Kevin Costner Interview (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription
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Early Life And Career Beginnings
The lessons learned, the habits, routines, et cetera. And that ranges from four-star generals to chess prodigies to scientists, start-up CEOs, and in this case, a world-class storyteller, Kevin Costner. Of course, I grew up loving Kevin Costner films. He is an internationally renowned filmmaker across the board, considered one of the most critically acclaimed and visionary storytellers of his generation. Costner has produced, directed, and/or starred in such memorable films as Dances with Wolves, one of my favorites, JFK, The Bodyguard, remember the kitchen scene, amazing, many scenes in that, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, Bull Durham, Open Range, Hatfields and McCoys, and Black or White, among many others. He's been honored with two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and an Emmy Award. This episode also features John Baird, the author and illustrator of the novels Day Job and Songs from Nowhere Near the Heart. He is the co-developer, along with Costner, of the Horizon miniseries. Their first book collaboration is a beautiful tome, it's really quite something to behold, The Explorers Guild, a passage to Shambhala, or Shambhala, I've never known how to say that. In any case, we get into all of that and more, and this episode is really split into three parts. The first part explores Costner's background, lessons learned, and we dig into a lot of his specific films and roles, and I think at some point, I refer to the big chill as the chill like a dum-dum, because I think I was just a wee bit nervous, honestly, since I've really only seen Kevin on the screen before, and he is a very, very focused man with intense eye contact. We had a great time and I really enjoyed it, but it was, it's weird going from screen to in person for the first time, I gotta say, but had a great time. I hope that translates to your experience of the conversation. We had it at his home and we touch on a lot. The first, like I said, is his background, the history, then we get into his current projects, including the book project, among many others, and then we do the rapid fire questions that many of you are already familiar with, and those are always fun, and that's what we wrap up with. Kevin has an opportunity to get into some stories that I don't think he's really told anywhere else, and had a blast. You can say hi to him on Twitter, and he doesn't use social much, but I'm going to encourage him, because he makes a couple of requests of the audience, and I'm gonna point you guys to Twitter. So there are some opportunities, requests that come up here, @ModernWest on Twitter, @ModernWest is Kevin Costner, and please enjoy this long and broad conversation with Kevin Costner. Kevin, welcome to the show. - Thanks. - I really appreciate you having me out here. This is a beautiful spot you have. I guess we're outside of Santa Barbara. - Yeah. - And this is one of my favorite parts of the world, but you did not start out here, did you? I mean, where were you born? - I was born in Linwood, California, lived in Compton, in 1955, and was there for about six, seven years, and ended up actually moving up in this general area here between Ojai and Santa Paula, lived on a single street, went to a one-room schoolhouse. - How many students were in that schoolhouse? - I don't know, it was like, I think, the first through the sixth grade, so I don't know, there could have been 60 of us. I'm not sure, maybe not even that many. - How did going to such a small school or growing up in that way impact you? I mean, do you think-- - Well, I didn't for very long. I actually didn't like it because of that idea that all these kids were in the school and the teacher's impact could be the best it could be. I was way ahead. When I went into that school, the school I had come from in Los Angeles, I was really far ahead, and my parents picked up on that really quick, and since I was such a rascal, they thought, man, he's not doing anything. And I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut about being way up on this stuff. But they moved me right out of that school really quickly back into, I think, a parochial school, which is they don't mess around, as you know. - And so your parents were concerned that you, since you were further ahead, would kind of sit on your hands and coast through it? - I don't think they were worried about that.
Impacting his view of the world (07:24)
I think they just, my parents, I tell you, really, a lot of people I know, they look back on their childhood and maybe wasn't the greatest, or mine was pretty good. Mine was very Huckleberry Finn, if it was. And a lot of that had to do with, my parents were very focused in on their kids. I mean, my dad and my mom were at every Little League game, every everything. So when people aren't able to, when I've talked to people, go, my dad never came to one thing, and probably a reason for it, but I didn't have that experience. We didn't have a lot of money, but it was, my backyard was my kingdom. And when my dad got home, we went to work in it. - And I read, and I don't know if this is true, that you were a raised Baptist, is that true? - Yeah. - Did you, how did that sort of affect the lens through which you viewed the world, or how you viewed the world? - Yeah, probably a good question. I tell you, it obviously affected it. Came up in a really conservative background. My dad's from Oklahoma, and tough guy, fist fighter, very hard knuckle people, and came in during the Dust Bowl.
