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Is Kevin Costner Hollywood's most underrated movie star?

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Kevin Costner is back on the big screen this week in action-thriller 3 Days to Kill. It's not a classic Costner film by any stretch (he's essentially playing Liam Neeson in Taken), but the film is arriving right in the middle of a career revival for the actor who headlined big hits two decades ago. With Man of Steel, Draft Day, Jack Ryan and 3 Days all under his belt over the last 12 months, we're experiencing something of a Costnaissance (to swipe a term coined for Matthew McConaughey).

As a screen star Costner was never blessed with dynamic range or the ability to transform himself like a Daniel Day-Lewis can, but what he can deliver is a performance of earnestness and honesty that connects with an audience. He is frequently the glue that holds a film together, a movie star with the everyman appeal of someone like James Stewart. If anything, Costner is an old school Golden Age star who just happened to land in the wrong era.

That isn't to say Costner ever came up short. He may have spent some time in the acting wilderness but his CV is packed with more brilliant movies than you think, with the bulk falling in an enviable hot streak in the late '80s and early '90s. Digital Spy takes a look at a handful of classic Costner movies to celebrate an actor who really needs a bit more love...

The Untouchables (1987)


Every A-lister turned down the role of Eliot Ness, the Prohibition agent on the trail of Al Capone, before Brian De Palma took a gamble on Costner (then fresh from his success on Silverado). Sean Connery and Robert De Niro won all the plaudits, but they wouldn't have been half as good if they didn't have Costner's stoic official to spark off.

No Way Out (1987)


Roger Donaldson's film cast Costner as a naval officer who begins an affair with his boss's (Gene Hackman's secretary of defence) mistress Susan (Sean Young). When she turns up dead, the gears click into motion for a cracking Cold War-era thriller. Now the film's perhaps best known for its steamy limo scene, but it's worth a watch for more than just that.

Bull Durham (1988)

Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham (1988)

Bull Durham kicked off Costner's affinity for the sports movie, which continues today thanks to NFL drama Draft Day. In this rom-com, Costner excels as an ageing minor league pitcher stuck in a love triangle with his protégé (Tim Robbins) and a groupie (Susan Sarandon).

Field of Dreams (1989)


There's something truly magical and fable-like about Field of Dreams - it still endures to this day. "If you build it, he will come," is the ghostly refrain heard by Costner's corn farmer Ray Kinsella, and what follows is an emotionally-charged drama involving a second chance for a shamed baseball team, a reclusive author and Ray's long-gone father.

Revenge (1990)

Kevin Costner in Revenge (1990)

© Rex Features / SNAP


Tony Scott's thriller was under-appreciated at the time of its initial release, but many fans are rediscovering it after Quentin Tarantino described it as the late filmmaker's "masterpiece". It's an edgy noir of a movie and shares certain similarities with Costner's earlier film No Way Out, and it makes good use of the leading man's heroic and romantic credentials.

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves (1990)

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection


Costner's crowning glory. He produced, directed and starred in this frontier epic about an army officer and his relationship with Lakota Indians. It was Costner's directorial debut, and what a debut! It won seven Academy Awards - including Best Picture and Best Director - and earned more than $400 million at the worldwide box office.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Film and Television
Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Kevin Costner
1991

© REX/Moviestore Collection


This might not be the best Robin Hood movie, but it's a whole lot of fun and the kind of adventure romp Hollywood just doesn't make anymore. There's so much to remember about it, too. Alan Rickman is brilliant as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, Costner's accent wobbles all over the shop and Sean Connery pops up in a great last-second cameo. Musically, it also has an ace score from Michael Kamen and spawned a Bryan Adams single that spent an eternity at number one.

JFK (1991)


Oliver Stone's early '90s epic reels through just about every crackpot JFK conspiracy going, but it's a five-star accomplishment by virtue of the fact he managed to get it made at all. It clocks in at more than three hours long but never loses your attention thanks to Stone's breakneck direction and great performances from an A-list ensemble. Costner had the job of anchoring it all, and he did just that, delivering a typically stoic turn before nailing his big courtroom scene (which turned out to be the film's defining moment).

The Bodyguard (1992)

Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection


Originally conceived as a vehicle for Steve McQueen and Diana Ross, this romantic drama resurfaced in the early '90s with Costner and Whitney Houston in the leading roles. You need only look to Houston's belter of a song 'I Will Always Love You', the West End production and endless talk of a remake to see the cultural power of this movie.

Waterworld (1994)

Waterworld (1995)

Like the recent Lone Ranger and John Carter, the reviews for Waterworld seemed to have been written before the film even came out. Dubbed 'Kevin's Gate' (a nod to notable flop Heaven's Gate), this was the most expensive movie ever made at the time and died a slow death at the box office. However, separate it from the bad buzz and judge it on its own merits and it's a film of sky-high ambition and some striking visual imagery. It's a film worthy of a second chance.

Thirteen Days (2000)

Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection


Costner reunited with his No Way Out director Roger Donaldson for this dramatisation of the Cuban Missile Crisis from the perspective of the Kennedy administration. As JFK's aide Kenny O'Donnell, Costner delivered a low-key character turn, free from the leading man pressures he'd been burdened with before. This is a key turning point role in Costner's career, showing that he was capable of a lot more than people thought.

Open Range (2003)

Kevin Costner in Open Range

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection


The Western might be a genre that's slowly declined since its heyday with John Wayne, but Costner has kept it alive thanks to his directorial offerings Dances with Wolves and The Postman. The latter took a critical and financial pounding; however his third outing behind the camera is a different beast altogether. Costner plays Robert Duvall's support in Open Range, a film that calls back to classics of yesteryear. It's proof that Costner needs to direct another movie.

Man of Steel (2013)


Though Costner's appearance in this Superman reboot is brief, it's highly memorable thanks to his finely-tuned take on Clark Kent's Earth father Jonathan Kent. The role very much plays into the Field of Dreams/Americana image audiences have of Costner, and his moment of self-sacrifice in the film wouldn't have had nearly the same impact had it been any other actor.

3 Days to Kill opens in UK cinemas on June 20.

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