IAR INTERVIEW: Kevin Costner Talks '3 Days to Kill'

Monday, 17 February 2014 21:03 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Kevin Costner Talks '3 Days to Kill'

Oscar-winner Kevin Costner needs no introduction … he is a modern day Hollywood legend and his resume speaks for itself. 

He first gained recognition as an actor for his roles in such films as Silverado, The Untouchables, No Way Out, Bull Durham, and Field of Dreams. But it was his move behind the camera as director and producer that earned him two Academy Awards for Dances with Wolves, as well as a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Since then he has appeared in such seminal and successful movies as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, JFK, The Bodyguard, Waterworld, Tin Cup, Thirteen Days, Open Range, The Upside of Anger, and most recently Man of Steel, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and the TV mini-series Hatfields & McCoys. Now the veteran actor returns to the big screen with the new spy thriller 3 Days to Kill, which opens in theaters on February 21st. 

The film, which was directed by McG (Terminator Salvation) and written by Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional), centers on a dying Secret Service Agent named Ethan Renner (Costner) trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). He is offered an experimental drug that could save his life by a mysterious operative (Amber Heard) in exchange for one last assignment. In addition to Costner, Steinfeld, and Heard, the movie also features Connie Nielson (Gladiator). 

I recently had the pleasure of attending an intimate roundtable press conference, along with a few other members of the media, and spoke to Kevin Costner about his work on 3 Days to Kill, and his impressive career. 

To begin with, I had a chance to ask Mr. Costner, as an Academy Award-winning director in his own right, how he is able to separate “Kevin Costner director” from “Kevin Costner actor” when on set, as well as what it was like working with director McG, and what it is that Costner is looking for from a director when acting on a project. “It’s easy for me. I don’t have all of the worries that McG does every morning. On the weekend when everyone is deciding what restaurant they’re going to go to in Paris or what they’re going to see, the director starts to hate everyone because he has to really think about what he has to do. I’ve never had that problem.” 

“When it comes to the script, we need to be on the same page. We didn’t differ that much and you shouldn’t if you’re in sync. There’s going to be times when you have a different approach on a scene, but it shouldn’t happen very much. It shouldn’t happen very often and it didn’t with us,” he continued. “I learned some things watching McG. I came prepared to do what I was supposed to do and I was prepared that if something got into a lull, which it does … you know people who play sports sometimes they have bad days. When I direct I tell my actors there’s going to be a day where I’m not as good as others, and on those days I really need for you to be good. You have to deal with your whole life when you’re making a movie, boyfriends, girlfriends and some days you’re just not as good. So for me my pledge is always on that day, and McG will tell me, “I’m not really feeling that good,” boy I get a little bit stronger. I’m kind of a coach’s coaching player. I like to be on the floor. If a coach tells me what to do on the floor I can get it done. So I’m really comfortable being directed.”

While Costner was quite prolific early in his career, he’s only released a film a year since 1999, with the exception of 2005’s The Upside of Anger and Rumor Has It, and took 2011 completely off. He came out of pseudo retirement in 2012 with the release of his award-winning mini-series Hatfields & McCoys, and then played Superman’s Earth father Jonathan Kent in last year's Man of Steel. But in 2014 Costner has four films slated for release, most recently Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, now 3 Days to Kill, and the forthcoming Draft Day, and Black and White. The actor was asked if his approach to the craft had changed at all during his time off. 

“Well I’m worn out now,” admitted Costner. “I’ve never changed my approach to acting. I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten better. I think that all of us can get better. I feel like with my acting I’m better than I was before because I do think about it. It takes me a long time to grasp material in order to perform. Not to bore you, but I’m a slow study. But, when I come to the set on the first day, I know the whole movie and that’s why I have to start so early. I have learned my own patterns and I’ve watched other good actors. I’ve done what every good actor does … steal ideas. You see things and stand on the shoulders of people. But I did Hatfields & McCoys and then I lined up these movies. I wish they weren’t so packed. On the other hand, I’m glad I did them. So that’s the way it plays out. I don’t reenergize. I’ve always loved the business. I’m a romantic about it, but for me this business is always pushing a rock up the hill and it feels like that.”

In 3 Days to Kill, Costner’s character Ethan Renner struggles with juggling his family and his work. The actor was asked if he was able to relate to his character’s situation. “When dealing with women, my boss in this instance (Heard), and my hellish relationship with her. He gets frustrated by women and my house is the same,” Costner joked. “There’s a level of humor that we tried to bring into the movie without winking at the camera. I think it’s funnier if you don’t wink and say, I’m really frustrated by you, by her, by my wife, by my daughter. So there’s a part of the world where he’s very efficient in his life and he’s not that great in this particular aspect. He can be shut down.”

Costner also discussed the physical challenges of playing his role in 3 Days to Kill. “Well, you’re cold, and any time you’re cold, things are harder. I’ve been involved in my stunts in my career. It used to be that my stunt guy, we would talk about it and about when it was time for him to take over. The way I know that I’m getting older is that with my stunt guy, we now look at the thing and he goes, ‘you could make it.’ But I can tell he starts getting scared. So it was an evolving thing. Fortunately, I didn’t have that on this film because I had a new stunt guy, and a new stunt coordinator. You have to measure things,” he explained. “I wanted to ride with the buffalo (in Dances with Wolves). I wanted to do those things. Whenever you can put the audience in the car, on the horse, or carrying your daughter, they’re now in the movie. But stunts have always had their place and I have to measure them right now. I’ve done things that if I make a mistake, I could die, and I really need to look at something. That usually is mechanical. So I’ve gone from doing everything to listening and saying, maybe I shouldn’t do this.”

Finally, the actor talked about the script and if there was any room for improvisation. “It was really well scripted. That doesn’t mean we didn’t step into some windows of opportunity that were presented, and you should always do that. We had to write some scenes, but we didn’t write them on the day. I never do that,” Costner explained. “I don’t write them on the day because the other actors have to get comfortable with it, so I can get comfortable with it, and McG might then knows a little bit more about how he will direct it.  I think we found some improvised things that made their way in because we felt them, but it was more disciplined.”

3 Days to Kill opens in theater on February 21st. 

Full Disclosure: 3 Days to Kill was produced by Relativity Media, which is iamROGUE's parent company. 

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