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"Finding a balance between personal and professional is an ongoing struggle for Kevin," Harris says. "He's a movie star now, and the demands on him are staggering." Costner is aware of the challenge. "I know I can do better with relationships with my family, and I have to figure out how," he confesses. "There's just not enough time for the people I care about. I'm a good dad -- when I'm at home. But when I'm away, my motel-room walls aren't lined with pictures of my family. Maybe something is wrong with me, but I separate things in order to keep exploring who I am. It's a high-class set of problems that cut into my creativity and my family life. I don't want to stop what I'm doing, and I don't want to lose what I have."
The Costner clan has always been on the move. "This is a Grapes of Wrath family," explains brother Dan. The Costners, of Irish and German descent (with a hint of Cherokee blood), moved West when they lost their Oklahoma farm. Kevin's father Bill recapitulated the Okie migration, moving from one Southern California town to another in various jobs for Southern California Edison. "From Day 1, Kevin was his own person," recalls Bill, 60. "Once he decided to take charge of organizing a parade at his school. I figured it was too big a job for an eleven-year-old and said, 'Kevin, you can't do that.' And Kevin said, 'Dad, never tell me I'm not able to do something.' He went ahead and organized the parade."
From early days, Kevin loved most of the things he learned to use later: family, sports, conflict, movies. The young jock wrote stories -- he tried to compile a book based on letters and tapes Dan sent back from Viet Nam -- and went to the movies. "Great heroism, great love stories sent chills down my spine," he recalls. "I was particularly intrigued by 'dilemmas.' To me, drama is dilemma -- the fight not to do something. A dilemma is wanting to kiss a woman and not doing it. Once you do it, it's 'action.' Action is fine. I understand what it's about. But you have to understand where it comes from." And you can guess where the kissing dilemma came from. Kevin, only 5 ft. 2 in. as a high school sophomore, was shy about meeting girls; he claims he never dated.
By the time he entered California State University at Fullerton, Kevin had grown into an athlete's tall, poised body. "I think I like sports because of my father," Costner says. "He never insisted I play with him, which made it even more attractive. He's my ideal of how a father should direct his son." Clearly, Kevin's ball park was a field of dreams with few anguished undertones. "Sports, besides the obvious competitive aspect, is about sharing and being fair," he notes. "And I've always liked to roll in the dirt. When I was little, I wasn't 'it' very often in tag. You can translate that into acting. I don't get caught lying very often. I make sure that difficult scenes come off."
The Costners were no kind of show-biz family. "I always figured that people on the screen were intended to be there" Costner says. "Acting was something other people did." Then, in the middle of a boring accounting class for his business major in college, he saw an ad for a production of Rumpelstiltskin. "The moment I decided to be an actor, I never looked back. I never breathed an easier breath. I relaxed. Then all I had to do was learn."