A lot of people thought that Kevin Costner should have passed on “Mr. Brooks.”
You’re playing a serial killer, they said, and your fans won’t like that. It’s a small, independent production, they said, and it’s going to get lost amid the studios’ over-hyped blockbuster wannabes. And it leaves too much for the viewers to figure out on their own, they said, including an ending that doesn’t tie up everything in a neat, easily understood resolution.
Kevin Costner, William Hurt, Dane Cook, Demi Moore, Danielle Panabaker, Marg Helgenberger
(MGM; US theatrical: 1 Jun 2007 (General release); 2007)
You’re right on every count, Costner told them. Which is exactly why he not only agreed to star, he signed on as the producer of the dramatic thriller, which opens this week.
“I can’t worry about things like that,” he said of the naysayers’ concerns. “I wanted to give people an original movie. I can’t cave into the fact that some people might not like it. That would be a mistake.”
Costner almost made the mistake of never considering the project. The script was sent to him while he was filming “The Upside of Anger,” but he was too busy to read it. Then he got a phone call from director Kevin Reynolds, who worked with him on “Waterworld” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Reynolds wasn’t interested in `Mr. Brooks,’ but he thought that Costner might be.
“He knows the two guys who wrote it,” Costner said. “So I read the script, and I was immediately taken with it. I had to call up the writers and congratulate them on how original it was. It’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. It’s incredibly well-crafted. I just hope that these guys are remembered at the end of the year’ when awards are announced.”
He also applauded their nerve in “creating such a despicable subject” as the protagonist. Fearing that someone who didn’t share that appreciation would mishandle the project, he offered to be the film’s producer.
“This is the kind of movie that could easily get off track,” he said. “The conventional wisdom would be to soften the character. I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted to make the movie the way it was written and then let the chips fall where they may.”
Costner’s character is a compulsive killer. William Hurt costars as the character’s conscience. Hurt is in many of the scenes Costner is in, but only Costner can see him and talk with him.
“He comes from my childhood,” Costner said, using the first person in reference to his character. `I was a kid with a very troubled life, and my parents were always warning me about the boogeyman. But he’s not the boogeyman. He’s me.’
As the producer, Costner figured that he’d have no trouble recruiting Hurt once he’d read the script.
“I know what draws actors,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have William, because it’s an important role. My character couldn’t always be dour. We need him to have some fun, to laugh every now and then. And he can do that with his conscience.’‘
The movie ends with unresolved plot lines that Costner hopes can be addressed in the future.
“It was conceived as the first movie of a trilogy,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that that wasn’t an excuse the writers just made up, so I made them outline the next two movies for me. I’m not into making sequels. I don’t want to make the same movie over and over again. I wanted to make sure that they actually had something in mind. Now I know how the story ends. So I’m OK with this.”
Not that he’s counting on the other movies being made. First, this release has to fight its way through the high-profile movies that dominate the multiplexes this time of year.
“Originally, this was conceived as a fall movie,” he said. “It wasn’t my decision to move it, but that’s out of my hands. It’s going to be tough (to compete with the big summer movies). We’re a word-of-mouth movie. We have a small budget—under $20 million—with very little money for advertising.”
He remains hopeful, however.
“It doesn’t have to have a big following,” he said. “Just a loyal following. Hollywood is always looking at the wrong thing. They look at box office. But that’s the wrong indicator because it doesn’t say anything about a movie’s true value. For me, if you still remember a movie five years from now, that’s the true test.”