Costner was a poor student [while growing up], but he had street smarts and played sports in spite of his small nature. In addition, he took piano lessons, wrote poetry and even sang in the First Baptist Choir.Keith, page 17:
Kevin Costner was born on January 18, 1955, in Compton, a lower-income Los Angeles suburb. His mother was a welfare worker and his father's job as a utilities executive meant the family had to frequently move around the state. Costner's roots are Irish and German.Keith, page 24:
Costner speant his grammer school years in such different communities as Santa Paula, Ventura, Visalia, and Ojai as the Costners moved around scenic central California. By the time he was ready for Villa Park High School, he was enough of an athlete to letter in baseball and basketball and to play on the football team.
No one at this time [when Costner was in high school], including Costner himself, realized he might one day be a Hollywood star.Keith, page 25:
"I didn't want to be an actor then, never even thought about it," he recalls. "But looking back, I think the signs were all there -- the singing in the [Baptist] choir, the church musicians, the poetry, the creative writing classes -- a constant urge to do that kind of thing."
"He was my teacher and he taught me about loyalty, friendship and doing your best," Costner said of his father. "It's not [only] a Boy Scout's creed. Truth and those things are never far out of style." Costner still tries to imbue the fillm roles he portrays with these heroic qualities of the old-timers he admires.Keith, page 27:
Costner has always felt that, if such a thing as reincarnation exists, he was a pioneer in a previous life. He really feels like a kindred spirit with the Westerners who lived during the time when a man was a man, and justice was served by the barrel of a gun. After graduating high school, Costner built a canoe and traveled the same itinerary and rivers as Lewis and Clark did in their famous expedition to the Pacific.Keith, page 29:
In spite of difficulties, this period [when Costner was in college] was a very eventful time for the future star because not only was he sharpening his activing skills and earning his degree, but he also met, fell in love with and married Cindy Silva, a Delta Chi at the college. It was March of 1975 that the fairy-tale relationship of Kevin and Cindy Costner commenced.Keith, page 35:
The real decision to become an actor for Kevin Costner may have been insired in some part by none other than Richard Burton. As Costner reveals: "On my honemoon, just after graduation, I met Richard Burton on the plane coming back from Puerto Vallarta. I thought he was placed on that plane for me to talk to -- but he had bought all the seats around him. I finally went up to him and said, 'I'd like to ask you a bit of advice.' We got very personal very quickly. We talked basically about a hard life. I wanted to know if he thought it was possible to be essentially a good man and still be in this business. He said that he thought so, and that I should try. And he said, 'You have green eyes, don't you? I have green eyes.' The thing I liked about him was he never said it was a hard life, he never said the obvious."Costner's conservative religious upbringing was in evidence when he expressed considerable discomfort about doing sexual scenes in movies. But he did these scenes anyway. Keith, pages 96-97:
The sex scene [in No Way Out] was steamy and Sean Young admits it was difficult for she and Costner to perform such an intimate scene for cast, crew and camera. As she tells it, "Kevin was nervous. The crew was nervous. The director was worried. It wasn't a pleasant experience. It's never fun to reveal your body. I don't care what anyone says. I couldn't get over the fact that Mom and my boyfriend were going to see this. We had to do these love scenes in the limo, and finally, we would just turn around and go, 'Cut!' And then it was like, 'All right, I'll sit over here and you sit over there for a while.' We'd give ourselves a break, and then I'd say, 'All right, honey, do up my dress, let's go.'"Keith, page 107:
Costner mirrors these feelings of uncomfortability in doing love scenes. Of his "Bull Durham" love scenes with Susan Sarandon, he said, "I've never been comfortable with them [sex scenes]. You think about them the night before. You don't want to be embarrassed. It's very difficult to get me to take off my shirt. I don't know why. I just feel awkward doing it. I've doen it, but I just don't do it at the drop of a hat. I mean, I'm not a prude. You've seen my movies. I always depend on the script. What bothers me more than anything is now everyone knows how I kiss." Costner's demure feelings about disrobing seem sincere. However, his pants seem to come off much easier than his shirt. In his last three films (Revenge, Dances With Wolves, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), we have been privileged to fully nude buttocks shots of the "uncomfortable" star...
Still, as Young says, "I thikn he is a little embarrassed by all this sex-symbol stuff. It is sort of a necessary evil. But outside his work, his life is really centered on his family."
