Cost­ner film poses tough ques­tions about race

Ac­tor used his own money to fund a sim­ple story that made him feel ‘more em­pow­ered’

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - MOVIES - LIZ BROWN

Kevin Cost­ner made the racially-charged drama Black or White hap­pen.

In his lat­est film, he plays El­liot, a re­cently wid­owed al­co­holic lawyer bat­tling for the cus­tody of his bira­cial grand­daugh­ter, Eloise.

His ri­val is Rowena ( Oc­tavia Spencer), Eloise’s pa­ter­nal grand­mother, who thinks she should move from the rich­est part of Los An­ge­les to the “black” neigh­bour­hood with her.

But the film doesn’t pick sides. “It re­ally im­pressed me how even-handed the film was,” says Cost­ner.

In­deed, ev­ery one of Eloise’s po­ten­tial guardians is bat­tling a per­sonal de­mon of some kind.

“I just thought it was an hon­est story from the very first page. I felt like I was read­ing some­thing re­ally au­then­tic,” he adds.

Cost­ner was so drawn to the script, writ­ten by his old The Up­side of Anger film­maker, Mike Bin­der, that he wound up fi­nanc­ing it to en­sure it hit the big screen. When no one else came round, he put up his own money — some $9 mil­lion of it. “I was hop­ing other peo­ple would rush to the movie and see the same po­ten­tial and value in it that I did, but un­for­tu­nately that didn’t hap­pen,” he says. he thinks she wouldn’t be safe in that ‘other’ neigh­bour­hood.

“But El­liot trav­els far in this movie and comes to un­der­stand him­self bet­ter,” he adds.

It was a bit of a par­al­lel for Cost­ner who adds that ex­am­in­ing those covert at­ti­tudes in a nar­ra­tive made him feel “more em­pow­ered.”

“Peo­ple say they’re colour-blind when they want to ex­plain they are with­out prej­u­dice. But to say you’re colour-blind is disin­gen­u­ous. You do see dif­fer­ences. The key is to un­der­stand those dif­fer­ences.”

The tale may not have been epic enough for big Hol­ly­wood stu­dios to take no­tice, but Cost­ner hopes that au­di­ences will at least be sur­prised by the film and the things it says.

“It’s a sim­ple story about life,” he says.

“It doesn’t solve any­thing. It’s about the well-be­ing of a child and what’s best for the child and race shouldn’t be rolled into those sorts of things.”


Oc­tavia Spencer and Kevin Cost­ner star in Black or White, which opens this week­end.

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