Mr. Brooks : Kevin Costner Interview

In the gripping, mind-bending thriller Mr. Brooks, consummate actor, Kevin Costner takes on a new cinematic challenge: playing a serial killer who is addicted to murder. William Hurt and Demi Moore also star in the film.

Kevin Costner stars as a psychotic serial killer in his latest film, MR BROOKS. Constantly battling with his conscience, he can’t stop and finds each ruthless murder cathartic. And apparently he gets away with it every time, it’s a mind-bending and compelling thriller, clearly Costner’s biggest career risk so far and he pulls it off with an uncanny ease, displaying a completely different side to his talent. Costner is so convincing because he is likeable, which makes the film even more chilling. His character, Earl Brooks, is ostensibly a pillar of the local community: a loving husband, father and businessman, lured into vicious crimes by his dark side, or alter ego, brought to life by William Hurt. Demi Moore plays the detective, trying to track him down. Dane Cook, Oscar winner, William Hurt, Marg Helgenberger and Danielle Panabaker also star in the film. Costner also served as a producer on the film, which was directed by Bruce Evans.

“Make no mistake, the places Mr. Brooks goes to are indefensible and despicable,” says Kevin Costner. “But what makes him so interesting, is that he is this other pressure on him that you don’t usually see in a killer – there’s a conscience beating at him.”

Kevin Costner, 52. has enjoyed a formidable career as an actor and director. His many hit movies include, NO WAY OUT, BULL DURHAM, THE BODYGUARD FIELD OF DREAMS, THIRTEEN DAYS, JFK, THE GUARDIAN and THE UPSIDE OF ANGER. He produced, directed and starred in DANCES WITH WOLVES, which won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. He directed and starred in the critically acclaimed Western, OPEN RANGE. His next film is a political comedy: SWING VOTE.

The actor is married to Christine Baumgartner, 33 and they have a four-month old son Cayden Wyatt. Costner also has three children from his marriage to Cindy Silva: Annie, 23 and Lily 21 who are at college and his son Joe 19, a songwriter.

Costner, still handsome and looking like the quintessential rancher, in jeans, heavy mountain boots and a pale yellow cotton work shirt, sleeves rolled up, over a blue tee shirt.

The following interview was conducted at Kevin Costner’s secluded ranch outside Aspen Colorado, on the Roaring Fork River, where deer, elk bears and mountain lions roam the hillsides. The actor rides his quad bike across fields and dirt tracks arriving in a swirl of dust and gravel, before sitting down on a sun drenched lakeside sundeck, his white lab Jewel beside him, for the following interview. He discusses the film, his career in general, fatherhood and why he loves spending his free time out in the wilds.

Q: What was the appeal and fascination of this film? It is so different from anything you have done before?
“I thought it could be a classic, because the writing was great, the writing was the star of the movie, and I thought that while I didn’t see myself as that person, I could play this role, it was a challenge. I understood that it would be seen as a departure for me. I understood all the things that would come with it, but I still feel that if I’m going to continue to have a life, making movies, then I should try to make different kind of films. And this seemed to fit in a positive way.”

Q: Were you concerned about the impact the film would have on your audience – you usually play the classic good-guy leading man?
“ No I wasn’t. Some people may be offended by this film and may think it’s too harsh and I get that, but I don’t want to cater to my audience. There’s blood, yeah there’s a lot of blood but that’s not what this movie’s all about, there’s a lot of tenderness too. He's a serial killer though and I wasn't dying to do a role like this. I'm not a guy that goes 'Boo!' But when I read it, I thought the writers found an amazing window into the subject matter. Now I feel this is as strong a performance as I've ever given.”

Q: The way you portray this man, we almost like him, was that intentional and how do you perceive this character who after all is completely destructive and enjoys killing?
“Mr. Brooks isn’t looking for forgiveness. No, he has a disease. When that disease isn’t affecting him, he is a nice guy. But he’s dismantled families who are destroyed forever. We can’t ever forgive him, we may not like a serial killer like this, but he creates a kind of empathy, because we get a level of understanding of why he’s doing it. And that's what made MR BROOKS stand out to me as a serial killer movie. I don't like scary movies, I get scared, I'm uncomfortable. I don't like roller coasters or sh.. Like that; I don't like being scared, it's not an adrenaline rush for me. So MR BROOKS had to pass a lot of tests and criteria for me to want to even be a part of it, and it did. I think the film is really good.”

