We should all look as good as Kevin Costner after getting beat up so much in the press.
Costner, exuding movie star charisma, came to the Hamptons Saturday night to show his new movie Open Range to a group of suntanned, jaded New Yorkers. Some of the guests included Kim Cattrall, glam rock wife and mom and healer Ann Dexter Jones, famous cosmetic surgeon Dan Baker, Shakespeare in Love producer Donna Gigliotti, Chicago producer Marty Richards and photographer Peter Beard.
It was part of a nationwide campaign that Costner's on, screening Open Range — a western he directed that also stars Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon and Abraham Benrubi (Jerry, the desk guy from ER) — in various cities for select groups. He's even filming the screenings for use in some kind of behind-the-scenes video.
You have to give Costner credit for wanting to expose himself to the press again. After winning Oscars and making millions on Dances With Wolves, his luck changed severely. All of a sudden in 1995 his Rosebud became Waterworld, a messy $75 million sci-fi vision that almost destroyed his career and did wreck his 16-year marriage.
He tried to right things with a charming romantic comedy, Tin Cup, and that would have worked if he hadn't made The Postman. Another futuristic adventure, this time on land, was so laughable it took in $17 million at the box office even though it cost $100 million.
Costner had problems of epic proportions, shall we say.
And there's more: Those nice Indians who took him in during Wolves accused him of buying up sacred land in South Dakota to build a resort. Then he fathered a child with a woman who went public with the news. More scandal.
Post-divorce, he dated Cheryl Tiegs and Joan Lunden. He flirted with Kathie Lee Gifford. And there were all those other flops: Wyatt Earp, The War, Message in a Bottle, etc.
If you were the author Ed Klein, who showed up Saturday night, you might say there was a Costner curse. (Klein wrote the trashy new book called The Kennedy Curse.)
But look at Kevin Costner: Tanned, athletic and youthful looking at 48, about to marry a swell California blonde, he's still rich and unperturbed by a decade of criticism. Does he want a comeback hit?
"You bet I do," he tells me at dinner following the screening. We were at Goose Creek, Bob Felner and Bryan Bantry's East Hampton estate that contains a movie theatre so beautiful and state-of-the-art that people clean up after themselves when the show is over.
"I could make a sequel," he says, with a hint of bitterness. After all, this has been the summer of insincere sequels to Charlie's Angels, Legally Blonde, Bad Boys, Terminator. "In this environment, there'd be a Bull Durham sequel, a Field of Dreams sequel, a Bodyguard sequel. I'm trying to do something new and original."
In fact, there was supposed to be a Bodyguard sequel, I remind him. With Princess Diana. Or so he said right after she died.
"She was considering it," he says. "I got the script the day she died. Some of it didn't work but the first 30 pages were excellent."
Was she really going to act in a movie without any experience?
"I told her I would make it so she wouldn't be exposed to anything bad," he says. "I was going to take care of her." Costner says he made the approach through a mutual friend, David Tang, owner of Shanghai Tang, and through Sarah Ferguson.
"And the thing you don't realize about Sarah" — he doesn't call her Fergie, by the way — "is she never said, 'I'm a princess, what about me?' She was very excited for Diana to be in it."
Once she died, he decided to abandon the project. "It's not like I'm an auteur or anything," he says with what I would call an aw-shucks, self-deprecating style that makes him seem insincere sometimes to a jaded, suntanned New York reporter. "But if you tell someone you can only make a movie because they're going to be in it, how can you make it later if they can't do it? I'd rather do something else."
He's done quite a lot post-Wolves apart from the film business. He started a company called Costner Industries Texas, or CIT, down in Houston, in which he's backed an inventor of a process that's supposed to clean up oil spills. (You can read all about it at www.cit-ind.com.)
Instead, he says, the process is being used to extract oil. This seems sort of the opposite of the environmental function it was supposed to perform, but Costner says, "Environmentalists are slow to take on new things." So CIT is cleaning up — money-wise, not oil-spill wise — while the process is being considered for good and not evil.
Another invention Costner backed, flywheel technology, has been put out of its misery after many years and much money down the drain, he says.
Of course, then there is the matter of his South Dakota casinos and land development. Costner now operates a hotel and casino in Deadwood, which is a gaming town. But he's been blocked from going through with his real vision: a resort complex-cum-theme park that he says would benefit the region and highlight its history. He obtained the property through a complicated land swap deal with the government, but then the local Indians claimed it was tribal land. The back and forth has been vicious.
"There's been so much venom and acidic press," Costner says. "And most of it's been wrong." He says he planned even to put a train into Deadwood. "I had big ideas," he says, with a self-deprecating laugh. Now he's putting up two big statues on the property celebrating Indian history, hoping that that will allay some of the criticism.
"Most of the criticism comes from an Indian expatriate group in Belgium," he says. "It's not even coming from America."
And then there are his kids. His eldest daughter will start her sophomore year at an Ivy League school this fall. Another is having an eye-opening time on a teen tour to Australia.
"She's with rich kids from prep schools and she's never heard people talk that way to adults," he says. This daughter also is looking at schools in the East for college. This is all new to Costner, who suddenly makes his most revealing and least guarded statement of the night.
"I went to Cal State Fullerton. The tuition was $99," he says. "I only knew about these places from GE College Bowl. They sounded so exotic. Bucknell. Colgate. You knew they were going to win."
Open Range doesn't hit theatres until August 15, so I'm not going to get into a review of it now. Already the long knives are out for Costner. And the fact is — I'll tell you this right now — Open Range is not a turkey by any means. There will be no comparisons to Waterworld or The Postman. So everyone settle down. And try to remember Duvall can do no wrong.
In the meantime, Costner will marry Christine Baumgartner in September. He's going to take a supporting role in a movie directed by my old pal Mike Binder, and then he's got a romantic comedy and a western up his sleeve. His idea of doing a musical about Cuba is still just a dream (this column broke that story a couple years ago). As for politics, he only says: "We're in a lot of trouble right now." When I ask him, as a Californian, if he'd vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Costner responds: "I'd have to hear what he has to say."
And then he and his fiancée and Beard (who, coincidentally, discovered Tiegs years ago) and nightclub owner Amy Sacco were off to the Star Room, a Hamptons hot spot, for a nightcap and some behind-the-velvet-rope action.
"These Hamptons are pretty amazing to us," he says, with just a little aw-shucks.
Costner wasn't the only Hollywood star making the rounds this weekend in the sun-drenched Hamptons. Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman chartered a private helicopter in New York and landed at Montauk airport on Saturday night. No one knows where she went, but a limo picked her up and didn't bring her back until Sunday morning. She returned the way she came, on the private helicopter. Montauk residents include Robert De Niro, Paul Simon, and Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman for starters. Someone — and there are plenty more — could easily have been Nicole's host. No word on whether Jude Law, Q-Tip or any other of Nicole's platonic suitors of late is staying in the most distant Hampton.