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Here he is plastering rouge on the Old Hollywood corpse. In the heyday of the studio system, few stars were given the chance of controlling their cinematic fate. Lawrence Kasdan, who directed Costner in The Big Chill (where , his substantial role was cut to a few cameo shots as a corpse) and Silverado, compares the actor with Steve McQueen. "Like McQueen," Kasdan notes, "Kevin has a real sense of what he can do. He has always known what's really important for him, rather than what others think is important."
Costner knows his strengths and limitations. "I can't fix my car," he says, "though I play characters who can. I can't work my computer. I don't understand certain financial things, though I'm really good with the bottom line. I flunked geometry twice. My mind just doesn't work like that. But I'm completely comfortable in this medium. I put in hard days, but I love every bit of it." He's also sensitive about what he considers his own physical limitations. "I don't think of myself as classically handsome. I've been told that the camera is really good to me, but sometimes when people meet me, they're baffled. That's why I hate to be photographed out of character."
Costner knew how to project and protect himself -- knew acutely who Kevin Costner was -- long before anyone in Hollywood cared. "He had total self- confidence from the beginning," says J.J. Harris, his agent from 1984 until this year. "I'm sure he's had it forever. He's a bigger-than-life person whose presence fills a room, though not in an ostentatious way." Yet he was often willing to torpedo his career to make a point. In Frances, one of his first movies, he risked not getting a Screen Actors Guild card when he balked at saying what he deemed an inappropriate line of dialogue. When Oliver Stone asked if he wanted to play the Tom Berenger role in Platoon, "I didn't even meet with him," Costner says, "because my brother Dan had been in Viet Nam, and I was reluctant to do a film about something that had such impact on his life. In a way, I regret not doing it; it was a wonderful film. But my consciousness was with my brother."
Family is important to Costner. Dan, 38, who received a Navy and Marine Corps medal for heroism in Viet Nam, is in charge of finances at Kevin's company, Tig Productions, named after their grandmother. To take the job, he left a corporate vice presidency. "You wouldn't do this unless it was your brother," Dan says evenly. "And you wouldn't do it unless your brother was Kevin."
Kevin's wife Cindy, his college sweetheart, left a good job at Delta Air Lines when the Costners began a family, which now includes Annie, 5, Lily, 2 1/2, and Joe, 1 1/2. "She's active, she's involved," Dan says of Cindy. "She doesn't want to be a Hollywood wife." The couple seem close, considering that one of them is a screen stud with a gypsy work schedule. In April, Costner took his wife, children and parents to the gala opening of the Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park.