Costner film poses tough questions about race
Actor used his own money to fund a simple story that made him feel ‘more empowered’
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.