Following his sex scenes in No Way Out and Bull Durham ("among the hottest in cinema history," according to some reviewers), Costner was soon tagged a sex-symbol. When asked how this affects wife Cindy, he responded: "My wife's concern is what you'd probably imagine. If the situation were reversed, I don't know if I could do it. But that's the way it is, and we have to find a way to make it work. My wife says, 'We're a great team. We're a real life couple. That's not a love story on film; ours is a love story," he expressed.Keith, pages 129-130:
Still, Costner reports that constant effort is put into the relationship in order to protect it from his on-screen involvement with his leading ladies. "It's not easy. I'm concerned about my wife and family and know they perceive what I do. I worry about it, but I don't know what to do, because it's obvious what kind of an actor I am and that I'll be asked to play roles that are heavily involved with women. I don't look for roles like that, but I don't back down from it either. Besides, I'm more comfortable with a horse than a woman," he admitted.
Costner is a family-oriented idividual and leaned on them during the difficult production of Dances With Wolves. When asked about the conflict of work and family [Costner had his family on location with him when he filmed Dances With Wolves], Costner answered in his typically honest way, "It's weird. You sometimes find yourself thinking, 'I could do this better if I was by myself.' Then you think, 'Yet I'd miss two months with my son -- two months with my family.' So the price you pay for not being alone is there. But there's this other thing, experiencing your family, that you can never put a price on."About the filming of Kevin Costner's film Dances With Wolves (which he directed and starred in), from: Keith, pages 134-135:
A certain spirit took hold of Costner while filming the buffalo hunt. "The buffalo were snorting and mad as hell -- they're the most incredible beasts when they're terrified. I'd never experienced anything like it, nor had the 20 Indian riders that I'd asked to ride in among the herd. There was a great amount of fear the first day we did it, but after that it gave a chance for those particular riders to connect with something very deep inside them. One of them said to me, 'You know, I felt a horn brush my leg,' and I knew what he was talking about because I was in the middle of it, too. While this is an experience everyone else can enjoy cinematically, it gave us a kind of personal fraternity because were were out there enacting, at full flight, something that hadn't happened for a hundred years," Costner said.Kevin Costner's on-screen persona has been called "New Age" and spiritual. From: Keith, pages 141-142:
Co-star Mary Mcdonnell was also awed by the event. "The spiritual life of the Sioux emerged in a very subtle and unordained way. When it occurred you could feel around you a kind of genetic understanding of the importance of that moment for the tribe. It was a moment that appealed to something higher, and to the awareness of its loss at the same time. I found that both very sad and uplifting."
It was Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart who, like [Kevin] Costner, had to be proked [in their on-screen personas] before doing anything "improper." Women may prefer that softness at home, but when their hero is out in the real world fighting for their survival, they choose the hero who sometimes goes beyond what is considered "proper" behavior... This softer side of Costner's characters was also analyzed by noted journalist Barbara Lippert. "Certainly Lt. Dunbar [Costner's character in Dances With Wolves], ak.a. D.W. Wolves, is a kind of new-age hero -- half John Wayne, half Shirley Maclaine. The spiritual is often seen as feminine. Perhaps it's also this oddball combination of buffalo-stomping masculinity and soft spirituality that women find so appealing. Costner's feminized sexual manifesto is expressed in several of his screen roles."Keith, page 143:
...The films of Costner are a fantasy of how life should be if the world were perfect. The films of Gable, Bogart and Wayne showed them finding justice and some peace of mind in an imperfect system. The Grant, Cooper, Stewart and Costner films [on the other hand] make us long for a perfect system. Both groups of actors were responsible for many entertaining "escapist" films.
However, their character seem to have this distinction in the roles they choose to play. Even Costner admits his screen characters are idealized and would never be permitted to exist in reality. "The honorable man is an easy target. But I don't want to pretend that I am as brave as the characters I've played. The politicians look on an honorable man and say, 'We can [screw] him eight ways to Sunday. We know how to do it. We can make this honorable man look like a [expletive] fool.' The movies represent what happens when the hero acts in the heat of dilemma, and that's really what films are all about for me: dilemma. You're not sure what the hero will do. We like to think that he will do the right thing -- in the movies. We don't necessarily admire it in our own world, because we know it's political suicide," he says...
However, to say this is impossible to do in real life is to say we should not strive for orals and values off-screen (i.e., sometimes choose not to do the right thing) that might hold one back socially and politically. An individual responsible for being a role model for so many should consider...