Conservative foundation and music. (08:30)
I mean, if you think of Tom Joad, that's my family. They lost everything and had to come out here. But the, so my conservative foundation was right in place. My dad would put me in my place, right in the middle of church. You know, I mean, I could be launched right out of that seat for, you know, for whatever, you know, and also, you know, when you drink the blood of Christ, it was that grape juice. And you know, I loved pretending it was whiskey after church was over, 'cause they had those like little glasses that you'd see in the cowboy movies. And I'd like to just knock it back, and boy, I tell you, my dad was just a no-nonsense guy about that. But you know, I also grew up with music in the Baptist church. And so that was a real first love of mine. Music, my grandmother, you know, taught the piano. My mom was in the choir. Her sister was in the choir. So I grew up with music, 'cause in all the little things we did, you know, the Christmas play. So I liked singing, and eventually my, you know, my mom made me take the piano lessons, you know. So I was trained classically on piano for about three and a half years. - Did you always maintain that practice of music, or is it something you've only revisited much later? - I revisited. I revisited in my 20s, because I tell you, I was always staring out the window. And I was taught to be a, I was taught by a teacher that wanted to train a concert pianist. So there was no boogie woogie. There was no, you know, it was all, I mean, the closest thing I got to rock was Greensleeves. You know, everything else was the classics. And my mom, being in a conservative background, she goes, "No, that's what the teacher wants. You don't step outside that line." And so after about three and a half years of staring out the window, watching everybody play ball, which is what I do, I'm a sports guy, my mom really got tired of feeling that she had pinned me down to that chair. And she said to me, she said, "You're gonna be really sorry you gave this up." 'Cause I was pretty good. I was able to transpose anything. So I really could, I mean, if they would have let me play a little rock song and some little girl would have sat next to me, I probably never would have given it up. But, you know, no one wanted to sit next to me playing Mozart. So the music came out of the church. My, I think my conservative outlook came in it. Also, it also probably clouded me. I was a late learner on things because I would adopt my parents' point of view. What was talked about at that kitchen table was mine. Vietnam was going on. If you were against the war, you were bad. If you had long hair, you were bad. My brother went into Marines. So if somebody hated the Marines, I hated them. Now I was like 13 or 14. And so as I was moving into high school, I wasn't very evolved in a sense. There was nobody that would say, no, just because somebody has long hair doesn't mean they're dumb, doesn't mean they're anti-establishment, anti-America. But in fact, that's what I saw. And I had to really fight really a long time to grab onto my own ability to look at the world in a more gray way. - Was there any experience or person who comes to mind early on who helped you develop that? - No, but I can remember really being behind the curve a few times because my parents would say, "Hey, look, you gotta be able to speak your mind in these circles, whatever you need to do." But what I found was I was speaking my parents' mind and I was not coming off very well in a way. I was militant about things I didn't even know about. And I began to sense that, that I didn't have a bigger view. I had their view. And it hasn't hurt me in my life to have a conservative view, but I'm not a very... My eyes, the scales came off my eyes a long time ago about things. - So I'm gonna jump around chronologically a little bit, but before we jump beyond high school.
