Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner Biography

Director (1955–)
Film actor and director Kevin Costner directed and starred in the epic film Dances With Wolves (1990), which won seven Oscars.


Kevin Costner was born on January 18, 1955, in Lynwood, California. After studying at California State University, Costner became an actor, establishing a reputation in the critically acclaimed films Bull Durham (1988) and Field of Dreams (1989). He directed and starred in the epic film Dances With Wolves (1990), which won seven Oscars. In 2012, Costner won an Emmy Award (best actor in a miniseries) for his performance in the History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys.

Early Life

Sometimes compared to such screen legends as Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart, actor Kevin Costner first came to fame in the 1980s. Born on January 18, 1955, in Lynwood, California, he is the son of a power company employee; his father's job necessitated a number of moves during Costner's youth. In his high school years, Costner struggled with insecurities because of his short stature.

Costner attended California State University in Fullerton, where he studied marketing. During college, he developed an interest in acting. Costner spent years as a struggling performer after graduating from college in 1978. He sometimes worked as a carpenter and also had a behind-the-scenes job as a gofer for Raleigh Studios for a time.

Film Career

Costner landed a role as a suicide victim in the 1983 ensemble drama The Big Chill with Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum and others. What looked like his first big break ended in disappointment when all of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. "I rehearsed for a month with the whole cast and shot for about a week. I knew when I was shooting it that if anything would be cut it would be my scenes," Costner later explained. But the film's director Lawrence Kasdan remembered Costner and later signed him for the 1985 western Silverado. The film, which also starred Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn and Danny Glover, proved to be a springboard to other opportunities in Hollywood.

In 1987, Costner's career really took off with two hit films. He starred with Sean Young in the popular thriller No Way Out and played the legendary crime fighter Eliot Ness in The Untouchables with Sean Connery. Untouchables director Brian De Palma praised Costner's work on the film, saying that "he can take those old Western lawman lines and make them real." Continuing his winning streak, Costner starred in the baseball romantic comedy Bull Durham with Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins the following year.

With 1989's Field of Dreams, Costner again won over audiences with his everyman appeal. He played a farmer who creates a baseball diamond on his land on the instruction of a voice he hears. The fantastical yet heartfelt film did well both critically and commercially. Costner, now an established box office star, got the green light to work on his directorial debut Dances with Wolves (1990). The movie was a labor of love with shooting stretching out over 18 months, 5 of which were spent on location in South Dakota. The film told the story of a Civil War soldier who befriends a tribe of Sioux Indians. Incredibly well received, the movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Costner also won the Academy Award for Best Director.

Costner continued to enjoy box office success with the action adventure tale Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and the romantic drama The Bodyguard (1992) with Whitney Houston. But Costner soon ran into a series of disappointments. While earning kudos from critics, his film with Clint Eastwood, A Perfect World (1993), failed to make much an impression on movie-goers. His turn as the famous western icon in Wyatt Earp (1994) received mixed reviews and did mediocre business at the box office.

Working as its star and producer, Costner faced a tremendous amount of challenges with the post-apocalyptic film Waterworld (1995). This futuristic tale of a nearly landless Earth had problems from the start. Filming largely took place on the open ocean on specially built platforms, one of which sank, but was recovered. The cast and crew also battled seasickness and the elements, which sometimes stopped or delayed the production. The movie, which also starred Dennis Hopper and Jeanne Tripplehorn, opened strong with a $21 million first weekend, but it soon lost steam with movie-goers. It also received a tepid reception from critics.

Undaunted, Costner worked on another futuristic epic The Postman (1997). He played the title character, a man who pretends to be a letter carrier in a post-Apocalyptic America fractured by nuclear war. His charade brings hope to an isolated community. Some called The Postman the worst film of the year, while others simply noted that it was "a misfire" and "way too long, too pretentious and too self-indulgent."

After this film, Costner's star power seemed to fade somewhat. He didn't help his reputation by getting into a very public dispute with Universal over edits made to his next film For the Love of Game (1998). But Costner showed critics that he still had what it takes to give an impressive performance with Thirteen Days (2000). He earned strong reviews for his work in this true-life drama about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Recent Projects

In 2005, Costner turned to one of his other passions—music. He started working with a band called Modern West. They released their first album Untold Truths in 2008. Since then, Costner had put out two more recordings, 2010's Turn It On and 2011's From Where I Stand. He and his band have toured several times in recent years.

Costner, however, hasn't turned his back on acting. He starred in the election comedy Swing Vote in 2008, and appeared in the 2010 drama The Company Men with Chris Cooper, Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones. In 2012, Costner tackled a juicy role on the small screen, starring in the History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys as Devil Anse Hatfield, the leader of a famous feuding family. His nemesis, Randall McCoy, was played by Bill Paxton. For his Hatfields & McCoys performance, Costner won an Emmy Award (best actor in a miniseries) in 2012. That same year, Costner was also among the many who were shocked by the death of Whitney Houston. The actor gave a moving eulogy at the funeral of his former co-star.

In everything he does, Costner seems to be listening to his own counsel, not following any typical Hollywood playbook. "You've got to blaze your own trail or you're just going to feed at the trough," he once explained. "Feeding at the trough can get you pretty fat. But I choose to go my own way."

In 2014, Costner starred in a number of films including Man of Steel, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, 3 Days to Kill, Draft Day, and Black or White. In 2015, he starred as coach Jim White in the feel-good bio pic McFarland, USA.

Personal Life

Costner has been married to Christine Baumgartner since 2004. The couple has two sons, Cayden Wyatt and Hayes Logan, together. Costner also has three children—Annie, Lily and Joe—from his first marriage to Cindy Silva and a son, Liam, from his relationship with socialite Bridget Rooney.

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