After flops like ”3000 Miles to Graceland” and ”Dragonfly,” Kevin Costner is back in the saddle again. In ”Open Range,” the 48-year-old Oscar winner plays Charley Waite, a gunslinger-turned-cattleman who seeks vengeance on a corrupt rancher with the support of his peace-loving boss (Robert Duvall) and a good woman (Annette Bening). EW.com talked to Costner about returning to the director’s chair, what he thinks of his critics, and why he’ll take an older woman over an ingenue any day.
You haven’t directed since 1997’s ”The Postman.” Why get behind the camera again?
Well, I wasn’t afraid to direct again; I just didn’t want to because it’s so hard. I guess it’s kind of like sex. I don’t watch anybody else make love, so I’m not sure if I’m doing it the right way. I direct my own way, which seems to be 24 hours a day, so it takes a lot out of me.
Considering how few Westerns have succeeded recently, why pick one for a comeback vehicle?
It was difficult to get this mounted at first, because it’s the kind of movie that wasn’t going to sell overseas and I wasn’t terribly high on anybody’s list. But there’s nothing wrong with the formula of Westerns. Lately Westerns have been kind of lazy, stupid costume parties. I wanted to direct this because I’ve always believed what’s worked most in Westerns are the little things. And if you throw in the obligatory things a little bit on their ear you challenge yourself to do something original.
You’ve taken a beating from the critics over the years. How do you deal with it?
Criticism is hard to take sometimes. I don’t mean constructive criticism, which is something all of us can do well from. But I don’t need you to make fun of me. Right now criticism is about how low can you go, how funny you can be. The elitists of the world have problems with people like myself. I can’t tell you why, but they do. I’ve already judged the movie myself. I know there are flaws in it. I know what caused them, either lack of money, lack of talent, maybe the sun went down.
There’s some brutal violence in this film, and even the dogs don’t emerge unscathed. Why did you choose to show so much?
I believe in people talking sweet to each other, and I believe in people trying to kill each other. And it’s an ugly business, killing. At the end of violence, there are a lot of things that get hurt. Animals get hurt, horses get shot, a small child sees a fight and her dad’s going to have to talk to her, and maybe talk to her about it for a lot of years. I can’t dwell on that, but I don’t like to brush past it, either. It’s not streamlined storytelling, but I do believe in the aftermath of violence.
You’ve developed a reputation for casting age-appropriate female leads. Why have you opted for mature women over pretty young things?
I think the truth is just as entertaining as the lie. Annette Bening made sense. Love is going to pass this woman by, and if she was 30 years old, that wasn’t at risk. I think she’s beautiful, and I like the lines in her face. I’m not necessarily in vogue, but that’s okay. I would do a movie that paired me with a younger woman if it made sense to the text. But I resist doing it when it isn’t good for the movie. I don’t want to spit on the movie in order to have financial success. But what we’re dealing with is the conventional wisdom of movie making today. And the simple answer to that is: What if everybody’s wrong?
Speaking of age-appropriate leads, it’s been reported that you’re planning a romantic comedy with Michelle Pfeiffer called ”Taming Ben Taylor.” How’s that going?
This is funny. No one’s stepped up to finance that movie. She’s my age, and I don’t want to say the names that have been suggested to me, but I’ve said: ”Well, doesn’t Michelle make more sense?” And [they say]: ”No.” And I say: Oh f—, okay. [But] I happen to believe that movies are for my generation, too. They can’t be everything to everybody.