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Kevin Costner Explains How Hard it is to Make a Movie About Racism with New Film 'Black and White'

by Jai Tiggett
April 1, 2014 12:20 PM
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Kevin Coster and Octavia Spencer in 'Black and White'

Actor Kevin Costner recently opened up about the challenges of making his next project, Black and White, a movie he describes as "a film about the notion of racism in this country and how we have such a difficult time talking about it."

In a plot that sounds similar to 1995's Losing Isaiah, Costner plays a widower who winds up raising his bi-racial granddaughter in hopes that she doesn't fall under custody of her black father (Andre Holland), a drug addict. Octavia Spencer co-stars as the girl's paternal grandmother, who feels that her grandchild should live with her dad. 

At a recent press conference for his upcoming sports drama Draft Day, Costner mentioned the new project when he was asked about how he lets his instincts inform his career: 

"My whole life has been instinctual... I have instinctually thought I could do things in my life, and I followed that up by sometimes putting everything I have at risk - my money, my house - to make a movie. I just did it again with Black and White."

Besides starring, Costner also produced the film and it sounds as if the effort meant considerable sacrifice, with Costner calling it "a rock that I had to push uphill just to make it":

"Nobody wanted to make it. It's my hope that you all see it. It's my hope that it becomes as important as Field of Dreams or Dances [With Wolves]. I think it will be, because it's about people. It's funny, it's poignant, it's sad, and in the end it gives you hope."

On the reactions he's gotten from others who learn he's made a movie about race:

"I realize that I'm not in battle. I'm not in combat. 'Ooh, that's very brave thing to do.' Well, I'm not in Vietnam. I'm not in Iraq. And if I want to make a little movie about racism, I should do it. Maybe the studio should too."

On how his projects will be received, Costner says he isn't worried: 

"I've never been afraid of things not working. I think it's an underrated experience in life. I've had some wild, wild successes. I try to clean up the oceans, and I try to do things. I'm not afraid to be on the floor.

"I have a strong belief that what I'm doing, other people will believe in it too if I can get it just right. Not that people don't let me down, not that I haven't let other people down, but I have a tremendous belief in people and in the common experience."

The commentary sounds pretty similar to others in Hollywood who've tried to make movies about race, or black characters in general. George Lucas' comments about getting Red Tails made come to mind. 

Black and White is currently listed as being in post production. There's no word yet on a distributor or release date. 

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More: Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer

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  • black canseco | April 2, 2014 4:28 AMReply

    Sounds very Losing Isaiah-ish as the story said... I like the twist of an older generation having to confront a younger generation (or two) as this flick seems to lay out... but yeah the whole "Noble White Person Tackling Race for His Own Art's Sake" kinda rubs the wrong way. Like a more self-congratulatory Gran Torino...

    But hey, I may give it a shot--i could be wrong. Draft Day looks awful, btw.

  • Miles Ellison | April 1, 2014 11:43 PMReply

    There is not nearly enough white savior porn. Thanks, Mr. Costner.

  • NinaG | April 1, 2014 7:51 PMReply

    As important as Dances with Wolves? Oh God.

  • JTC | April 1, 2014 3:58 PMReply

    Carlos, does the phrase "crabs in a barrel" mean anything to you?

  • Wendy | April 1, 2014 2:28 PMReply

    Why did you take the bait?

  • Carlos | April 1, 2014 1:03 PMReply

    Jai, can you please make up your mind regarding whether you want to use Caps across the board in your headline? That's a bad habit you have, and it doesn't look good.

  • jai | April 1, 2014 1:38 PM

    Not lying, just incorrect. It's not part of the style guide and it's not consistent across the network. But know that if every other writer jumped off a bridge without using correct title case, I probably wouldn't do it too.

  • Carlos | April 1, 2014 1:34 PM

    "Curtis, Curtis . . ." That's a funny name.

  • Curtis | April 1, 2014 1:28 PM

    Are you really here to knock titling? Really? No commentary on the piece itself, just a stupid, unnecessary comment on caps in the title? Exit left please. SMH

  • Carlos | April 1, 2014 1:20 PM

    Seems like you're the only one on the entire IndieWire who's doing it. Am I lying?

  • jai | April 1, 2014 1:17 PM

    It's not a "bad habit." It's called title case.

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