Kevin Michael Costner was born the son of a ditch-digger in Southern California, his unsettled upbringing apparently making him fall in love with American landscape.
English (mostly), German, Swiss-German, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish (Scots-Irish)
Kevin was born in Lynwood, California, on January 18, 1955, the third child of Bill Costner, a ditch digger and ultimately an electric line servicer for Southern California Edison, and Sharon Costner (née Tedrick), a welfare worker. His older brother, Dan, was born in 1950. A middle brother died at birth in 1953. His father's job required him to move regularly, which caused Kevin to feel like an Army kid, always the new kid at school, which led to him being a daydreamer. As a teen, he sang in the Baptist church choir, wrote poetry, and took writing classes. At 18, he built his own canoe and paddled his way down the rivers that Lewis & Clark followed to the Pacific. Despite his present height, he was only 5'2" when he graduated high school. Nonetheless, he still managed to be a basketball, football and baseball star.
During that period, Kevin decided to take acting lessons five nights a week.
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 for 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 challenge with 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 and have been recovered. 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 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.
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.
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."
Dances with Wolves
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Kevin Costner was raised Baptist, but now questions his faith.
He used to be Republican, but now he's a Democrat.
Costner is frequently cited as a celebrity Republican, although he no longer is. He did socialize and golf with President George Bush, and in 1992 the Bush re-election campaign leaked word that he would appear in a commercial for the President. Costner, then a registered Republican, had no intention of aiding Bush, according to a close associate. He was a Clinton supporter. "We had to tell the Bush campaign to stop saying he was going to do ads," the associate says. Before the 1996 election, Costner switched his registration to Independent. He gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party and attended the Democratic National Convention. Still, he continues to receive invitations to GOP fund raisers, and in February 1999 the New York Times referred to him as a Republican. "He's not a particularly political guy," says the associate.
eal heroes are men who fall and fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they've stayed true to their ideals and beliefs and commitments. -- Interview with David Giammarco, Cigar Aficionado Magazine, Nov/Dec 2000.
I'm happy about the things I've done. Not always happy about the results, but happy about the decisions, because I made them myself. And I think that's an important way to go through life. -- Interview with David Giammarco, Cigar Aficionado Magazine, Nov/Dec. 2000.
I'm not into plugs, rugs or drugs to correct this problem and would rather just shave it off. - on going bald.
I registered as a Republican when I was twenty-one. My parents were Republicans. But as I've gotten older I've questioned my whole conservative background ... I think you should be fair about how you treat people.
I don't want to turn my back on that [Bush] family. They've been gracious to me. We're supposed to evolve from frontier justice. I think that the old west mythology is a good thing to have in your spine. But it shouldn't operate your brain. It's nice to know that you are willing to fight, but it's good to know how smart you are about not fighting.
I don't prefer to be known as a conservative. I'm not a Republican. I basically was raised in a house that was a Republican house. My politics came out my kitchen table, listening to my parents. I thought the people that protested against the Vietnam war were unpatriotic because my brother was fighting over in Vietnam. I was only 14 years old. As I got time and distance I realized it was just a difference of opinion and their opinion wasn't necessarily wrong. As a person evolves they begin to have their own voice and their own way of thinking. I wasn't ahead of my time.
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.