Costner hopes for a Gridiron of Dreams

Actor believes ‘Draft Day’ holds rank with his other sports flicks

craig.hill@thenewstribune.comApril 11, 2014 

When it comes to making a classic sports movie, what does Kevin Costner believe?

Well, he believes in the soul. He believes in grit, good writing, authenticity, and a “proper amount of vulgarity.” He believes in loving the game and hating the game. And he believes good sports flicks need a little poetry.

“Draft Day” arrives at theaters Friday with all of these elements, the veteran actor said.

In the film, Costner stars as fictional Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. who is trying to land the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft to turn around the beleaguered franchise.

It’s the latest addition to Costner’s sports movie canon that started with “American Flyers” (a cycling movie) in 1985 and continues in November with “McFarland,” a Disney track movie.

Costner believes “Draft Day” is good enough to take its place alongside “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams” as a genuine classic sports movie.

Costner says “Draft Day,” rated PG-13, is funny, gritty and has that “proper amount of vulgarity.”

So why does a classic sports movie need vulgarity?

“We are romantics about our sports,” Costner said. “We don’t let anybody talk bad about baseball. We aren’t going to let anybody talk bad about football. … But we can talk bad about it.”

He believes this is why “Bull Durham” was so well received. In addition to the unfit-for-print words woven into his character’s iconic “I believe” speech, that film illuminated the relationships athletes have with their sport.

His character in “Bull Durham,” Crash Davis, chases a minor league baseball record that’s bittersweet.

Bitter because it means he never realized his dream of being a regular major league player. Sweet because it still meant something to him even if it mattered little to anybody else.

“There is a level of poetry that has to go with vulgarity,” Costner said. “No matter what, we can cuss our game, but it’s our game. And if a movie doesn’t have both those things, then it gets too soft and it’s not authentic.

“Make no mistake. We are a movie. We are not a documentary. But I think (“Draft Day” director) Ivan (Reitman) really rode the edge of a movie that can become classic. That level of grit in this movie doesn’t end and that’s what I loved about it.”

A lifelong sports fan, Costner, 59, has made baseball, cycling and golf movies, but says he’s long wanted to make a football movie, even though his days of being able to believably portray a player are long gone.

“I wouldn’t have been in it if I didn’t think it had a chance to be great,” Costner said. “As much as I would like to do a football movie. I like football … too much to make one that doesn’t make sense (or) takes a step backward.”

And when Costner saw the final product, he was pleased. “I was really happy seeing the movie because I know how much we all care about our game and it does too.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 craig.hill@thenewstribune.com @AdventureGuys

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