Everyone looks forward to the weekend, but this particular weekend I had “EPIC” written in the Saturday block. As the black bus pulled up to one of the most popular addresses in tinsel town–Hollywood and Vine, where fame meets fortune, we stepped off the bus and onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
We had arrived at one of Hollywood’s most beautiful hotels, the W Hollywood Hotel. By the outside, it seems far from extraordinary, but step into the lobby and find contrasting black and white with art deco pillows neatly arranged on the sitting area.
Let your eyes wander a little more and you discover a spectacular piece of art and stunning cascade in the majestic chandelier.
Up the winding staircase and just past the wall of celebrity photos
In a room in monotone charcoal, is the reason I am here. Right now the table is lifeless. A McFarland, USA movie poster adds a flare of color to the loneliness.
There is electric excitement in this room filled with 25 bloggers. The anticipation building as we wait for the metallic doors to open…
The moment arrives. The doors open, a gentleman walks in, his black duster gently swaying as he walks casually to the front of the room. He takes a seat and begins speaking. His voice is familiar. It is the voice of Elliot Ness, Bull Durham, Wyatt Earp, Lt. John Dunbar, Robin Hood (Prince of Thieves) and Jim White all rolled into one–the voice of Kevin Costner.
Kevin Costner, the legendary actor, is sitting less than four feet from me. He’s here to talk about the new movie, based on a true story, McFarland, USA.
He opens with talking about his life and his journey in the business.
I wanted direction, like probably everybody out there asking, what are you gonna do in your life? I found movies, and to me it was like recess. I wasn’t very good in school, but when that bell rang, and I could go out and play, and make up my own life, and do whatever I wanted to do. That’s what I wanted in life. Now that may sound like Peter Pan but that’s what I wanted.
I wanted to be absolutely interested in everything that I did. It began to happen for me. As I conduct my career going forward, it’s obviously more than just movies. Movies are a small part of my life. They’re an important part. They’re the tip of the iceberg that the rest of the world sees; but they’re a very small part of my life.
Being born in Compton and living in Visalia, California growing up, McFarland, USA has a special meaning to Kevin Costner.
I played against McFarland in baseball. I lived in Visalia, up in the Central Valley so the important thing for me was that I was able to participate in this movie and highlight a culture that we see all the time, driving down our highways, looking off to the left and right, and somehow we just keep driving, right? We’re not supposed to text and we’re not supposed to stop our car to look.
Movies have been a joy for me. And so (a movie) that would highlight this little town–there are little McFarland’s everywhere in America. I like that. It’s a very important part of my filmography to be a part of this movie.
As you may know by now, McFarland, USA is a movie about a cross country team. The movie highlights a lot of running. Kevin Costner plays the role of Coach Jim White. Costner confesses:
I hate running and so that’s why I enjoyed being the coach. One time I ran with them, and as you see in the movie, I quit. I played the coach part really well. I sat down and had a Coca-Cola.
He relied on the fact that he knew nothing about cross-country, much like Coach Jim White.
It was something I would have to educate myself with and coach without facilities that probably the schools we would be competing against had. I had to try to be resourceful, and the script gave me those opportunities to be that. There was not really any training involved for me. There was just being heavily involved in these young men’s lives, uh, you know?
We had just spoken to the real life McFarland, USA team, and the actors. There was a general consensus that Kevin Costner is more than an actor. Kevin Costner is a mentor, a friend, a role model. It comes through in his talking about McFarland, USA.
There was so much more about the movie than the finish line. The finish line’s for them. You can give young people something to shoot for and what we realize watching this movie is that when we do, they can somehow exceed beyond their own expectations. We realize that’s actually in front of all our children. If you really want to get specific about it, it’s actually in front of us, too. Wherever you’re at in your life, there is a chance to do something else in your life. We’re not done.
We’re not done at all. We’re here, you’re doing your job, but what you want to be in your life is still in front of you. The same things that we offer our children, we shouldn’t be so ignorant to not offer up to ourselves.
With a history of some blockbuster sports movies like Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, and now McFarland, USA, one has to wonder what it is about sports films he finds so appealing.
There’s a lot of sports films that come to me that I never do because they’re not very appealing. They maybe are too much about sports or they’re too obvious or they’re too whatever. The best ones are about people, obviously, and there are less sports in it than you would imagine. The ones that try to make a wall-to-wall sports movie might as well make a documentary or watch that on ESPN.
In McFarland, USA the team is very much a family. Prior to this interview with Kevin Costner, the real McFarland, USA cross country team shared that Coach Jim White was very much a father figure to them. It was asked if Kevin Costner was a father figure to the boys on the set?
I didn’t try to be. I think that you understand that I’m in that position where that could happen, so it’s better to let that happen than to just go in and be Yoda, and be able to, have all this stuff that you can tell them. It’s more authentic when they actually come to you, and you’re not just spouting off. Nothing was off limits when they would come to me to talk to me. They began to understand that and I think hopefully appreciate that.
It was important for me, for them to be good. It was important for me to let them know that they needed to be even more prepared for Niki (Caro),because she is who gave them a big shot in their life. They owe it to her to be as prepared as they can, every day. I would talk to them a lot about, professionalism, about what you do, because there’s plenty of fun, right?
Suddenly the bell rang for them too, right? It’s recess. They’re out playing too, and they’re getting paid for it. You can get carried away with that and forget that you have a job. We talked about that. Then the more comfortable they became, they wanted to know about all the girls I kissed. Of course I told them, ‘If you want to keep kissing girls, the best way to do that is to not talk about it.’
For me, this interview was truly one of inspiration. Kevin Costner was authentic. He was larger than life. He is humble and honest.
Our interview ended with Kevin sharing what was the most emotional part of McFarland, USA.
The movie was filled with a lot, so to drill down on a single moment…– one of the highlights of the movie is where it’s supposed to be. It’s before the last race. They have gone from not knowing anything about what was possible, to sensing that everything was suddenly possible, and what happened? They found themselves in the last race, and they saw the buses drive up that were bigger than their bus, shinier.
They saw kids come out of the buses in uniforms that were better. The kids were bigger. So all of a sudden they started to shrink back. They started to go back in their minds to McFarland. They suddenly weren’t going to be able to maybe compete at this level. That’s where men, older men and, older woman will always be at their most useful, to look at them and see the fear in somebody’s eyes; the doubt in somebody’s eyes and to say, ‘No! You belong here.’
When you make someone feel like they belong, they start to feel like giants. And what happened? They won. And they continued to win, and it was all because somebody said, ‘it’s possible if you’re willing to work at it’. The emotional thing for me always is, I hope somebody talks to my sons or daughters that way, should I not be around, about what’s possible.
I think that’s what we all want for even ourselves, but more importantly we always want it for our children.