LOS ANGELES - On the face of it, Kevin Costner is the perfect actor to star in the football-themed Draft Day (out Friday). He has toplined three successful baseball movies (Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game) as well as a beloved golf flick (Tin Cup).
So getting the 59-year-old to play the fictitious NFL GM seemed like a genius bit of can’t-lose casting.
But it turns out that Costner’s sports-film pedigree had nothing to do with director Ivan Reitman casting him opposite Jennifer Garner in Draft Day. It was that other thing Costner is known for. You know, his rugged, all-American (sorry Canada) charm.
“The fact that Kevin has done a bunch of successful sports movies is fine,” Reitman tells QMI Agency. “There’s something about the cadence of his voice, the way he looks and the way one trusts and believes him when he speaks. It’s the quality great movie stars through the classic period of filmmaking have had. He’s this iconic American guy that you can follow and know and trust. To me, that’s what makes him perfect for this role… So I went off and got him the script.”
In Draft Day, Costner’s character is GM of the Cleveland Browns, who are coming off a dismal season (sounds like they ripped a page out of real life there). In a bid to put his stamp on the franchise, and save his own skin, Sonny Weaver Jr. attempts to pull off a blockbuster trade to secure the number one pick.
Spoiler alert: Things don’t go according to plan.
“I loved the idea that he made a bad decision,” Reitman says with a laugh. “Here’s a movie star in a sports movie, who starts off by making a terrible mistake… It just seemed like a story that I had never seen before… I loved the pressure on the main character and I loved that combination of the personal stuff and how it affects his professional life.
“It’s a very complicated day for him.”
In addition to the make-or-break draft day, Weaver Jr. is also grappling with his father’s death and the surprising news that he’s going to become a dad.
Reitman, who was raised in Toronto, didn’t set out to make a football movie. He’s not even a sports-movie fan, he says. “I’ve seen a bunch of them that have made me cry like Hoosiers… But the fascinating thing here is I was able to create a sports event out of negotiations and tension that plays out like a game film without ever stepping on the field.”
After making a name for himself with such comedies as Meatballs and Stripes in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Reitman found mainstream Hollywood success with Ghostbusters, Legal Eagles, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Junior and more. Since the 2000s began, he has been less prolific, producing more and ceding the directing spotlight to son Jason (Up in the Air, Juno).
“When I look back at it, I think it’s probably been a mistake,” Reitman says. “I should have directed (more). It’s what I enjoy doing most, and it’s what I like to think I do best… But I’m really proud of Draft Day. I feel like I’ve found my form again even though this is unlike any of the films I’ve done before.”
Reitman got the two leads he wanted for the film (“Kevin and Jennifer were each the first two people I spoke to for those parts”) and made the decision to shoot Draft Day very quickly.
“By the time I got to the end of the script, I knew I wanted to make it. It was a fast decision, but the speed of the decision gave me confidence.”
Reitman admits that he had a hard time finding his rhythm with some of his recent films, but maintains that 2011’s No Strings Attached (with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher) was a good movie.
“It was better than the reviews and I’m proud of it,” he smiles. “Women seem to like it…men… I think it’s something to do with the actor (Kutcher) that they don’t like him.”
After Draft Day, Reitman has opted not to direct the long-gestating third instalment of Ghostbusters.
“I’m looking for something smaller on the more personal side much like Draft Day.”
But he’ll still produce Ghostbusters 3, which is expected to shoot next year.
“It’s a story that plays into the lore and tradition of the original movies,” he says. “I think it’ll be very satisfying to Ghostbusters fans.”