How was the young Kevin athleticism? (12:46)
So in high school, you were five two, is that right? - Well, I was a sophomore and I was 16 years old. And the reason I can say that is because when you get your license, the first thing people wanna do is look at it, especially the girls, right? They wanna look at your picture. And of course I handed my picture over and then there it is, 87 pounds, five foot two, 16 years old. I was looking below the wheel of my dots and pickup when I drove. I was itty bitty. I began to grow in my senior year and grow into college, but I wasn't not a senior, I wasn't five two, but that was kinda humiliating after about the fourth or fifth girl said, "Hey, look at that, that's really cute, five two." And I took my license out. I never let anybody look at it again. - Were you athletic? You mentioned the playing ball before you hit your growth spurt. So while you were at this point. - Yeah, yeah, I was really, I played a lot. And I played till I had to come home when those streetlights came on. And of course I didn't. And here come my father, dressed almost like I am right now in blue jeans and blue shirt. He was a lineman for Edison. And when they were faded jeans, it wasn't because they were designer jeans, they were faded because they just got washed a billion zillion times. And he was as handsome as Paul Newman, I gotta tell you. And he'd come looking for me and I'd see that finger, man. And I'd like be running across the street, trying to get around him to get home. I just couldn't keep certain things in my head. - And you mean by that, the sports? - Just, I couldn't keep track of it. I was like any kid. - Oh, got it, keeping track of time. - Look, when you see those streetlights come on, you come home. So, or when I'd go build a fort, you bring my tools back. Or when you take your sports stuff out, you don't leave your ball out. The hammer, the saw would be left at the fort. But my dad would go down to where I'm building the fort and back came the saw and it was all rusty. He'd look at me and I was like, I was thinking, man, I'm a bit of a fuck up. I don't get it right. It's like, I know to bring it back, but I'm having so much fun. I was a classic 10 year old, 12 year old. Just, you have so much fun, you almost can't think of the consequences. - Well, I think that a lot of adults then spend the rest of their lives trying to recapture that feeling in a way, right?
The funny things adults want to do for fun (15:11)
- Well, Mark Twain said it. He said, look, if a man lived his life correctly, he's never forgotten his childhood. He's never given it up. - When you were five, two, you said 87 pounds? - Yeah, yeah. - Wow, wow, that is small. Did you, I mean, were you kind of a rough and tumble kid? Did you get picked on a lot? - Yeah, I was really rough and tumble. I mean, I remember they asked me to go out for the wrestling team 'cause I could get my diversity letter right. You get a varsity letter. And I said, no, I'm gonna be a basketball player. 'Cause I'd always dreamed of doing the layups with the Hawaii five-o theme. 'Cause that's what I saw when I was a little kid. I was a good athlete, but I said, no, I'm gonna be that. And they go, well, you're not gonna make the varsity at five, two. They go, you could wrestle at 96 pounds, right? Get your varsity letter. And I thought, I don't want that. But they go, well, just go try. So I went out and wrestled the one kid that was 96. I just threw them all over the place. - Dragged all down. - But I didn't get them in any classic wrestling. I got him in a headlock and he whined. He was like whining. I wasn't gonna let him up. I really dominated him. But I thought, big deal. I don't want my letterman's jacket in this sport. And I want it in basketball. And my mom promised me I'd grow. I mean, I literally was running around the house, jumping up and touching the header on every door, going, what in the hell? Five, two, cute. I can't be this. I can't. And I'd say to my mom, which you do, you go, mom, am I gonna grow? I swear to God, am I gonna grow? And she goes, I promise you, you're going to. - And you, I had read about a, I guess a heart to heart that you had with your father at one point. I wanna say in the bathtub or you were in the bathtub.
Meeting with his Father following a long day of work (16:54)
Am I getting this right? Could you describe that exchange? - That was, I had been working up in Aspen. I have a ranch up there and working very much like I work here. And it gotta put a little bit of it into context too, a little bit, but it was, my dad was a worker. And when he would try to teach us to work, it was like, we'd mow the lawn and we'd be done. And at an early age, and he'd go, well, did you edge it? And you go, didn't edge it, right? So the next time we mowed it and edged it, he goes, did you wash it off? Didn't wash, he was a bit of a taskmaster in a way. So it was very difficult to get it exactly right. A man does a job right. And a lot of that came from the dust bowl. 