It's October 2012 and a group of reporters is sitting huddle in a pub across the street from both London's Liverpool Station and the building where "Jack Ryan
" (later to be "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
") is shooting a scene. Because it's meant to be Moscow, it's appropriate how chilly it is, but the steady rain has left us unable to witness any filming with our own eyes.
Costner, who plays Jack Ryan's CIA mentor William Harper, isn't in the scene and he wasn't supposed to be on set.
However, graciously eager to chat, Costner has shown up on his off-day and the second he gets out of his car, the rain stops.
The sun comes out for Kevin Costner.
"I tell ya, it's one of those universal things sometimes when [the sun] comes out, I think everybody sometimes feels good," Costner says, sitting down. "That's one of the things, there's like universal things, right, with people? Like even like a dick in life, even a really bad guy, I always think that even a bad guy recognizes a good idea. They might stay there and go, "That's a f***ing really good idea," but they know it when they hear it, you know what I mean? There's just something. A good idea is something like an emotion, you just can't keep it in. 'Mmm, that's a good idea, I really like that!'"
And then Kevin Costner does an impressive thing. He stays around to chat. After 15 or 20 minutes, Costner -- prone to giving long answers, so that may have only been two or three questions -- gets the wrap-up signal from his publicist, but he protests.
"I came a long way to talk to these people. Were you saying one more question? No, we can talk a little more!" Costner says.
That doesn't happen often.
In all, Costner chatted with us for nearly 40 minutes. It turns out that the Tom Clancy franchise is close to his heart and that "Jack Ryan" brings him full circle.
"I might have been offered 'Superman' 25 years ago -- Not that I was! -- But you can tell 25 years have passed because then they offer you Superman's dad," Costner laughs, many months before the release of "Man of Steel." "So, I was offered the Jack Ryan series back in the very beginning, and I couldn't do it. I think it was 'Hunt for Red October' was the first one. I couldn't do it because I had already postponed 'Dances With Wolves' for one year, and now I had a chance to do this 'Red October' but I had already assembled this crew and I'd put my money into it and then they offer me really a lot of money, more than I had ever seen, to do 'Hunt for Red October,' and I said, 'You know, ‘No' doesn't mean 'More,' it's just 'No.'" And it was like, 'Oh, that silly little Indian movie.' And then I started to think it was this silly little Indian movie! But I went off and did that, and then never caught back up with the thing. It seemed like different people played Jack Ryan or something like that. I think Jack Ryan passed me. I have to be the guy who says, 'You better hurry up, I mean it, she's right behind you!''
Usually in Hollywood, stories like this have two versions -- or three if you include The Truth -- but "Hunt for Red October" and "Jack Ryan" producer Mace Neufeld agrees.
"I had done 'No Way Out"' with Kevin," Neufeld remembers. "And I had optioned the book, and I don't remember the dates, but I called JJ Harris, who was, and still is, Kevin's agent. And I got Kevin on the phone, and he was shooting a film in Mexico, and I asked him if he wanted to play Jack Ryan. And he said he was really occupied with trying to develop another script, a western. And I said, 'Well, do you have financing for it?' He said, 'No, but I think some people will come.' And I said, 'Well, I'll help you with the financing.' And he said, 'Thank you, but I don't think I'll need that.' And that was 'Dances With Wolves'" So he made the right decision."
So Costner is back in the Jack Ryan sphere, playing a character who producers insist isn't just a mentor.
"He's a guy of action, too," Lorenzo di Bonaventura says. "He's a field agent. He's a little more senior. He carries more experience. But we've seen a lot of movies with the older mentor and the younger agent, and this movie doesn't do that."
He continues, "And Kevin, carrying all of the heroism that he has done in his career... Often, the mentor character feels like the arm-chair guy. Kevin can't feel that way. We put him out in the field so that he's not sitting in the arm chair. He's just not that guy. We also get two generations of stars, as a result. It gives the movie a nice sense of energy, as well."
For his part, Costner explains, "Some guys are born for management and some guys can straddle it, can go back and forth. Some guys were never meant to be out in the field at all. And I think he's a person that can straddle, that can go in and sometimes there's places where you just have get information, you have to know how to do it. I think that he straddles that line."
There has already been talk that Costner's character could be the centerpiece of a spinoff franchise, but he wants no part of that. For now.
"I've heard that. I really, sincerely did not go into that," Costner admits. "Call it superstition, call it whatever you want, I have not sat down with anyone and gone, 'How is this going to work? How would this work?' I've really tried to support Chris Pine in this one the very best that I can, I'm a bit of his handler, you know, you could use the word mentor, you could use whatever it is. As you know, he doesn't start off carrying a gun, he's a financial guy who has military experience, military background. And the deeper it goes, he has to come up with the right movie stuff, so to speak, the guy who can defend himself and stuff like that. I think the idea is that there would be several agents under his purview that he is able to manage. And when I say, 'I think,' that's sincerely what I mean, I haven't really talked to anybody about how that would play out. The part would have to continue to get more interesting and more interesting, more involved, more pro-active if you will."
That doesn't mean that Costner hasn't been able to serve as a mentor to "Jack Ryan" star Pine.
"For someone who's done it for so long, there's just such a comfort in the knowledge of what he's able to do and how to do it and how to sell a moment and just a comfort in front of the camera," Pine says. "Look, with a close-up and the camera's right there and it's a 15-hour-day and it's all about you, sometimes it's not the best feeling to have in the world, that kind of responsibility. But man, he's a cool cat. He's just a really knowledgeable guy and he's got his hands in so many different things. He's writing all the time and the way he talks to Ken about a shot or how that's going to move into the next sequence, I love listening to it, because watching my director, who's, you know, Kenneth Branagh, and then I'm watching my fellow actor, who's Kevin Costner, and I'm learning an incredible amount just by kinda being there."
Costner notes that the mentorship has been of a specific kind.
"[H]e doesn't lean over to me and ask for advice," Costner says. "He'll want to lean over and ask about someone like Gene Hackman or something. 'Have you met him?' So those will be the kind of sidebars just before we're acting and I'll think, 'Hmm, I'm glad he wants to know about who these people are.' You knew him, you met him, you've worked with him, and then maybe a little story will come out. I can see that he appreciates the history of movies and the people in them."
An Oscar winner for "Dances with Wolves," and the admired director of "Open Range," Costner is a man of opinions, but he knows how much input he should be giving into the shaping of his character.
"Because I've made movies, I have to understand that this is not the [William] Harper movie, this is the Jack Ryan movie, so you have to understand what you're doing. That's what this is and that's being set-up. If we think a couple of lines explains this better, Kenneth has allowed that input and he knows that I've stayed inside the lines of the movie that he wants to make, so there have been little moments."
He adds, "Actors all think that it's their story and you go 'No, this is the story. This is how you fit, this is how you succeed.' So, it's important with the small parts that there's a moment that their mom's going to like them in the role."
Costner has had success with supporting roles, whether in "The Company Men" or "Man of Steel" and he seems to understand what it takes to inhabit the capacity of a character actor, but that doesn't mean that's where he sees his career as going exclusively.
"It's nice in a sense, but I like to take people through a story so I don't... you know, it's nice to have days off, to see the sun come out!" Costner says. "But I will continue to be leads, but I'm not afraid to play a supporting part, I don't feel like that diminishes me, I don't feel like 'Oh, that's a sign of the times now,' you know what I mean? I still get the girl! If it's written!"
Click through to Page 2 for Costner's thoughts on Kenneth Branagh, the aftermath of "Hatfields & McCoys" and more...