Talking with the star of Mr. Brooks
Never in my life did I think I’d be getting a phone call at home from Kevin Costner on a Thursday morning. Not because I’m not on his speed-dial, exactly (Good question here: Why aren’t I?), but because this two-fisted Academy Award-winner hasn’t strayed into horror territory. “Oh, that’s why you don’t like my previous films,” he says to Shock. “You cover only horror.” We go on to bathe him in our assured appreciation of his do-gooder turn as Eliot Ness in The Untouchables and JFK‘s obsessive Jim Garrison (“Back and to the left.”). And who can forget how he blew Madeline Stowe’s mind in Revenge – the sex scenes between the two leads under Tony Scott’s direction were a steamy education for any budding adolescent.
Without the application of a Lon Chaney-esque hook through the nose, gauze in the cheeks or any other wicked heavy prosthetics, Kevin Costner has molded himself into a man of a thousand faces. Critics, however, have let the actor’s personal life and supposed vanity projects (Waterworld, The Postman) overshadow his palpable love for the craft that often finds him financing his own projects to break out of the heart-shaped box of romantic leads he often accepts. Those same critics are bound to snicker at his latest turn as serial killer Earl Brooks, a bow tie-wearing, successful family man whose blood-thirsty id – Marshall (played by William Hurt) – propels him to satisfy his killer instinct. But “Brooks” isn’t a stroke of narcissism; it’s a test of how far an actor is willing to go to expose his vulnerability. Costner shows a variety of colors thanks in part to a unique, if not busy-to-a-fault, script by Raynold Gideon and director Bruce Evans (both of whom collaborated on John Carpenter’s Starman and Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me).
Like 2003’s Open Range, “Brooks” was a film Costner felt confident enough to find financing for and act as producer. He may not be keen on its release date – the early summer slot of June 1st – but he’s proud of the end product and hopes there are more chapters to come. Shock was given a chance to chat with Mr. Costner for about fifteen minutes…
ShockTillYouDrop.com: “Mr. Brooks” isn’t exactly “Silence of the Lambs” and it’s definitely not “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” – it’s a different kind of analysis of a psychopath, isn’t it?
Kevin Costner: It is. It breaks the mold, that’s the only reason why I did it. ‘Cause I wasn’t dying to try and change the pace; I wasn’t dying to try and act in it. I love original ideas and this just surprised me, that’s what movies can be about.
Shock: You’ve said before that you don’t deliberately go out looking for projects, projects find you. So how did this get in your hands? I heard Kevin Reynolds (“Waterworld”) passed it off to you…
Costner: I was making “The Upside of Anger” and Reynolds said his pals had a script and they wanted to get it to me. They did. And listen, in the public eye we live in urban legend. Kevin and I exchange material and we’ve made some great movies together. Contrary to what people think, we know where we are. He passed this thing on to me and I wasn’t going to read it for a couple of months because I was doing this movie. I sat down and read it as a movie. I wasn’t scouring for my part, I always start off with: ‘Is this a movie an audience can go to? Not necessarily a bit audience, but is there a commercial audience out there that will support a movie like this?’ Then I go back and question, ‘Do I want to play this part?’ Both answers were yes.
Shock: You speak of a commercial audience, but do you think it’s going to be hard to get audience to side with Mr. Brooks given what he is?
Costner: Not really, it’s pretty clear. This isn’t a movie for everybody, but it’s a movie for everybody that can love it. That’s the thing I wanted to protect the most. I didn’t want to flinch away from what was good about it. Otherwise, and I’ve had this happen in the past, people like the movies and then they think more people will like it if we start to take away the things that make them feel the most uncomfortable. I’m always the big proponent to say, ‘No, leave that stuff in.’ That’s what makes it ultimately more enjoyable and people continue to go through these movies with a fine-tooth comb looking [to remove] anything that will make audiences feel uncomfortable.
Shock: And there’s some uncomfortable stuff in this but the highlight for me is the moment when you have your meltdown in the kitchen upon learning of your daughter’s secret.
Costner: I appreciate that. That was an emotional bottom for me, and he just loves his daughter. What father wouldn’t kill for their daughter? You see how destroyed and angry he is. For me it’s as good as a performance as I’ve been able to give. Mostly in part because I didn’t go out and neuter anything. I left it all in. And so you get to see his full arc as a character, what he goes through. The movie is surprisingly funny too without trying to be. They’re not cheap laughs, they’re real laughs.