'Cause he used to, he saw when a hundred guys would be in line to dig the same ditch. And he used to say to me, he said, there'd be a hundred guys dig this thing if you don't dig it. So I understood that a guy had to work. That's what I was about. And I had a real big problem up on the property and they literally watched me solve it all day long. I never stopped working. And at the end, I was actually going underwater and plugging something. You know, I mean, I was like in that cold water up there and he watched me. - This is your property. - This is on my property. But it was, to be honest, it was a typical day other than the fact that something broke and I really had to fix it. It was just, he watched, he watched me work. And now the day was done and I was up and I don't take baths for the most part, but I was up in my room and I'm taking a bath. I'm really beat to shit. I'm really beat up. And the door opens and my dad walks in. So imagine, he can go, what the hell's going on here? And he walks in and I'm in the bathtub and I don't know what a, I'm not gonna sink down, but I'm thinking maybe, I don't know what it is. And kind of like a dog who can't find a place to stand, he kind of walks a little bit in a circle and finally puts his arm on the hearth or up on the mantel. And I say that because when I designed this house, I always wanted a fireplace in the bathroom. I always wanted to get out and have the fireplace in the, so he had us on the mantel. And so I'm like, look at him, yeah. And he starts to talk to me. He says, you know, when you were young, you had all the things you wanted, right? I go, yeah, of course I did. He goes, and you never felt like there was anything we didn't provide, money. He started going down this trail of, did we have enough? Did you have, you know? And he looked at me 'cause he was always so worried that I would go into acting. He thought, you know, a guy should work work. And I know he was unsure. And then he was able to see the success that I had. And so I think I wonder if he was thinking at some point, I hope I never derailed you. But nevertheless, he's going down this path. You had what you wanted. Your mom and I did the best we could. And he looked at me and he said, you know, I never took a chance in my life. And I was almost in my own field of dreams moment. And it was like, there was like some tears coming down. He goes, you know, I hope, you know, he goes, I came out of that goddamn fucking dust bowl. And I just, when I got a job, Kevin, I didn't wanna lose it. I was gonna hold onto that because I knew there'd always be food on the table. And I said, there was, there was. I mean, and there was a really kind of just an amazing mom, my dad sitting there growing and I'd long since been able to take care of myself. I didn't need gas money from him when I'd go visit him. And it was just a, you know, I don't know if you ever had a moment like that, but I had that. And, you know, I didn't want him to tear up. He'd given me everything that he could give me. And it was just one of those moments. And, you know, I won't, you know, always remember that. - Has.
Has Harrison become a different type of father than his own? (20:54)
- They just wanna know that they did right by you. - Do you, as a father yourself, do you, has that mentality carried over to you as well? Were you, are you ever concerned? - Well, I probably talked to my kids a little bit more than he talked to me. And I probably, maybe even a little bit easier on them than he was on me. You know, man, he was tapping me on the shoulder in the morning. He said, here we go, we're going to work. I don't really do that to mine. I let them see me work. They're, you know, I, you know, they can come work side by side, but I don't know who's right. I don't know if he's right. I don't know if I'm right. You don't know till the end. I do know that early on my dad thought, you know, you're lazy. He'd say that to me, you're lazy. You're not gonna, and I, and I just, I work more than anybody I know. You know, I mean, and maybe I have that in my head. You know, it's not, it's not uncommon for me when I come out with the guys that are working on the prop and I'm here before they are, and I work with them all day right next to them. In fact, the ones who don't even speak English go, is he gonna be here all day? And the other ones go, I think so. And then later on they go, I thought he was in the movies. Maybe he doesn't need to do that. And, and they, somebody says, hey, Jefe, he likes it. You know, he likes to be out here. So it, my own children, you know, I tell my children, I love them every day. That's what I tell them. But I, and I tell them they're special every day. But I always finish that sentence with, it doesn't make you better, okay? It doesn't make you better being special because people out there, their sons or daughters, they're special, you can feel special yourself. But even if you do something that the world acknowledges, you gotta be really, you gotta really relax because it doesn't make you better than anybody. And I, and I need, what they need to learn in life is different than what I do. I never was in a limousine till I was 28 years old. They've ridden in limousines, going with us wherever we go since they were, you know, in diapers. So their lessons are gonna be different. And part of what I anticipate for them is to be able to share their good luck. How are they gonna share their good luck? How are they gonna have a sense of balance, you know? And, you know, there's no book on that, but it's something I think about it and work at every day. - So I have a friend who is, who is also on the podcast named Chris Saka, a very, very, very successful venture capitalist.
