There are three notable differences in Kevin Costner’s latest career move as a big-screen ballplayer:
—The star of the previous baseball flicks “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams” and “For Love of the Game” plays a retired ballplayer in the comic drama “The Upside of Anger,” which premiered over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival.
—Costner is a supporting performer to the film’s central character, played by Joan Allen.
—The actor known for such sober dramas as “Dances With Wolves,” “JFK” and “The Untouchables” is playing a good old goofball, a big-hearted meathead with a dopey laugh, a chronic marijuana buzz and a long-neck beer bottle perpetually in hand.
When writer-director Mike Binder’s script for “The Upside of Anger” came his way, Costner had a moment’s hesitation about doing another ballplayer.
“But listen, I’m not that timid about, ‘Ooh, what are people going to think?”’ Costner said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I didn’t think ‘Field of Dreams’ had anything to do with ‘For Love of the Game.’ I didn’t think that ‘Love of the Game’ had anything to do with ‘Bull Durham.’ And I didn’t do any of them because they were baseball.
“When I saw this, I thought the not-careful journalists will write, ‘Oh, another baseball movie.’ But I did this because he was an interesting character.”
Opening theatrically in March, “The Upside of Anger” stars Allen as a woman with four daughters (Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell and Alicia Witt) who turns boozy and caustically bitter after her husband pulls a vanishing act.
Costner plays Allen’s laid-back neighbor, a former baseball star who becomes her drinking buddy and eventually tumbles into an uneasy relationship as her lover and referee for the woman’s spats with her daughters.
Allen said it was refreshing for Costner to cut loose in a jollier role.
“I thought it would be fun to see him play something like that,” Allen said. “We referred to him as a big teddy bear all the time. He was just really lovable and sweet and kind of goofy among all these women.”
Binder, also co-starring as a lecherous pal who produces a radio talk show hosted by Costner’s character, wrote the script with Allen in mind. The two had become chummy on the set of Allen’s political drama “The Contender,” in which Binder co-starred.
Star powerBut it was Costner’s star power that secured financing for the film. Costner, an Academy Award winner for best-picture and director on “Dances With Wolves,” never tried to muscle in on the production, though, said Binder, who wrote and starred in the HBO series “The Mind of the Married Man.”
“He was the driving force behind getting the movie greenlighted, but he never used that power, which I respected,” Binder said. “He was always one of the ensemble, one of the players. Never pulled rank. He never came to my editing room, never wanted me to recut anything. He truly was just a player and a supportive guy.”
One of Hollywood’s biggest box-office draws in the late 1980s and early ’90s with “Field of Dreams,” “Dances With Wolves” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” Costner has had fitful results with his movies over the last 12 years.
Last summer’s Western “Open Range,” which Costner directed and starred in, and the golf romance “Tin Cup” were modest successes. But his acclaimed political drama “Thirteen Days” failed to find an audience, and he had flops with such movies as the supernatural thriller “Dragonfly” and the heist flick “3000 Miles to Graceland.”
Costner, who turned 50 this month, said studio pressures to boost the films’ commercial prospects undermined some of his big-budgeted movies.
“I think some of the movies haven’t lived up to what they should have been,” Costner said. “When they’re not done for a lot of money, sometimes you get a clearer voice, one single voice, about what the movie’s to be about. And some of the movies for me that have not performed as well as I thought they could have, I think was because too many voices enter into them.”
Costner said he feels no career pressure to deliver another breakout hit, saying his films have been profitable enough between theatrical and home-video revenues.
“I know what my movies do economically. I like everybody else understand what they do on opening weekend,” Costner said. “The economic life of my movies, I’m really comfortable with what happens to them when they go out there, and so are the studios.”