Q: Did you have tap in to anything inside you? How did you find who this man was, what he was like?
“I didn’t know what to tap into to play this character. But there was a moment when I knew at least from a behavioural standpoint, that at the point when people kill, they must be getting some ecstasy that is orgasmic, because why else would they do it? It’s even creepier to think that they get no satisfaction, that they just kill. So in my own way, I played this guy who loves his family and then goes off and perpetrates these insidious murders. And I didn’t want to be afraid of what that would look like on screen.”

Q: Can you talk about the fascinating relationship with William Hurt – Marshall - (who is imaginary but very real to you and urges you to commit these horrific crimes? It must have been difficult?
” It wasn’t that hard, a lot of times he was in the scene, a lot of times he wasn’t. The script was so beautifully rendered, but we also knew that that script was going to have to take a jump cinematically, so we had establish our vocabulary for our audience when he was in a scene and when he wasn’t. And that vocabulary was really important, how we were going to pull that off to set up the relationship between us.”

Q: You don’t usually do sequels – but you may do a trilogy I believe?
“That’s how it was presented, this was written as a series of films. Look, we’re a very modestly budgeted movie; we’re an $18 million movie, if we make a second one it’ll just be because we have modest success. But if we do, then it is possible that we can build an audience. Either way this movie has a really natural conclusion. But the important thing was this movie had to stand on its own, and that’s all the work that went into it, so I’m not out there anticipating we’ll ever do a second one, I don’t care, I’m comfortable with how this movie sits.”

Q: Would anything motivate you to kill?
“I would kill for my family. I would kill for my children. I would kill for the common man who has been wronged. I would kill for my country, to protect someone else. I think you never want to be in that position but if that becomes necessary, would I make a sacrifice for another human being? Yes. ”

Q: We are here in Colorado conducting this interview – it is so remote and beautiful - have you always enjoyed being out in the wilds?
“I’ve always been a true hunter. I had a survival instinct as a child and I guess I was a loner. As a kid, I wasn’t academic and even back then I thought I could make my living off the land, so when other kids were playing, I would head off up into the hills. I tried to take the venom out of rattlesnakes, because on TV they said that the medicine was worth money. They’d say to kids ‘don’t try this at home’ and I didn’t listen, I did it anyway, even if it was dangerous.”

Q: How much did your parents influence and inspire you? I know you are close to both of them?
“They were big influences and helped to pave the way for me. My family had very modest amounts of money, I didn’t think we were poor, but I remember seeing my dad late at night in the kitchen tearing bread up and putting it in a glass and pouring milk over it. It would be 2 o clock in the morning and I was five or six years old and I often wondered about that and my mother told me: ‘ he just gets worried about money and sits there in the kitchen in the middle of the night’. I remembered that vividly and so in my film: FOR LOVE OF THE GAME I put that scene in the movie (I did that as a homage to my dad). I just try to connect dots in my life and learn all the time.”

Q: You must really appreciate the life you have created for yourself?
“I feel blessed, lucky, whatever you want to call it. I didn’t have any of this as a child. We had a small back yard but I thought it was a kingdom, I had a dog and places I could dig and wreck, I wouldn’t have traded my life for anyone’s. When my movies started making money the first thing I did was buy my dad a truck and he wept, not for the gift but I think because all parents hope for their children to find their way. When I was little my dad used to shake his head because my ideas seemed unreachable, I’m sure he hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed. So by virtue of me buying him a truck, it meant a lot. In my family we’d been thinking for three years about how to plan to buy a truck, so I think there was great joy in that for him.”

