Actor Kevin Costner wants you to ‘Vote’

Tue, 07/29/2008 - 4:22pm
By: Emily Baldwin

The Oscar-winner sits down with The Citizen to discuss his new film

Actor Kevin Costner wants you to ‘Vote’

As an actor, Kevin Costner has starred in some of the greatest movies of all time – “Dances with Wolves,” “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams,” to name a few. He is the recipient of three Oscar nominations, and two wins, and has had both massive hits and utter disappointments play at theaters globally.

Recently he made a stop in Atlanta to discuss his latest project, “Swing Vote,” which will open in theaters nation wide on August 1.

Costner stars as Bud Johnson, an apathetic average joe who has a 12-year-old daughter and a penchant for beer. Bud’s daughter, Molly, on the other hand, is a sharp, eager and intelligent little girl who does most of the care-taking around her motherless house. She loves her father but is frustrated by his lack of motivation. Meanwhile, Bud is perfectly content watching life pass him by. When a school project motivates Molly to get her dad to vote for the first time in his life, he disappoints her by not showing up at the polls on election day. Molly decides to take matters into her own hands and ends up setting off a chain of events, culminating in the presidential election coming down to one vote, her dad’s.

So, what does Costner think of Bud and what was his motivation when preparing for the role?

“What we know Bud isn’t...he isn’t a PTA dad and he’s not a soccer father. He doesn’t have all the ambition in the world, but we see where he’s at,” Costner says. “There’s things that we like about him and there’s things we kinda feel like we don’t like so much. We don’t like anybody to break a little girl’s heart and he’s probably done that a little bit too much. He’s had to depend on her a little too much. But, my approach was not to change that. Not to try to make myself more likable, I just am what I am. Ultimately at the end of the realize that at least Bud gave her an option to be under his roof, and he didn’t ever talk bad about [his ex-wife]. There’s a lot of people who are fringe, and that’s where Bud is.”

At it’s core, Costner says the film takes an inside look at a situation that audiences have likely been apart of, on one side or another. The relationship between Bud and Molly is the heart of the film, and “Swing Vote” looks at a the unique father-daughter bond the two characters share. While Bud’s home isn’t, perhaps, ideal for a little girl, there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

“I think all of us in life get surprised sometimes when we actually know the truth about something,” Costner explains, stating that sometimes we make up our minds about something, judging others for a lifestyle we don’t approve of for whatever reason, without knowing what’s really going on. “And probably a lot of times we’re right. But sometimes, if you dug a little deeper, you’d be almost chagrined to go, ‘I’m wrong about this, and if I knew about this situation, I would feel a lot differently.’ We live in a sound bite era where we make distinctions really quickly, and we make our determination based on that.”

While the story’s heart may lie with Molly and Bud’s relationship, the impetus lies with the issue of a single, average man – one who as never shown interest in politics – casting the final, determining ballot in the U.S. presidential election.

When asked what he feels the movie says about an average person making such a crucial decision, Costner replies, “We don’t have to say anything. Bud says it all. Bud says, ‘This is unfortunate.’ He says, ‘I’m an average man who is going to make a decision between two exceptional men’ and [Bud’s final speech] wound itself down to that. That’s the only speech in the movie that ever changed. It used to be a little bit rah rah. It used to include a lot of we: we can do this, we can do that. When Bud’s going, ‘No.’

“He has to really look at himself. He’s disappointed his daughter, his community, and yet they’re no great shakes. But Bud heroically takes it all on. And he finds a way in his own language to uniquely speak for us all. I mean when Bud says that maybe he’s the enemy, that’s a very big thought. When Bud describes that we need a giant in our life, politically, I think he speaks for the elitist, he speaks for the intellectual and he speaks for every man. It’s like, ‘Good word, Bud, that’s a good word. A giant.’ And surprisingly you get a lump in your throat and you didn’t realize Bud could put it there.”

Costner, who is one of the movie’s producers, points out that the filmmakers sought to make the film as politically even-handed as possible.

“We didn’t want to demonize either party. That wasn’t important,” he explains. “But we wanted to clearly point out that if two powerful people are running for the biggest job on our planet that they would be willing to maybe change their view and talk themselves into why.”

The film’s pivotal scene, one in which Bud plays the moderator in a final political debate between the two presidential hopefuls, was something Costner says was extremely important to him to get right.

“I felt that it was important that it never come off preachy,” he says. “And we had to find it. And there’s a humility there, and the humility is that he was more concerned about his daughter being proud of him and then realizing that what was once funny isn’t so funny anymore.”

Costner’s dedication to making films that he is proud of is what has helped him make every decision in his career. He says he has made movies that didn’t do well that he was extremely proud of, and is still proud of, despite criticism. Costner is perhaps one of the few actors of his status who has never made a sequel to any of his films. It has been reported that a sequel to his classic film “Dances With Wolves” is currently in pre-production, but Costner won’t be reprising his role as John Dunbar.

“They asked me to do it,” he admits. “I just felt like it probably wasn’t the right move for me to do.”

“Another brainiac move on my part,” he adds with a chuckle. “I just didn’t feel it was right. I thought, ‘Well, I’ve made that.’ And I think they’ll probably try to do the best job they can and they should do that if they feel like that. But I have to make choices in my life, and so that’s a choice.”

Costner isn’t opposed to sequels as a concept, however. It’s just that he hasn’t yet come across one he felt he could be proud of making.

“I love the idea of sequels. I would make a sequel to a lot of my movies, I just never read one that I thought was great,” he explains. “I’ve read some that probably would have made a lot of money, but I didn’t think it was great.”

Costner feels it’s important to keep variety in the roles he chooses. “I don’t like to go beat up someone I know I can beat up. And I don’t like to go make a movie that I know, ‘Oh, that obviously works.’ I like to surprise myself and an audience,” he explains.

He’ll do just that when his film “The New Daughter,” a horror/thriller, comes out next year. Also showing his varied interests are the projects he has currently in development.

“I’m probably going to direct three or four movies after this. I’ve got a cowboy movie, I’ve got a World War II movie, I’ve got a real sexy, urban violent movie, and maybe a love story,” he says. “So I cherry pick what I’m going to do, and I’m going to direct those movies.”

Costner’s hope for “Swing Vote” is a simple one. “I hope people go see it,” he says. “It’s not a public service announcement. It was never meant like that. It’s a really good, raw piece of entertainment. It’s a comedy at its core. It deals with a relationship between a father and a fifth-grader, set against the backdrop of one of the great privileges of the history of this world that this country provides, the ability to vote, was founded on it. We’ve gotten lazy with it, and yet, we find a way in a piece of comedic entertainment, Capra-esque if you will, to underscore it.”

“Swing Vote” opens in theaters this Friday.

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