Although Costner brings roles to the screen of heroes in the vein of Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith, he does not necessarily believe in them. "When we watch a movie we say, 'God bless this man, that he can be this voice.' In real life, Mr. Smith would never have gone to Washington. He would have been made to look like the village idiot. He would have been locked up. It would be made out that he hadn't paid his taxes and had eight affairs. He would be gone. And he would be the same man. Integrity is out of fashion. Maybe that's why we respond to it in films," Costner said in response to his beliefs about screen heroes...Keith, pages 146-147:
This is not to say Kevin Costner and his New Age following do not want a "kinder," "gentler" world, but in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants..."
Despite his huge victory [winning Best Director and Best Picture Academy Awards for Dances With Wolves], Costner does not believe March 25 [when he received the Oscars] was the greatest night of his life. "My life is bigger than the movies and my ideas are bigger than the movies. But it remains a great moment for me that no one can take away."Keith, pages 148-153:
...Apparently Costner, like many performers, deflates the significance of his career achievements in order to cast the spotlight away from his already attention-getting activities and to refocus it so that his family remains a significant aspect of his life.
With such a successful public career, both Costners admit this is hard to to. Any praise or criticism that is heard around the Costner house usually centers on Kevin. Cindy must be strong in order to handle that as well as the tempestuous on-screen love scense Costner has played during the course of his film career.
During the Academy Award ceremony Costner also thanked his "Native American brothers and sisters, especially the Lakota Sioux, who, like himself and his family, will never forget the honor." Canadian Oneida Indian actor Graham Greene was also nominated for the Supporting Actor Oscar.
Michael Blake picked up the Academy Award for Best Screenplay Adaptation from his own work. He took Native American Dances With Wolves cast member Doris Leader Charge on stage with him in order to interpret his acceptance speech in the Lakota language.
Blake also received the Writer's Guild of America award for his screenplay, and, in his Oscar acceptance speech he stated, "The dream came to me to do something beneficial for as many people as I could. The miracle of Dances With Wolves proves that this kind of dream can come true."
He continued to pay homage to "the Native American natino throughout this wonderful country whose drum continues to beat and will beat forever." Even Costner admitted the credit for Dances With Wolves was Michael Blake's. "I'm not in the message business. The story reflects what Michael wrote. It's not my invention. I agreed with the sentiment of the movie, not the politics."
...Costner replied that he controls his ego after the enormous success of Dances With Wolves by "keeping myself in check simply because it still matters to me what people like my parents and friends think of me. And that's a very good way to guide yourself."Keith, page 210:
Regardless of the shock waves sent by Costner that evening [at the Independent Spirit Awards when, as keynote speaker, he urged filmmakers not to shortchange the quality of their movies], co-producer Jim Wilson offended many with his comment that "out of sheer necessity... 'Wilstein' became my last [name]."
[Although neither Jim Wilson nor his joke was in any way anti-Semitic, it was perceived as such by a thin-skinned minority of those who heard him say this.]
Supporters of Wilson within Tig Productions insisted it was just a harmless "White Anlgo-Saxon's joke about learning to squeeze a buck," but many movie industry individuals did not think it so funny. "It perpetuates a gross, insensitive stereotype," complained one. The incident led one New York periodical to run a story entitled, "'DANCES' MEN: WOLVES IN CREEPS' CLOTHING?"
One of the native Canadian actors in Dances With Wolves Tantoo Cardinal, says making the film reminded her of a prediction by a native chief whose people were in jeopardy due to the Canadian Prairies railroads. "he said, 'The white men are blinded and deafened by greed, but there will be a generation of their children who will be our friends,'" she recalled.
Costner feels the making of Dances With Wolves was also an acceptance about the murkier side of American politics and genocide.
"It's a chapter we know so well, but nobody wants to put the label genocide on it. We won't acknowledge how many Indian cultures we destroyed. But that's our Brazilian rain forest, right there. When you look at this part of the country, you realize there was a lot of bloodshed over ownership of the land, like we had to have this. But if you fly over this land now, nobody's here, not really. Ther's Denver and Kansas City, and Rapid City over here. But the reality is -- we didn't have to have it," he said.
Costner's Southern California upbringing shows here when he expresses 'nobody's here, not really.' He seemingly writes off the necessity of land owned by states and millions of people because they do not number the high-density populations of Los Angeles or Denver.
