Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kevin Costner on Swing Vote


There’s a blunt edge to its political humor that’s tempered with a young girl single Dad dynamic so common in Disney films that permeates Swing Vote. In a storyline out of a Capra film, right down to the sacks of mail in the finale, one person holds the destiny to an upcoming Presidential election because of their uncounted election stub.
In fact the movie could be more about a single parent raising a precocious child than the current political fracas. “And Bull Durham wasn’t about baseball and Tin Cup wasn’t about golf,” Kevin Costner tells Free Press Houston during a round table interview. Costner and Madeline Carroll, who play Bud and Molly Johnson in Swing Vote, swung through town last month to stump for the film.
In a slightly outlandish turn of events Bud has gotten laid off work by what he calls “insourcing,” Mexican immigrants brought in replace him at the egg factory. It didn’t help when security cameras caught Bud sneaking a beer behind a huge stack of egg crates and then knocking them all over. Bud also plays in a Willie Nelson tribute band called Half Nelson, only a couple of members are still incarcerated. Bud cusses a lot. “Bud’s not a PTA Dad, he’s not a soccer Dad,” Costner intones.
“I’m glad they gave it a PG-13 because I wasn’t going to cut one goddam out of it,” Costner continued. You can get a lot of goddams and quite a few scatological euphemisms into a PG-13 flick, but you usually only get one or two F-bombs. “I wasn’t going to cut ‘Fuck, thank you Jesus.’ There’s a saving grace about Bud, that’s the strength of the movie,” Costner declares.
In an effort to court Bud’s one and deciding vote the Republican incumbent President Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and his wry advisor (Stanley Tucci) determine that Bud, an everyman if there ever was one, leans to the left. The Republicans adopt a friendly gay marriage stance with Boone’s next campaign spot. Meanwhile the Democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper, Costner’s nemesis in Waterworld) takes an anti-abortion position and decries an unguarded border situation because his manager (Nathan Lane) thinks Bud fields to the right.
One spoof commercial has Hopper walking in a schoolyard of children who subsequently each disappear in a puff of smoke: “Join me and the Democrats as we preserve all life, thus fulfilling God’s intelligent design,” Greenleaf states.
Asked whether anyone on the production saw parallels with the current Obama/McCain race Costner reminded the film was shot a year ago. “Nobody was calculating in the first place. If this movie could only work in election year then it’d be a failure. It has to work five years from now. For me it had the kind of emotional bottom I like.”
The third installment in the Mummy franchise, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, opens against Swing Vote. Costner doesn’t play the game of guessing opening weekend grosses. “I’d like to kick Mummy’s ass but we don’t stand a chance,” he laughs. “That doesn’t mean we’re a bad movie.”
Costner allows that after his next film, a horror movie involving Indian mounds, and that also pairs him with a young daughter, in this case Ivana Baquero of Pan's Labyrinth, he wants to direct again. A Western that observes the end of the era. For instance a scene that captures the first time an airplane flies over a farm, or the first time a car drives into town. "That probably frightens all the horses." About Open Range Costner recalled the dynamics in the characters played by Annette Bening and Robert Duvall. "I'm going to get you to the gunfight, but first we're going to see how these people live."

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