Q&A: Kevin Costner Talks Movies, Highwaymen
Editor’s note: In March 2018, Kevin Costner was in Shreveport filming the recently released Netflix feature, The Highwaymen. SB Magazine sat down over dinner with Costner to discuss his passion for acting and film as well as his time on the set of The Highwaymen.
SB: What drives you to keep making movies?
KC: I got a letter. Actually, I got a book five days ago from an Italian, Pietro. I opened up the book and there was this beautiful drawing. It was beautiful and it was of me. I turned the page and there was a picture of me, an artist rendering. And then there was a letter. He says, ‘Kevin, I am Pietro. I have no relationship with my father. The only thing I can remember is the two times he took me to the movies. It was Robin Hood and Open Range. My father was very hard on me. We had to walk on eggshells in my house. When I saw you, I was like 6 years old, 7 years old. And I wanted to learn English because of you. I wanted to go to university but nobody in my family spoke English, so I started watching movies to learn English. At first I was horrible but I graduated the number one person in my college.’ So, the letter was about his father and sometimes how he thinks I conduct myself in my movies. I’m not as brave as the people I play in my movies nor am I as smart as some of them but I play these characters and he’s assigned those values to me. And he continues, ‘That’s what I want to be and my dad wouldn’t talk to me about what those are,’ he said. ‘I’m now a grown man and I run your fan club in Italy because you have meant so much to me and I have these pictures commissioned for you.’
So, the things that I pace about, the things that I worry about on each take that I do is because I know somebody’s watching. And I make my movies for men. I always have great women characters in my movies because I believe in women and how they work. If you see my movies, you’ll see there are great women in them, Susan Sarandon, Rene Russo, right down the line. Women like my movies, I guess I’m told, but I make my movies for men. So that they understand, when I’m afraid on screen, they think that might be how I’d be afraid but when they do the right thing, they kind of go “that’s what I would do.”
Movies, when they work at their very best, they become about moments you never forget — things said or imagery. And you all have them in your own life. You know what the movies are that had that for you, and there are things that you never forget in the movies about who you wish you were. The great film director Bertolucci said, ‘The theater is the last place where 600 people can sit in the dark and dream the same dream.’ That’s all going to mean something different to us but we’re all watching it together.
SB: You’ve been filming The Highwaymen. What was your experience like on set today? (Following a few days of very heavy rain in northwest Louisiana)
KC: It was an interesting day, logistically. When we shot the ambush, we needed three days of sun. If we didn’t get sun, we were screwed. And in the making of a movie you can get days like today and if you don’t have a place to go hide, you’re going to spend $300,000 today and get nothing. So, we have a thing called cover sets and whenever they’re making your schedule, like we had a scene inside a store, that would be a cover set because it doesn’t matter if it’s lightening or snowing or anything. Even a car can be like a cover set if you got down to it. And so those cover sets are like insurance. We were down to our last three or four days and we needed sun on Monday and we got it. We got sun yesterday, and we had a garden party with 30 or 40 women dressed up. Well that’s not going to be good if they’re all wet and cold but we’re out of it now. We’re done and we got to shoot everything. Two scenes we shot today were probably designed to be in the sun but we shot it in the rain and we just took what God gave us. Tomorrow, we only have one scene that has to happen outside and it’s the end of the movie scene. I (as Frank Hamer) come home and my wife is in the backyard with that pig and I just walk up to her and hug her. And it’s shot from a long way away and it should be a relief that her husband came back to her because she was afraid. He’s an older man. She says, ‘these are a new kind of criminal. These are different than what you were chasing on horseback.’ And the truth is they’re not. But the difference is the firepower. Because the weapons that criminals were using now came out of WWI, machine guns and criminals are generally ahead of law enforcement. They just are. They still are in weaponry. And so she’s worried about him.
SB: The Highwaymen takes a different perspective on the Bonnie and Clyde story because it’s from the law enforcement’s point of view, correct?
KC: We know the story of Bonnie and Clyde but what we don’t know is that there were men that left their families. There were men that were killed and families were….We don’t even know what happened to their families. When you lose the leader of your family — imagine anybody losing their father — you come home tomorrow and your father’s not there. So the havoc that was wreaked after Bonnie and Clyde, there’s not stories about that.
What’s the perspective? I mean, we’re not looking to reinvent history or to set the record straight because anytime you come off as that person, you’re going to get it wrong too because there’s different perspectives. So our perspective is it’s about a retired lawman who was a legendary Texas Ranger who operated in another century, the 1800s. He retires 1910, 1912 and goes into private security so now he’s an older man. It’s 1934 and they cannot seem to capture Bonnie and Clyde. Hoover and the FBI —there’s a thousand men in the field trying to capture Bonnie and Clyde and the story is Frank Hamer was brought out of retirement, out of private security, because he’s a manhunter. And he gets on their trail and 102 days later he finds them and kills them in Louisiana, along with some other men. He’s just an individual and he has his own story. We know who Bonnie and Clyde are but we don’t know who the men were that left their families and put themselves in harm way. So that’s our story.
SB: What will you do after The Highwaymen wraps? Are you about to take some time off?
KC: I’ll be off for about a month and a half. I’m going to give my wife a break. We always drive our kids to school together when I’m home. My kids, they’re all about sports. That’s on Saturdays. The boys are into Lacrosse right now.
SB: Is it hard to part with the film crew after you’ve been working with them that long?
KC: Crew? No. I have a crew and they’re my family. And then there are people that touch me along the way. The people that I value, I kind of hook back up with, like anybody else with good sense. You move toward the people that make you feel good, and move away from the people that don’t make you feel so good. I have a 10 and an 8-year-old and a 7-year-old and that’s where I have to go, like everybody here. That’s my crew. You have to get along with my wife, and you have to be good around my children. That’s the way it goes.
SB: Does your wife or family get to travel with you on the road much?
KC: Yeah but what happened is my family has been evacuated three times since Christmas (2017) because of the fires and floods. They were evacuated from the house two weeks ago because of the rain. They were afraid. She had to pick up and move them to a hotel for two days so they can’t go back to their school and they were out of school for about a month and a half. So coming out here to hang out with me and watch me go to the sets, she said I’m just keeping them here.
SB: Do you have any other projects that you’re working on?
KC: I have a pilot that I hope I will produce. But it’s kind of a high adventure, fantasy. It’s about a young girl who has a special voice, set in like 1915. It’s pretty global.
SB: What do you think makes Shreveport an attractive place to film movies?
KC: The state has that tax incentive which means people are going to look really hard to figure out if they can shoot here. The reason I think Shreveport is flourishing is because it has a real mix of a downtown, architecturally it’s interesting and then it has neighborhoods and different things, so it’s diverse in its look. You have this amazing freeway. It’s the most beautiful thing. It’s been comfortable.