FALLING STAR: Kevin Costner
CAREER PINNACLE: In what may be the world’s most celebrated case of beginner’s luck, Costner’s 1990 directorial debut, Dances With Wolves, brought home Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture, as well as a hefty $424 million worldwide.
LATEST MISSTEP: The Postman, which has given new meaning to the phrase junk mail. Preview crowds howled at its unintentionally comic trailer, then critics went postal at the nearly three-hour sci-fi chain letter. No wonder that in its first five days, the reportedly $80 million film eked out a paltry $6.8 million at the box office.
PERCEIVED PROBLEM: Ego unchained. The 42-year-old actor seems to be suffering from the dreaded hyphenate addiction. As Postman’s star-director-producer, he has no one to blame but himself. (Someone else might have warned Costner that after Waterworld, it would have been best to lay off postapocalyptic epics.) And, with ultimate I-can-do-it-all hubris, Costner sings over the closing credits.
NEXT MOVE: Playing another man of letters. Costner has agreed to star in Message in a Bottle, about a character who sends a love note the old-fashioned way. Also reportedly on deck: For the Love of the Game, concerning a washed-up pitcher who throws a perfect game.
ADVICE: To paraphrase Socrates, ”Know thyself—and thy audiences.” Appeal to female fans by returning to Tin Cup and Bull Durham-style aw-shucks roles in romantic comedies. ”He’s a great regular guy,” says one independent director. ”He should just drop the Mad Max shtick and get back to blushing.” Otherwise, Costner’s career may go from dancing with wolves to sleeping with fishes.
(With additional reporting by Judy Brennan)