Kevin Costner Talks to Dead People

No man in Hollywood needs a hit more than Kevin Costner.

If there is an Oscar curse, the man who brought us Dances With Wolves has been haunted by it for years. Now with his new thriller, Dragonfly, Costner is trying a genre that helped boost Richard Gere's career recently in The Mothman Prophecies, and made us think about Harrison Ford as a creep in What Lies Beneath.

Will Dragonfly fly? On a recent evening in midtown Manhattan, the man who hasn't been to the Oscars in a while rambled on about this year's ceremony, and had a positively bewildering answer to the war on terror.

McCuddy: Are you a guy who believes in the hereafter? Have you had any 'other worldly' experiences?

Costner: I haven't. But, that seems to be the big question that all of us ask and none of us have had an answer back. I think religiously some people have settled with it, you know, and go on faith. But I still think that question remains just that: What really happens? And (people) who have those experiences feel like they have a bit of an answer to it. And I'm always encouraged by what I hear. I mean, I'm not a skeptic, I'm not a cynic of it. But I, myself, have not experienced that.

McCuddy: You don't pick up the phone knowing who it is? Or start to call someone and they're calling you?

Costner: Oh, I've had that, sure. But I don't throw as much weight on that. To me, that doesn't answer that ultimate question.

McCuddy: Your parents are living?

Costner: My parents are living.

McCuddy: So you've never felt a presence or thought that somebody...

Costner: No, I haven't had that, and believe me, I would like someone to whisper to me, you know?

McCuddy: Well, that would be great if someone would hang up my clothes. If you left them around the room and came back and they were all hung up, that would be nice.

Costner: A little spooky.

McCuddy: Are you a guy who goes to the Oscars in years you're not nominated?

Costner: No.

McCuddy: Will this year be different because of 9/11?

Costner: I couldn't tell you. I think if it was just an industry thing, I would. I think all of us would go, meaning if it was just all of us, as colleagues, there. And there was just table after table of actor, of director, of producer. Where it was really... it's not being an elitist, it's just saying it's inside our industry, but it's such an outside affair, that if you're not nominated you don't feel included in a certain kind of way. Except if you've won they want you to give, you know, be present, which is very prestigious.

It will never go this direction, but I love the idea that it was our industry because then what would happen is the actors would show up and there would be an almost fraternal feeling amongst all of us that, while you're not nominated you can over to a guy and say, 'Great work.' And you get to physically see him and talk to him and talk to her.

McCuddy: But you're talking about something that wouldn't be televised?

Costner: I think it would be televised, um, if it was just that crowd. It's such a big deal, you know? And whether it was televised or not is not really what I'm talking about. I can't imagine you guys not taking a camera to that.

McCuddy: Are you pulling for anything this year? Something that you saw that you thought was amazing?

Costner: I saw really good stuff.

McCuddy: A Beautiful Mind?

Costner: Yeah, these are all wonderful films. I like what Steven (Spielberg) did in A.I. and I like Blow. And I like, that stuff, so, I thought it was brave what Steve did.

McCuddy: Okay. Finally, how are we doing in the war on terror? President doing a good job? Everything in line, do you think?

Costner: Well, you know, I think that everyone's facing it and moving and aggressively, you know, going after that ... And so when we see the urgency with which things are moving and the tough talk that's going on right now, that seems kind of scary, you know. I think we have people who are running for president three years out, you know, suggesting that we go to war with other countries. And I think that's a bad idea.

If I was the president I think I would say simply, 'You know what? I'm not running for re-election. I'm not going to waste a penny of the taxpayers dollars running for my next term. I'm going to spend the next three years dedicated to the people of America. And they'll decide what kind of job I do. And let the others come after me and do whatever they're going to do, and find a proud way to say I'm not going to run for office while I'm in office. And if Americans decide not to vote, let the chips fall.

And I guarantee you, if he lost that election and somebody else took it, four years later we'd probably be looking back at him and he'd come back for a second term. You know, I wish that a platform could be established, and I think George (Bush) is in a perfect position to say 'You know what? I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to. The job is too big, it's too important, to be out there trying to raise money.

And I think, in the middle of handling all these things, that precedent could be a really great one for all of us to look at. And for the guys who are starting to run right now, stop it. You know, go ahead, work out your thoughts, work out your arguments, work out how you want to lead this country and save it for an appropriate time. But it's too obvious, it's too obvious, it's too transparent. And the people who aren't the president, to be talking about what they'd do to some other country, is wrong.

After a long pause, Costner asked me "Did that make any sense?"

Remarkably, it makes more sense than many parts of Dragonfly.