BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — In the action-thriller 3 Days to Kill, Kevin Costner plays a highly-skilled CIA operative who’s ready to hang up his silencer and reconnect with his long-neglected wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Oscar-nominated Hailee Steinfeld).
It bears a resemblance to some of the high-energy movies Costner used to make back in the ‘80s and ‘90s complete with intense stunt-work.
But there’s one notable difference—the star’s not in his 30s anymore.
So although Costner, now 59, initially wanted to be behind the wheel in one of the film’s high-speed car chases through the streets of Paris, director McG (Terminator Salvation) was able to convince him to defer to a stuntman.
“Once in a while I’ve got to grab him by the back of the pants and say, ‘Kevin, it’s not all that safe for you to be in the car as it sort of rams the other car off the bridge and down into the river,’” quips McG.
Costner begrudgingly agrees.
“Listen, I wanted to ride with the buffalo (in Dances with Wolves), I wanted to do those things,” he says of his more dangerous days. “Whenever you could put the audience in the car, on the horse, they’re now in the movie. Stunts have always had their place, but I have to measure them now. I’ve gone from doing everything to listening, to saying ‘maybe we shouldn’t do this!’
In other words, you know your bones are no longer as pliable as they used to be when your own, longtime stunt person starts getting cold feet.
“It used to be that my stunt guy and I would talk about when it was time to take over,” laughs Costner. “And the way you know you’re getting older is when he goes, ‘You could make it!’ I could tell he starts getting scared!”
Stunt work aside, Costner’s level of enthusiasm for his craft remains undiminished.
And while the hair may be a little thinner and the face a little craggier thanks to a lifetime spent under the California sun, Costner, looking trim and wearing a buttoned black vest over a grey long-sleeved shirt, has aged quite gracefully.
After taking several years off from acting to spend time with his second wife, former model Christine Baumgartner, and their three young children, Costner got back in the saddle again, quite literally, for the well-received 2012 miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys, winning an Emmy for his portrayal of feuding Hatfield clan leader, William Anderson Hatfield.
He followed with flurry of feature films that began with a supporting role in last year’s Superman reboot (Man of Steel) and continued last month with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 3 Days to Kill (opening this Friday). The Ivan Reitman-directed football comedy-drama Draft Day, in which Costner stars as fictional Cleveland Browns general manager, Sonny Weaver, Jr., arrives in theatres in April.
But while it might look that way, Costner wouldn’t say that the time away has re-energized him.
“Well, I’m worn out now!” he quips, after doing back-to-back publicity for Jack Ryan and 3 Days to Kill. “But I’m not re-energized. I’ve always loved the business. I’m a romantic about it, but, for me, this business is always [about] pushing a rock uphill, it feels like.”
If anything, after over 30 years of movie-making (coming a long way from the role of Frat Boy No. 1 in Ron Howard’s Night Shift in 1982), Costner contends his acting has only improved.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten better,” he says. “I feel like I’m better than I was three pictures ago because I think about it. I’m a slow study. It takes me a long time to grasp the material in order to perform it. But when I come onto the set on the first day, I know the whole movie.”