Q: Did you always know you wanted to act?
“As a kid, my imagination was on fire. I remember seeing Jimmy Stewart in his canoe in How the West Was Won, when I was seven, so I tried to build a canoe myself in my back yard, I cut down a tree and tried to hollow it out, I threw gasoline on it, set it on fire and tried to blow it up. The back yard was a big mess. “Get that shit out of here, it’s messing up the backyard,” my mom said. I loved acting but never thought I had a chance of doing it to make a living.”

Q: Were you a rebellious kid?
“It wasn’t that I was rebellious or reckless. I was just curious. And I loved being out in the wilds. So when I became successful, I needed a place where I could have that feeling again and that’s why I bought this place - it’s such a great sensory overload out here, so many trees, so many stars.”

Q: Do you spend a lot of time working on the ranch?
“I did a lot of labouring jobs before acting, I was a carpenter for a while and do a lot of work building and repairing on the ranch. I ’m just an average carpenter but I’m a very good labourer. I hauled the wood for this house; I built the deck around it, drove the tractor and dug the ditches. I painted all these buildings. I love hard manual work. I like knowing that I’ve fixed things myself and that’s what I try to explain to my kids, that you have a lot of pride in a house if you know that you’ve built it.”

Q: How do you spend your time here?
“I fish and canoe, we had gigantic canoe races here over the summer and baseball games, we work and we play really hard. I’ve created sledging runs for children to race down on inner tubes. I am always imagining the place when I’m not here. I feel at peace here I work I am up early with the dogs and I drive around the property and look at what needs to be fixed, what needs to be safer and what can be more fun for friends who come to visit. Of course one day I’m not going to be here – this land will be here and so will the people, my kids and family. I’ve told my kids there are two things that are important: how the land is taken care of and how the people taking care of the land are willing to share it. Their only job is to love it and to share it. “

Q: You’ve taken many risks in your career – was that intentional?
“It’s about being fearless, I’m never been afraid of whether or not I’m number one at the box office .I like to do cowboy movies. They play into my sensibility of going alone, with all the possessions you own on the back of your horse. I know that I'm kind of suited to that kind of film. But you know, I’ve had success and films that haven’t been successful. But my choices haven’t been about commercial success, they’ve been individual movies that I’ve thought could be successful and could be very popular. They’re not built on sequels - on having a second and third and fourth so I’m not concerned with trying to manipulate that movie into its is hottest possible audience.”

Q: How do you determine success?
“ I don’t know how to explain my attitude and my response to the people who doubt me. I have my own criteria when it comes to success. I don’t think that money or box office success determines what makes a good movie. And I don’t think that outer success make you right. It is about being true to yourself. Our job as actors and film makers is to make movies and make them as well as we can and try not to bow down or cower to conventional wisdom.”

Q: You have a young son with your wife Christine, what’s fatherhood like this time around?
“It’s the same, I’m thankful that I don’t have to look back and go, ‘Okay, I’m really going to do it right this time.’ I’m not saying I’m a perfect dad, but I don’t have that feeling of looking back and saying, ‘Oh, I was building my career, I’m sorry I didn’t have time for you, I didn’t make it to this game, I didn’t make it to this play, I made it to everything and I was happy that I did. It was a long time before coming to this decision, to have a baby, Christine and I dated for seven years, we didn’t come to it lightly. This is not an easy thing.”

Q: is it a lot of hard work?
“Cayden is sleeping next to his mommy all the time and she’s a really good mom, Sometimes I fake that I'm still asleep in the morning. My wife buys it, and she gets up to feed the little one or change the diapers. (laughs) You know we’re not any different from other parents. We have a legitimate job on our hands, which is a lifetime commitment to this child. Fatherhood is the one thing I’m really proud of.. If anything I want to make sure I can give Cayden what I gave Annie, Lily and Joe.”

Q: Are you enjoying married life this time around?
“I’m contented being married. As a man you feel like you’re maybe giving up your freedoms, your spontaneity. In a sense, when you elect to get married you do give up a lot. There are two people and there is an extra weight to carry, and that is not fun. What you have instead, is a partner who lightens your load. Some people might think that trying marriage for a second time could blow up, but I am so happy that I was willing to make that commitment.”