Kevin Costner: Pursuing The Dream

Sexy, straight-on and ambitious, Kevin Costner is a grownup hero with brains

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The movie hero's ten commandments:

1. A man stands alone.

2. A man stands by his friends.

3. A man protects his family.

4. A man loves doing his work well.

5. A man is at home out of doors.

6. A man shares and plays fair.

7. A man speaks his mind.

8. A man hoards his smiles.

9. A man follows his dreams.

10. What he's got is what he is.

Kevin Costner is the man of the moment and a star out of his time. What other actor would think to achieve rampant movie fame by playing a Soviet spy and two baseball fanatics? For Costner, though, the improbable risk was a good career move. As Eliot Ness in The Untouchables, he played the straightest arrow in Prohibition-era Chicago and made saintliness sexy. As Tom Farrell, the cryptic intelligence officer in 1987's No Way Out, he brought devious modernity to a character right out of a '40s suspense novel. As Crash Davis, the bush-league catcher in 1988's Bull Durham, he found charm in cynicism and anchored the first hit baseball movie in a dozen years. And as Ray Kinsella in the current Field of Dreams -- the Iowa farmer who hears spectral pleas of pain, builds a ball park in his cornfield and follows the voices back to his childhood heart -- Costner, 34, has touched filmgoers with an E.T. for adults.

Both Bull Durham and Field of Dreams echo with the American and Hollywood past. They blend hip showmanship and a vigorous Saturday-matinee innocence. But they work for an audience because Kevin Costner is in them. Virtually unknown three years ago, he is one of the few actors people will consistently line up to see. Men like him, women love him; when he walks into a room or a movie, the wistful lust of female fans sticks to him like decals. His name above the title guarantees quality; each of his hit movies is honorable and ambitious. And each gains a magnificent credibility from his presence. No matter how predictable or implausible the plots, his rugged face doesn't lie. You simply have to believe Kevin Costner.

"Kevin can do it all," says Casey Silver, president of worldwide production for the MCA Motion Picture Group. "He can carry a gun or a woman in his arms. He can be tough or add a sweet comedic touch." The surprise is that an actor so versatile can be so focused. Ask Phil Alden Robinson, the writer-director of Field of Dreams. "You can't force him to do something that's false," says Robinson. "He marches to his own Walkman." Or maybe to his own Victrola. For Costner is both a harbinger of the postimperial American male and a throwback to heroes of Hollywood's grandest days.

Today, when movies are not so grand, male icons come in two models. The comics (Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy) trade in hip facetiousness, in sitcom-size emotions, in the suave hustling of attitude. The hunks (Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood) go crusading for the Grail, the heavyweight title, the urban psycho, but have few communal roots; they are loners, in quest only of the quest. Suspended between these two types is young Tom Cruise -- a certified star in search of an enduring identity.

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