Kevin Costner. Oh dear

There he was. The babe toast of 1985. An actor who could direct. A film-maker who could call the shots. Then there were bad haircuts. And bad movies. And then, Waterworld. By David Shipman

"Being a celebrity puts you at the mercy of people who can walk all over you. But the price you pay is high. Actors are accorded too much attention and too much importance. In practice, I am paid $100,000 for my work and $900,000 for not having a private life anymore. I struggle to live a normal live in abnormal circumstances. Perhaps being famous means you've been a little too lucky," said Kevin Costner before he ran out of luck.

Since November he has been locked into an $80m divorce suit - after 16 years of marriage, reports in the press of infidelity and equally frequent confessions by the star that "we don't have a perfect marriage by any means, but we do work at it".

His espousal of native American causes evidenced by Dances With Wolves has turned sour on him. The eight-hour four-part documentary on the Indians he produced for CBS, 500 Nations, is said to have no sense of geography or chronology.

More seriously discussed is the construction of a casino and resort complex in an area sacred to the Sioux in Dakota, where their legendary leader, Red Cloud, held out for 25 years before the treaty of 1851. Costner and his brother Dan want to exchange 584 acres near Deadwood for 564 in the Black Hills to provide the resort's golf course. Mike Jandresu, chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux, said: "If in making the movie Mr Costner and his brother did not come to a recognition of the real emotion of the Sioux people towards the Black Hills, then a good deal has already been lost."

If the Sioux are successful in their petition, Costner could lose $100,000, but that is peanuts compared with the sums involved in his latest film Waterworld. At an estimated $160m, plus another $40m for advertising and distribution, it becomes the most costly film in history - almost twice as expensive as Terminator II, The Last Action Hero or True Lies.

Costner's fee for Waterworld was listed as $14m, but his star was already fading. He co-starred with Clint Eastwood in A Perfect World (released in November 1993), which brought in only a fair return of $31m. There were lukewarm reviews for his supporting role in The War (October 1994), which took only $13m. Wyatt Earp (June 1994) took $25m in the US on an estimated budget of $60m.

An analysis of the US grosses of the last three movies of 31 stars in the current issue of Empire places Costner last at No 31. Top, unsurprisingly, is Tom Hanks, but at an ironic 18th place is Kurt Russell, partly because of Tombstone, which took $30m more than Wyatt Earp. Not only do both concern the same historical event, but Costner turned down the first in order to do the second.

His tribulations may have started when three separate companies invited him to play the title-role in the new versions of the Robin Hood story. Castle Rock offered the direction of theirs to Kevin Reynolds who had given Costner his first break in his own first professional film, Fandango (1985). Anyone seeing that might think twice about assigning an expensive project to a relatively untried talent, and Reynolds subsequently made The Beast (1988) which was equally lumbering and predictable; it was also a flop, but at least it looked good.

The same could not be said of Robin Hood: Costner did not want it to look like the Errol Flynn Robin, which he described as "silly". Others might say it was "magical" and much more fun that this ill conceived, overly violent and lengthy version. "I'm sick of movies that are just two hours long," Costner said. "They're just designed to get you in and get you out."

Dances With Wolves and JFK were both long, but at least they could boast strong subject-matter: the notices, however, seemed to have told Costner he was the ideal interpreter of America's past - and among the seven Oscars for Wolves, those for best picture and best director would have gone to anyone's head.

So the situation of Robin Hood was repeated on two of Costner's next three films . On Robin Hood, Costner had shot several second-unit scenes without reference to Reynolds, who "was essentially told to distance himself" according to his director of photography, Douglas Milsome, "but Costner was in the cutting room, putting more close-ups of himself in, which Reynolds had left out."

The friendship between the two Kevins seemed over, but there was a rapprochement when Costner invested in Rapa Nui, a tale set on Easter Island, which also had a financial input from Warner Bros, who had Costner under an "exclusive" contract. It cost $24m and returned a mere $330,000 when Warners released it last September.

As they did so, Costner was in the midst of filming Waterworld, a sort of Mad Max with gills in which he and some followers are trying to survive after the polar ice caps have melted. As director Universal favoured Robert Zemekis, who - especially with the Back to the Future films - had established himself as an expert on expensive films with myriad special effects. What Universal got was Reynolds, director of three flops plus Robin Hood.

The original budget seems to have been $65m - already more than twice as much as most A-features - on a 96-day schedule, beginning off Hawaii in June last year. The set alone cost $40m. The problems of filming on water - changing light and currents, hardware sinking or floating away, the danger to the crew - don't seem to have been considered. The script went through endless re-writes - a situation endemic to the megabuck picture, said Variety.

Reynold's admitted that it wasn't Four Weddings and Funeral with a budget of $5m: he hopes to do something like that "where every change does not require three hours of meetings and thousands and thousands of dollars." He was still editing two weeks ago, when the first cut weighed in at 2hrs 34mins. Tom Pollick, chairman of MCA, which owns Universal, said: "It's everything we hoped it would be." But another source reported, "It knocked their socks off, but there's a lot of work to be done."

It is due to open in America on 28 July, but for the present it is a pawn for Seagrams, the liquor manufacturer, in its negotiations to buy MCA from Matsushita. Both are looking for tax-losses, and the write-off on Waterworld may be as high as $100m. MCA is also seeking brownie-points, especially as Steven Spielberg has struck up on his own; since he has given Universal the two biggest grossers in movie history - ET and Jurassic Park - the company is hoping he will consent to the new alliance.

To get back that $100m Waterworld needs to take as much as the two Spielberg films. Meanwhile it is being called Fishtar and Kevin's Gate, reminding the industry of past follies. But the last sobriquet was also applied to Dances With Wolves, and Costner confounded them then...

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence