12″ x 14″ Signed Dec. 15, 1997 through the mail
Actor, producer, and director, born January 18, 1955, in Lynwood, California. An early encounter with John Ford’s How the West Was Won (1963) sparked a lifelong love affair between Kevin Costner and the movies. Any inclination the young Costner may have had to follow in the footsteps of that film’s great stars — Henry Fonda, James Stewart, and John Wayne — was discouraged early on, he has said, by the practical and inherently “normal” nature of his upbringing. His father, Bill, worked at Southern California Edison, while his mother, Sharon, had a job at the state welfare department.
In high school, Costner played basketball, football, and baseball; he hoped at one time to become a professional baseball player. During his senior year as a marketing and finance major at California State University at Fullerton, he auditioned — unsuccessfully — for a school production of Rumpelstiltskin. Displaying a resilience that would become a necessary characteristic later on in his career, Costner joined a community theater group and almost immediately he was hooked on acting. After graduation in 1978, and a breathlessly short stint at a marketing firm, Costner married Cindy Silva, his college sweetheart, and moved to Hollywood.
Costner’s first movie experience, a role in the smarmy, straight-to-video Sizzle Beach, U.S.A, was one he regretted immediately — doubtless even more when it was released in theaters in 1986, after he had become famous. After a series of bit parts, Costner landed a role in The Big Chill, a film about college friends who reunite after one of their group commits suicide. The film, released in 1983, was a success, but there was one problem for Costner: in the editing process, director Lawrence Kasdan had cut a fifteen-minute flashback sequence featuring Costner’s character, the man who commits suicide. Costner appears in the film only once — as a corpse-during the opening credits.
After The Big Chill, as the film critic Peter Rainer pointed out, Costner became a kind of inside joke in Hollywood. He kept his head high, however, and in 1985 Kasdan made it up to the actor by tailoring a role just for him in the sprawling Western Silverado, also starring Kevin Kline and Danny Glover. The movie won fans for Costner, who at the time was the least-well-known actor of the three. Over the next two years, Costner rejected a number of roles, presumably searching for a character he could identify with. In 1987’s The Untouchables, directed by Brian de Palma, Costner played Eliot Ness, the earnest young U.S. Treasury agent who seeks to destroy the Chicago gangster Al Capone, played in the film by Robert DeNiro. With the success of that film and of 1988’s No Way Out, Costner had become an infinitely marketable box-office commodity — a serious actor loaded with sex appeal.
In 1988, Costner turned in arguably his best performance to date as Crash Davis, the aging catcher of a minor league baseball team in Bull Durham. His steamy love scenes with Susan Sarandon exponentially increased Costner’s already formidable reputation as a sex symbol. More importantly, the movie marked the first time a connection was forged in the public’s mind between this all-American actor and that most American of pastimes: baseball. The link grew considerably stronger one year later, with the release of Field of Dreams, the sentimental tale of a man who mows under a section of precious Iowa corn to build a baseball field.
After the 1990 Academy Awards, when Costner’s directorial debut, Dances with Wolves, earned both Best Picture and Best Director, it looked like the actor-turned-filmmaker could do no wrong in Hollywood. A mammoth film that Costner also produced and starred in, Dances with Wolves is the story of an injured Union Army officer who is adopted by a Native American tribe. Against all odds — the film is over three hours long and half of its dialogue is in Lakota Sioux dialect, with subtitles — Costner’s very own epic Western had become a box-office hit, grossing more than $900 million.
Unfortunately, Costner’s film career after 1990 did not live up to the tremendous success he enjoyed before that time. While mediocre films such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (in which Costner as Robin refused to adopt even the slightest trace of an English accent) and The Bodyguard, co-starring Whitney Houston, did well commercially, both of Costner’s big-budget directorial efforts-1995’s Waterworld in particular — tanked somewhat spectacularly. Another sprawling Western, Wyatt Earp(1994), was poorly received as well, despite a roster of big stars.
Through it all, Costner has defended himself against his numerous critics and remained supremely self-confident. In 1996, he brought a kind of Bull Durham-esque persona to the professional golf circuit in Tin Cup, a film which appeared to be a step in the road to the recovery of his once unassailable box office record. Message in a Bottle(1999), a romantic tear-jerker co-starring Robin Wright Penn and Paul Newman, had modest box office success as well. In 1999 he stepped back out on the baseball diamond — this time as a pitcher — in For Love of the Game. His production company, Tig Pictures, has a number of projects in development, including a sequel to The Bodyguard. In 2000, he starred in Thirteen Days, a drama about the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
Costner and his wife Cindy divorced in 1994. They have three children, Annie, Lily, and Joe. Costner has also acknowledged that he fathered a son, Liam, during a brief involvement with Bridget Rooney, a television reporter, in 1996.