Only In LA: Exposed! Kevin Costner's favourite part

IN HIS new movie, For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner plays an ageing baseball pitcher facing the sunset of his career. Not much of a stretch, one would have thought, for the veteran of such feel-good baseball movies as Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. Then again, just about anything might be considered a stretch for a man regularly accoladed with the Golden Raspberry for worst performer in Hollywood, whose most accomplished credit - at least among industry wags - is his turn as the briefly glimpsed corpse in The Big Chill.

Sure enough, our Kev is making a hash of things once again, but this time the lamest, most ludicrous lines are being reserved for his off-screen performances. A more modest star might consider himself lucky still to be in the $20m-per-movie bracket after a string of disasters like Waterworld and The Postman. But Costner has chosen to pick a public fight with Universal, the backers of his new movie, making himself a laughing-stock in the process.

What upsets him so much, he says, is that the studio chose to tone down some of the raunchier language to qualify for a PG-13 rating in the US and keep the length down to two hours and 10 minutes. "For Universal, this movie has always been about the length and the rating," he told Newsweek, "never about the content."

Costner not only made disparaging remarks during the promotional press junket - a big no-no in the industry - but then bagged out of several key appearances on television chat shows.

What the 44-year-old actor did not let on was that the biggest editing controversy concerned a glimpse of himself in his full manhood as he steps out of a shower. The scene evidently prompted very negative reactions in test screenings, so Universal decided to spare Costner's blushes rather than argue the point with the ratings board. "The love of the movies, I believe, is waning," Costner moaned to Newsweek. What he really meant, of course, was the love of Kevin Costner - in all his dubious glory.

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ONE OF the shocks of living in Los Angeles is discovering how little the baroque, ultra-violent world of noir novelist James Ellroy strays from the truth when it comes to city corruption and the LA Police Department. Not only were many episodes in The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential based on real-life 1940s and 1950s cases; recent scandals sound ominously like the blueprint for an Ellroy novel.

The latest concerns two members of a crack, anti-gang task force who handcuffed an innocent 19-year-old Latino to a chair, shot him in the chest and head and, when he obstinately refused to die, framed him for attempted murder.

One of the officers responsible for this singular piece of community policing was then caught stealing eight pounds of cocaine from an evidence locker, and is now singing like a canary to minimise his sentence.

Truth is not merely imitating fiction - it is also repeating itself. Nineteen years ago, a gang member from East LA, Jose Luis Frutis, was handcuffed and shot in the chest during an interrogation. The police claim the shooting was an accident, but Frutis says it was part of an attempt to frame him for a murder he did not commit.

In the light of the new scandal, the district attorney's office is thinking of reopening the case.

Coincidentally, Fox television is planning to cash in on the success of LA Confidential by extending it into a series for the small screen, starting next autumn. If the producers had wondered about finding enough material, they need wonder no longer.

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LA'S FASCINATION with all things Mediterranean - a throwback to the era when the city was promoted as a piece of southern Europe by the Pacific - is having peculiar effects on my local supermarket, where the attempts at pseudo-French sophistication are growing ever more laughable. First there was the instant cappuccino, described as frothe. Then the lemon- scented, or should I say citre, shampoo.

And now I see they have a health-conscious nutritional supplement called garlique. As they might say in France, c'est too much.

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