 6-year-old boy geeking out about the bike he found under the Christmas tree. While the rest of show-business spent the 1980s f***ing their brains out while doing mountains of blow, it’s easy to imagine Costner staying at home at night attending to his stamp collection or reading up on advances in renewable energy. Costner is sincere and earnest and dad-like in ways that are both endearing and embarrassing.

    In a cynical, pragmatic Hollywood, Costner is a true believer, an old-school liberal who has never been afraid to buck Hollywood tradition, and conventional wisdom, and invest his own personal fortune in movies that he believes in. He was so invested in Dances With Wolves that when the budget went over, he added millions of his own dollars to cover it.

    And when he wasn’t able to secure funding for Swing Vote to get it into theaters in time for the 2008 presidential election, he helped fund it himself. That represented an enormous gamble, and while he made a small fortune off Dances With Wolves, Costner lost a small fortune on Swing Vote, which garnered mediocre reviews and meager box office. It was less a comeback vehicle than further evidence of a steep, perhaps permanent, professional decline.

    Swing Vote takes place in what politicians like to condescendingly refer to as the “real America.” This is a wonderland where real Americans wear denim ensembles and have unflattering soul patches and drive pickup trucks to real bars where they get drunk on cheap domestic beer: Budweiser, specifically. There is so much Budweiser in the movie that it’s surprising Costner couldn’t fund the film entirely through product placement of just that one product.

    So it doesn’t seem at all coincidental that Costner’s character is nicknamed “Bud” Johnson, a theoretically lovable loser content to drift drunkenly through life, oblivious and indifferent to the pain and hurt his addiction and selfishness are causing his daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll). Like many children who grow up in chaos, Molly has coped with her father’s self-absorption and drunkenness by becoming a smart, hyper-driven, freakishly precocious overachiever.

    She’s essentially a parent to her man-child of a dad, and seemingly the only thing keeping him from sliding into the gutter permanently. If that seems harsh, it’s because we know far too much about addiction, particularly the way addiction affects children, for the amiable drunk to be palatable anymore. Where the film wants us to see Bud as a fundamentally good-hearted if shiftless ne’er-do-well—all rough edges, beer binges, and inappropriate cussing—he instead comes off as a thoughtless alcoholic rapidly approaching his bottom.

    Bud represents an archetype in the Frank Capra movies Swing Vote borrows from extensively: the eccentric everyman elevated to great, unearned heights (Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town) who then must wrestle with the complications of life among the cultural elites. Costner is an idealized American everyman like Gary Cooper and James Stewart. Kevin Costner isn’t the most talented or popular American actor, but he may be our most American. Costner bleeds red, white, and blue. He’s westerns. He’s baseball. He’s blue skies. He’s Superman’s dad. Yet Costner never quite pulls off drunken and dissolute here. The cans of Budweiser Bud he’s forever clutching feel like props to be held, not alcohol to be consumed. But if Bud’s drunkenness never feels convincing or real, the harm he’s causing his daughter registers far too strongly for Bud to be as likable as he’s meant to be.

    Bud begins the movie just barely getting by. He works at an egg factory where he and his similarly soul-patched co-workers (most notably Judge Reinhold, going full-on Southern working-class gentleman) seem to spend their days cos-playing Blue Collar Comedy Tour. But after coming in late and hungover every day, missing 31 sick days (due to his life- and family-destroying addiction to alcohol), and some slapstick shenanigans that result in the destruction of countless eggs, Bud is finally laid off.

    Our shiftless antihero responds the way he responds to everything: getting drunk and ignoring his responsibilities as a father. Bud has assured his civic-minded daughter that he would vote but in this, as in all things, he fails. Molly ends up attempting to vote on her father’s behalf in what can only be deemed an adorable act of clear-cut voter fraud.

    The electricity in the polling place where Molly is furtively voting shuts off before she’s able to complete her vote on her old man’s behalf. When it is determined that the presidential race is in a dead heat, Bud, an unrepentant goober who’s never been able to handle any responsibility, suddenly finds himself with the most important responsibility in the world: It falls upon him to cast the deciding vote in the presidential race. Bud’s vote alone will determine whether Republican incumbent President Andrew “Andy” Boone (Kelsey Grammer) or Democratic challenger Donald “Don” Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) will be elected president.

    Bud is given 10 days to make the decision. Overnight, a sleepy little small town in New Mexico becomes the unlikely epicenter of the American political universe. Both candidates, their campaigns, and their supporters descend upon Bud’s hometown to try to convince him to vote for their candidate. An unassuming fuck-up comfortable with possessing no power at all suddenly finds himself with a surreal excess of power.

    Costner is famously a liberal and Hopper and Grammer are equally notable conservative Republicans; they’ve come together to make a film as toothlessly bipartisan as a Jay Leno monologue. Swing Vote mildly, genially razzes both parties as being full of desperate political opportunists willing to sell out their ideals and beliefs for the sake of assuming power before asserting that these guys are fundamentally good dudes after all. Politics might be crazy, but isn’t American democracy great?

    In their desperation to win the only vote that matters, the president and his challenger cynically reverse their policies. When Bud stumblingly answers a reporter’s question on whether he’s pro-life or pro-choice by asserting that he’s “pro-life” in the sense that he is in favor of life as a concept (unrelated to terminating pregnancies, because Bud apparently doesn’t know what “pro-life” means), the pro-choice party/politician cynically cuts an anti-abortion ad with children disappearing from a playground.

    Similarly, Bud answers a question about gay marriage by asserting that it’s everybody’s right to do whatever the hell they want in the privacy of their own bedroom. The party of protecting traditional marriage suddenly becomes the party of gay marriage, complete with a commercial where the president is joined by a collection of all-American archetypes lispingly vowing, “I do.”

    The notion that both of these candidates would dramatically go against their party’s core beliefs for the sake of winning Bud’s vote is reasonably clever even if it never rises to the level of satire, but that’s as edgy as Swing Vote gets. The film is so intent on not offending anyone that it eschews social commentary altogether. It would be nice if the movie ultimately said anything, really, beyond encouraging audiences to vote and be invested and involved in the political process, whatever their leanings.

    Both parties shamelessly bribe and flatter Bud to win his vote. The president invites Bud onboard Air Force One for a beer, while the challenger ropes Bud’s personal hero Willie Nelson into his campaign to win Bud’s vote. Bud is ecstatic at being feted like a big shot after a lifetime of being an exceedingly modest failure, but Molly watches the whole ridiculous parade with a look of stern, tight-lipped judgment. Bud’s genuine love for his daughter may be his sole redeeming facet, but the look of disappointment in her eyes whenever she contemplates her worthless old man somehow isn’t enough to get him to put down the bottle and grow up.

    Initially, everyone is tickled silly by Bud’s everyman brashness and foul mouth. He’s like Ken Bone, who instantly won everyone’s heart with the unexpected role he ended up playing in a presidential campaign. Then, because the third act needs tension and drama, everyone turns on Bud and decides he’s actually a creep they don’t like, as was similarly the case with Ken Bone.

    One minute NASCAR driver Richard Petty is taking an overjoyed Bud for a joyride. The next, Bill Maher is calling Bud a dumbass on TV to the cheers of a populace that has suddenly turned on Bud. He’s now seen as a dope who’s wasting everyone’s time attending to his 15 minutes of fame, instead of focusing on his job determining the leader of the free world.

    Bud’s redemptive arc calls for him to finally stop fucking around and take his responsibilities seriously. So Costner-as-Bud finally listens to his daughter and asks for a final presidential debate solely for him. Bud begins his private debate the way moderators generally do: with a lengthy, heartfelt monologue, full of actor-friendly moments and overflowing with emotion, in which a suddenly chastened everyman reflects upon a lifetime of poor choices and squandered potential as well as his determination to be a better man for both his daughter and his country.

    It’s not a bad speech, for what it is, but it makes no sense within the context of the film. This debate is not about him. Furthermore, Bud is a man of few words and even less thought, but when the film demands it, he suddenly turns self-reflective and even wise, blessed with the wisdom of the common man.

    The closing monologue exists for Costner’s ego, to give him one last huge opportunity to flamboyantly act out his character’s redemption. If Swing Vote is a hit, it goes alongside his big monologue in Bull Durham as one of his iconic, definitive moments. Instead, it just rings hollow as a big, swing-for-the-fences moment the film does little to earn or work toward.

    Although on an emotional and storytelling level, Swing Vote does not work, there is still much to recommend it. Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut gives the film a sun-dappled, political-ad radiance that makes the film’s cornball Americana easy on the eyes at the very least. Director Joshua Michael Stern is adept at giving the film a real sense of scope, conveying that this is a story that is happening throughout the nation, not just to one overwhelmed man. It’s easy to see how people might read the script or look at the beautiful dailies and think they had something special on their hands, but Swing Vote ultimately realizes very little of its extraordinary potential. It wants to be great but settles for being inoffensive.

    As producer, star, and financier, Costner lovingly sought to make a big-hearted comedy-drama about the madness and majesty of presidential politics and American life in the vein of alternately cynical and achingly sincere Capra comedy-dramas. Instead, he made a gorgeous, vaguely epic but fundamentally empty and toothless mediocrity: essentially a “Get Out The Vote!” bumper sticker in cinematic form.

    Failure, Fiasco, or Secret Success: Fiasco


  29. if hidden figures get snubbed there is still molly game could be a hit


  30. Dennis Quaid admits he has an “unspoken rivalry” with Kevin Costner http://buff.ly/2fUTHhl


  31. He just admitted they kind of competed for same roles . I thought he would admit they had conflict in wyaat earp but he did not have much say aobut kevin


  32. This website says costner has oscar buzz for hidden figure he along the movie has oscar buzz here is link http://www.awardscircuit.com/oscar-predictions/oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/


  33. you where right lebeau not to get too excited over hidden figures now buzz is dying down for hidden figures . The golden globe get announcment are on 19th of this month if hidden figures does not get best picture nom or even best supporting for kevin chances for it getting oscar noms will look slim to none


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