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Kevin Costner: From A-Lister to Racial Healer

Costner once ruled the box office with hits like “The Untouchables,” “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams.” Today, at 60, he bounces from character roles (“Man of Steel”) to leading man parts (“3 Days to Kill”), but he can’t guarantee ticket sales.

He has more on his mind these days judging by his most recent films.

Both “Black or White” and “McFarland USA” deal directly with race in ways that other movie stars might avoid. And each films brings a positive message to the masses, one that avoids the kind of conflict that sells in other media.

The actor opened up his checkbook to the tune of $9 million for “Black or White,” a nuanced tale of a white grandfather battling for his mixed race granddaughter’s custody rights with a black family. The film didn’t hide the character flaws found on each side of the skirmish, but the results spoke to healing, not recrimination.

“McFarland USA” offers more of the same, particularly since it’s based on real events.

McFarland, USA - Official Trailer

The drama, which opens wide Feb. 20, casts Costner as a high school coach inspiring his students by starting a cross-country program. McFarland, Calif. features a predominantly Latino population, yet the coach learns to embrace its culture while coaxing his players to reach past perceived limitations.

Sports movies remain a tough sell, and the lack of marquee names could hurt its box office chances. “McFarland USA” features a cast of unknown actors playing the cross-country runners. For Costner, that may not matter as much as it once did. Here he describes his attraction to the project and what viewers might come away with after seeing it.

Look – [the McFarland students] did – the exceeded beyond their expectations, so it’s a great lesson to us that if we give our children, our young men, our young women goals, we let them see what’s possible, they can exceed beyond their own wildest expectations.  And it’s just a very good lesson, this movie.  So I was proud to play the essence of Jim White.  I’m not Jim White.”

No, he’s not. He’s an Oscar-winning star making movies that matter regardless of their no matter their box office destiny.

DID YOU KNOW: Kevin Costner played the dead friend in “The Big Chill,” but his role was reduced dramatically in the editing room. Director Lawrence Kasdan vowed to make it up to him, giving him a plum role in his smart western “Silverado.”

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