In addition, what about the political injustices done to the Mexican inhabitants of California during the Mexican-American War? Is Los Angeles unecessary because of injustices done to the Mexican culture during this period? High technology urban centers like Los Angeles, Kansas City and Denver now exist with all the by-products of technological development.
It is hard to imagine people living in between them that were so unsophisticated they had no knowledge of writing, metal or the wheel.
Despite the validity of Costner's statement, the Dakota Sioux were also far from the idealized "war-only-for-survival" image Costner has presented them as exhibiting in Dances With Wolves. In an essay in the March 1991 "Commentary," Richard Grenier offers evidence that the Dakota Sioux tribes were brutal, aggressive and merciless: "In the middle of the Civil War, 1862, the year of Antietam, the Sioux, threatened by the ever westward movement of the frontier, exploded in what historians Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb Washburn call 'one of the most savage and bloody Indian uprisings in history.' On the first day alone, a 'nightmare of fire and death' took the lives of 400 settlers.
"The Sioux swept through the Redwood Agency in Minnesota, massacring the men, burning the buildings, and carrying the women and children off into captivity. No one was spared. In a week, almost 1,000 white settlers had died at the hands of the Sioux."
"'In wide-ranging parties they spread over the countryside, killing, raping, pillaging and burning.' Also torturing. Some 30,000 frontier settlers fled to the East, and the outbreak kept the entire Great Plains in turmoil for fully eight years."
Even if there had been no major confrontation in 1862, the Great Plains tribes generally considered any stranger who appeared in their midst as a trespasser and a threat, to be killed immediately if possible. Clark Wissler, the late curator of the department of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, also affirms this aggressiveness.
As Grenier says in his essay, "'One thing is certain, the whites did not bring war to the Dakota [Sioux]. For centuries they had been schooled in arms. Their rais were never against other Dakota tribes, but that was the limit of their friendliness, for not even other members of their Siouan family were safe.'"
In Pawnee Passage, Martha Royce Blaine, wife of Pawnee Head Chief Garland J. Blaine, states that "The fiercest and most predatory Sioux bands were the Brule and Oglala." Blaine theorizes that the enormous number of Pawnee women murdered by the Sioux because of their value as economic and population providers is one good motive for the Pawnee resorting to such atypical behavior as helping the white man by serving as guides. One thing is certain, the Sioux were more fierce and complex than the dreamy image of them portrayed in Dances With Wolves.
[page 151] Digging deeper than an idealized image as the reason behind Dances With Wolves' enormous box-office success, one does gain added insight into the cultural values we can adopt from these primitive cultures. As an $80,000 full-page ad in the New York Times (seeking funding for the erection of a National Museum for Native Americans) read:
"...Their insight into the delicate balance between man and nature offers us a timely environmental message. Their ethic of 'sharing' provides an inspirational model for today's society. Their systems of governance paralleled many of the concepts our forefathers used to frame the Constitution And their view of the universe and insights into astronoy may well help us chart our future in space."
One can see that the modern-day audiences that have chosen this film as a message of New Age environmentalism, and as a kinder, gentler portrayal of Native Americans, are as unaware of actual history as is Costner. Of course, Costner has said he was not out to "set history straight," but one can see that his image of the Sioux Indians is an heroic and idealized one. Costner has given us universal imags of the Sioux as a loving, generous, emotional people -- images too seldom seen in the Indian characters of countless Westerns before Dances With Wolves -- but it is unlikely anyone has gained a more intellectual knowledge of American history from this film.
Ironically, one of the most authentic examples of Native American culture is flawed by its otherwise perfectionist director's lack of explanation. When Stands With A Fist is first encountered by Lt. Dunbar she is soaked in blood, but we are never told why. Although we later discover she is in mourning, but it is never explained that wives of Oglala warriors gahsed their legs as a sign of grief.
[page 152] No one seemed as appreciateive of Costner's efforts as did different Native cultures, who thanked him by letters, awards and acceptance. In response to this, Costner said, "I haven't heard anything negative [from them about the film], but I'm sure that in some corners there have been problems. Generally it has been a real awakening. I have gotten letters from Native Americans in the business world, who have written to say, 'I had forgotten who I was.' Some of them are very, very emotional -- the type of letters where you can actually see sentences top on the page . . . You can see the writers trying to collect themselves."
Costner feels his portrayal of Indians in Dances With Wolves will make it quite hard for any filmmaker to revert to the old stereotyped film images of them. In this sense, Costner has shown us a different perspective than we normally are given concerning Native Americans. Although audiences may have been manipulated to the other extreme in Dances, it is a logical physical reaction before balance can occur, when the pendulum of prejudice was so far to the other extreme for so many years.
