Kevin Costner said he’s not trying to make movies that tackle race in America — he said he purposely left out the issue in The Bodyguard.
“I’m not smart enough, about all that stuff,” Costner said. “I just know, if I wanna kiss a girl, and she’s beautiful, she’s in my movie. And that was Whitney.”
But that’s exactly what he did in The Bodyguard, Dances with Wolves, and now in his new film, Black and White.
The Oscar winner candidly spoke during a Q&A session over the weekend following a screening of Black and White with co-star Octavia Spencer at the National Association of Black Journalist’s Convention in Boston.
“That was my decision,” Costner, 59, said about leaving race out of The Bodyguard. “I felt that she was just a beautiful woman. The first girl I kind of fell in love with was Diana Ross.”
“It was very important for me to have us not talk about race, because when I kissed her, I kissed her once for everybody watching, and maybe once for me. But I thought it was about a man and a woman.”
“And there was a movement, maybe to explain, and I said, let’s not,” Costner said. “Let’s go at what’s the truth, which was, it’s an attractive woman, who gave me all kinds of hell as a character, and eventually, I cared a great deal for her. Whitney and I had a moment, in the movies, and I’ll never forget it, and I never try to make it more than it was.”
Black and White follows the custody battle between a hard drinking, recently widowed grandfather (Costner) raising his bi-racial granddaughter and the child’s African-American family. Costner admitted he’s out of his depth when it came to analyzing the role of race in Hollywood.
“How far have we come? I don’t know,” Costner said. “But I don’t have fear about it. And I don’t think this is a message movie. It feels good. And you saw two people just doing the best they could, fighting for a little girl in their own way.”
Costner said despite the recent glut of movies chronicling the African-American experience, he was not sure how far Hollywood has come in terms of grappling with race. He said he had to pay for both Dances with Wolves and Black and White and admitted that producers removed a scene from Bull Durham (1988) where his character is found playing piano in a black bordello.
“I’m a single voice,” the actor, director and producer said. “My intention wasn’t to rewrite history (with Dances with Wolves), it wasn’t to set it straight. I was really concerned that they be fully formed people that laughed, that cried, that had fears, that took care of their children, and that had some people who were not so scrupulous.”
His co-star, Octavia Spencer, was more blunt on the way Black and White tackles race.
“We don’t like to discuss things that might be a little unnerving and uncomfortable,” the Oscar-winner said. “We like to live in our comfort zone. But someone very close to me said to me recently that life happens outside of your comfort zone. And that’s what we need to do, we need to get out of our comfort sone and have these delicate conversations.”
Follow Jennifer H. Cunningham on Twitter @jhcunningham.