Shock: A lot of that comes from your dynamic with Hurt. This relationship you have with him can borderline on the absurd – especially those scenes where you two are sharing a good laugh – but your rapport works. That must have been a tough thing to pull off – that concept of an imagined friend.
Costner: The laughing [we shared on-screen] was something we found. We went searching for it. The thing with William…the one thing that wasn’t in the script that we were able to bring to it is I felt strongly if I’m going to have this guy, this imaginary person pushing me and pushing me, I didn’t constantly want to have an antagonistic relationship with him. I wanted to show the audience at some point: Why is this guy in my life? Well, sometimes he makes me laugh, we actually have a good time with each other. There’s a need with him and it doesn’t always borderline on murder.
Shock: We read you were adamant about getting Hurt. Why?
Costner: Actors recognize good roles and I knew that Marshall was a really great role. Charismatic and written well, I knew it was going to be a likable character and I wanted to make sure we had a world-class actor that could step into that and own the screen. Not just be a curiosity but be a force. Bill and I worked together on “The Big Chill” and I simply called him and said I had a little present for him. I’d let him decide and if he saw what I saw, then the part was his.
Shock: Now you’ve got Dane Cook entering Earl and Marshall’s little world. Tell me about casting him.
Costner: Dane did the smart thing, he went and read for the role. He’s been experiencing some nice success. But that’s not enough for me, it’s about the role, and he came in. I thought he was sensational in the movie.
Shock: Did you ever flirt with the idea of directing “Mr. Brooks” yourself?
Costner: I thought that at first, and thought it was a really good situation but as it was presented to me the writer wanted to direct so I got off that idea and needed to try and see if the material could still work. Again, I have to give a lot of credit to the script. I don’t have a private authorship, contrary to popular opinion, I’m really fierce about when I think something’s really good to not let the conventions of movie-going change it. So I liked the script, I didn’t feel like putting a Kevin Costner imprint on it, I don’t do that. I thought, ‘F**k, I couldn’t write it this good.’ This is really written well, so what I had to do [as producer] is to make sure they didn’t start changing things.
Shock: I’m amazed Demi Moore (playing Detective Atwood) shares no onscreen time with you.
Costner: That’s because we have a chance to meet in the second film. This was conceived as a trilogy, we don’t ever meet, and I’ve never done a sequel before but this has a second and third chapter. It’s a real cat and mouse chase and she starts to get close to me. We don’t like to tell anyone that because it sounds like bullshit though.
Shock: What are you feelings on summer release?
Costner: I don’t like it, I don’t like it all but it is what it is and I support it the very best way I can. It’s probably a fall movie and it has a niche audience to begin with and that’s what I’ve always believed. I also believe it has a chance to blow up in terms of its commercial acceptance, I do. It’s surprisingly accessible given it’s an insidious subject. Word of mouth could make it into a positive experience, but I don’t try to go out and promote it as a big movie. It starts off as a movie that’s very specific and that’s what it needed to be. I think it’s best chance of success is being exactly what it’s supposed to be. I just feel bad because I don’t think movies can be taken as serious in the summer and everyone is exceptional in this movie, the script is a hard thing to pull off.
Shock: Maybe they feel it has legs to give audiences some brain food?
Costner: [laughs] That’s how they put it, they call it counter-programming. Look, I’ve been around a little bit to know that you can put a word on anything you do but the truth is I’m satisfied with the movie and I’m not going to be affected by the gross. People might try and identify my career track with how much money it makes. But I don’t really do that. If Brooks is true – it’s a flawed movie because its budget only allowed us to do so much – it’s still a really good movie.
Shock: Since you’ve brought up flaws, one thing I’m curious to know is your take on the film’s sub-plot with the Hangman Killer. It seems extraneous given you’re the title psycho – wasn’t one enough?
Costner: That was always a convention of the movie and they eventually do intersect but I think you’re right I think that one is not fulfilled. Because we actually talk about a character tied to the Hangman Killer who’s not on-screen named Alvin, the doctor. What happens is on the paper it reads richly. I think you’re right, though. What’s this about? How does this guy play in? Why are they in this house? The movie has flaws and I agree that’s one of them.
Source: Ryan Rotten