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Kevin Costner Shares His Hopes for New Film ‘Black Or White’

The actor's new film has a message he wants everyone to hear. 

Jillian Estelle and Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner really hopes you'll go see his new movie Black or White. Not so the film can put up big numbers at the box office, not so that his investment in it can be returned (he put up $9 millon of his own money to see the movie made), not even because it features one of his more memorable performances as an actor to date. The Hollywood icon wants you to watch his film, which centers on a custody battle over the fate of a young, bi-racial girl named Eloise, simply because it's one he feels deserves to be seen. 

Black or White features Costner as Eloise's weathered and vulnerable grandfather, a recently widowed lawyer who drowns himself in drink and is struggling to care for Eloise (played by the charming Jillian Estelle). The actor turns in a performance that is sympathetic and delightfully entertaining. Longtime friend and producing partner Mike Binder came to him with the script for the movie and it really resonated with Costner. He tells Guideposts.org: 

"[Mike] wrote about four screenplays for me after The Upside of Anger…and I said no to all of them. They were all pretty good too, but for some reason they didn’t speak out loud to me. I read this and I just I wasn’t afraid of any of it and I was thrilled by all of it in a sense that it felt honest." 

The actor, who nabbed a producing credit on this film, shared that while Hollywood may be afraid to tackle the sensitive topic of race on the big screen, he felt a responsibility to give the audience a hard look at an issue everyone deals with. 

"We knew before we started to act this that there was an honesty and a truth to it," says Costner."This was a miracle that we were able to talk about this subject and go right to the bone and yet have this be the kind of a movie that people are going to want to talk about. There are speeches in this movie that I think people will never ever forget and people that watch this will say, 'I wish I said that.'"

One such speech is delivered by Costner during a court hearing over who should retain custody of young Eloise. While her grandmother (played by the brilliant Octavia Spencer) can offer her family, community and maternal love, Costner's character provides financial stability and has been a constant presence in her life. Choosing sides isn't easy for the court, for Eloise or for anyone viewing the film, and that sense of fairness was something Costner strived for when helping to get the movie made. 

"I think everything in life is better when it’s even," Costner said. "I think, in this instance, we dealt with addictions on both sides. We dealt with the level of suspicion on both sides, the level of racism on both sides. This movie keeps surprising you, you never know where [it's] going to go and ultimately, in the end you just feel the level of compassion and love. A laying down if you will and the acknowledging that this child really needs all the love it can get." 
 
For his part, Costner's thoughts align similarly with the rousing speech his character gives during the trial. While on the stand, Eliot is asked how he feels about race and those of color to which he replies that while his first thought may be directed by what a person looks like, it's his second, third and fourth that really count. Costner agrees: 
 
"I don’t believe people are colorblind," the actor says. "It’s not really physically possible. The truth is we do see color and I think that a black man wants to be seen as a black man, but just that, he wants to be seen as a man, not as some cliche, not as something that’s been marginalized or discriminated against. I think a beautiful woman wants to be a seen as a beautiful woman, not a skinny woman, but a woman. It’s the second and third thoughts about what you feel about [people] that will really define what your relationship is with someone. If you can’t get past a woman’s beauty to the point that you can’t allow her to do her job, that you don’t want to pay her the same, then you may have a problem with women. So I thought there was a level of genius in that speech that I wanted to share. It’s not my first thought that counts, it’s my second, third and fourth."
 
While an argument can be made that the film is more about family than any racial divide, it's timeliness and willigness to address sensitive issues that are in today's headlines is something the actor is most proud of and the part of the movie he hopes resonates with those who see it. 
 
"I hope people go and I hope they go in droves because that will create a conversation," Costner said.  "I hope it’s shared because there are things in here that we need to talk about. We don’t know how to do it and this movie kind of opens the door to how to do it." 
 
Black or White is in theaters now. 
 
 

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