As the director admits about his portrayal, he was not rewriting or setting history straight, but "what I tried to show were the Indians interacting with each other, and within those interactions I put them into situations that are universally recognizable. I showed them speaking, I showed them with a thought process, and I showed them confronting their problems -- which in certain instances means that they are confused and don't always know what to do. That seemed to me to be different from the way the Indians had been showed in the past. I show them the way I always felt about them. From the age of seven, I knew they were not monsters or comedic or lacking in dignity. I knew them to be a formidable people, as some movies, like The Searchers, portrayed them. When I look at these Indians, I feel like I'm looking at the face of America."
As he was honored by the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Nation in what is known as the Hunka Ceremony, an elder member of the Native American natino stated, "We are proud to adopt Kevin Costner as a brother . . . an honor we are bestowing upon him for his outstanding representation of our nation."
As thanks for the sensitive portrayal of their people, the Sioux adopted him as a brother of Sinte Gleska College. Sinte Gleska is where Costner and his crew completed a crash course in Lakota, the Sioux language. The college is on the Rosebud Reservation in Rapid City, South Dakota. Mary McDonnell and Jim Wilson were also adopted by the Sioiux Nation.
In turn, Costner returned his appreciation by donating $120,000 to create a permanent Sioux Indian exhibit at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Costner and his wife donated the money in gratitude for the wonderful and welcome reception they received by the people while making the film there. Among other renderings, the exhibit will include a depiction of the rise and fall of the Ghost Dance [a religion founded by Paiute holy man Wovoka, which began among Native American converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], the forced retreat of the Sioux and their transition to reservation life.
One of the issues that has made it extremely difficult for Cindy and Kevin [Costner] is the "stud" image that he portrays in most of his film roles. In response to this image, one can see the frustration Costner must at times feel from trying to reassure his wife it's her that he has the real love story with.Keith, page 213:
It is not only the pressures on his family that can derail a celebrity, it is more often the "fast track" and sordid lifestyles associated with the movie capital of the world. Costner knows it is easy to succumb to the temptations if one does not constantly work against it and says that scene was never close to him anyway.Keith, pages 216-217:
"It's very easy to get caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle -- the parties, the drugs -- but that's not me. And that's not what's good for my family. I like to go jogging and, most of all, I feel it's important to east the right foods. I know this sounds wholesome as hell, but I'm still a real person. And my health and the health and well-being of my family will always come first."
"I guess it's a certain amount of maturity that tells you when things are going bad, they're not going to get better because you make a change, that your life won't transform magically," he [Kevin Costner] said. "And ultimately, the only thing you have in your life is your family."Entertainment reporter Barbara Lippert claimed that Kevin Costner had an extramarital affair with a nightclub hostess named Sheri Stewart while filming Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The Village Voice of April 1991 published an article speculating about this subject, and British tabloids later published detailed articles about the alleged affair. (Source: Keith, pages 225-231.)
..."I've been involved in scenes in bathtubs and bedrooms and on kitchen tables, but I never even feel comfortable when I have to take my shirt off. [After] that scene in Wolves where I was naked -- that was in the book, to show his vulnerability and how comfortable he felt being alone -- I found the biggest reeds I could hide behiind," Costner laughs.
"What turns me on is not graphic sex, but the potential for romance," he added. "The tension between waning to do something -- and not doing it..."
In No Way Out, the sex scenes with Sean Young were so passionately involved that there was trouble on the homefront. Costner worried in advance there might be, knowing he had to share the back seat of a limousine with Sean Young. He did so very nvervously reports his co-star.
"I think Kevin's got a deep puritanical strain in him, oh, positively," says Young. "It was a very difficult scene to do. I was the vulnerable one, because I was naked and I don't really enjoy being naked. So I had told a lot of jokes. I kept a poll on how many cast and crew members had screwed in cars. I had never screwed in a car. Just about everybody else had except me. It's just not my bag."
Whether or not this affair (or anything like it) actually happened, Costner divorced his first wife Cindy in 1994 after 16 years of marriage. Kevin and Cindy Costner raised 3 children together. Blood tests revealed that Costner is father of child born in November 1996 to Bridget Rooney. Costner was single for ten years, until he married Christine Baumgartner on 25 September 2004.