Harrison's perspective on his children and how he's brought them up. (23:21)
And when he was growing up, and he does this with his kids now, his parents would put him through what he called the sweet and sour summers. So he would have some fun experience that his parents would expose him to, but then the sour was, they would be required to go do not a thankless job, but a hard manual job, like cleaning, making this up, like oil refinery equipment with some taskmaster that dad or mom had decided for them to spend time with to give them both perspectives. Do you, what is the, what are the jobs, the hardest jobs that have taught you the most? - Well, my dad was the hardest on me. You couldn't be harder than my dad. So, you know, maybe that put me in a position to work. My dad said, if you can outwork, if you can stay long, if you can, you just have to outwork someone. And it was really very, very basic. So, you know, my own outlook for my own kids is they see that I'll work side by side with somebody. There's no difference between who I'm working with. - Is there anything when you were, and we're gonna come back to, actually this is a good time to sort of shift gears a little bit with acting, talking about acting and that entire career. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with Rumpelstiltskin?
- Yeah, well that was a, it was a moment in my life. I was in my, I think I was in my senior year at college, the start of it, and I was in night school. And if you know anything about night school, you know that the people who are in night school are really serious. So the bell grafts really hard there, you know, as opposed to a bunch of 18 year olds, you know, or whatever you are. If you're in night school, it's serious. Those dudes are all drinking coffee, they're all still in their suits, they're all, and I'm in accounting class. And it's not happening for me. I know I'm not supposed to be there. I know where I'm at. I'm at the other end, I'm at the wrong end of what was gonna happen when a test is taken, 'cause I don't like it. But again, because of my conservative background, you graduate high school, you go to college, and you get a college degree, and you get a job. I wasn't really, again, very advanced in my thinking, or my eyes weren't open to the real possibilities. I mean, the greatest things I did was when I would go drive trucks or frame houses, or I worked on commercial fishing boats. I like that work. I like the exoticness of that life, or the you get what you get, because that's what you just earned. And so academia was not a thing for me, and there I was, smack in the middle of it, and realizing that I was just like pulling sand down. I couldn't get out of this hole. But I saw, what do I do? I turn off to the teacher, I open up the little student newspaper, and I'm winging through the newspaper, which is all three pages long at a college, right? And on the back of it was a play, an audition, for a thing called Rumpelstiltskin on an off-campus area. And I don't know why I just thought audition, I'd like to try that. And when I closed that newspaper, I listened to the person drone on, I saw the latest pop quiz, and I was last. But what I knew at that moment, I was going to that audition the next day. I was excited about the next day. It's been a long time in my college life where I was excited about the next day. And I drove down, I almost was killed literally doing it. I was going down the 55 freeway, which is in Orange County. And at that time, the freeway hadn't been finished all the way, so stop lights were on the freeway at a certain point, like where they were gonna be. - That sounds so dangerous. - And as I'm going down there, everything's fine. That's not a big problem. And except my accelerator broke and went to the floor on this old dachshund pickup. And all of a sudden, I saw the brake lights up ahead, like where those eucalyptus trees are way out there. - Yeah, a couple hundred feet from this. - Brake lights, and my speedometer's going from 60 to 70 to 80, and it's not slowing down. And I'm probably gonna hit those people at about 90 miles an hour and kill them, kill myself. And I'm just, and the engine is just, I don't know why it was designed that way, but the floor, like some ghost pulled it straight down to the bottom. So I had my wits about me at one point halfway through when I realized I didn't wanna die. And I threw the clutch in. And there was never such a terrible whine, but I thought, oh my God, it did engage. But the engine was revving. I was able to turn the key off, and I coasted to a stop, pulled over into the emergency lane, didn't kill anybody. I jumped out of that fucking car, hopped over that fence, and hitchhiked to my audition, 'cause I wasn't gonna miss it. - Wow. - I left it on the freeway. I left it, because I had some place I wanted to be. I had a place that something was gonna happen. And of course, nothing did. I wasn't good enough, I didn't have enough skill. I didn't really know about Rumpelstiltskin. I mean, I didn't know my fairy tales, okay? I figured there was a prince, I would just leave it at that. I'll go out for the prince, maybe. But I didn't get it. But my imagination started to burn about the possibilities. - And when you had those possibilities then in your head, what were the next steps? - The next steps were, the reason I didn't get the part, because I wasn't very good. I could tell the people, like in accounting, they were better than me. They were better than me. But I thought the difference was, I didn't wanna try to improve in accounting.
Becoming an actor (29:22)
But in acting, I thought, I'm gonna go to school. I found something I think I wanna learn. And so it was one night, they started to have classes there. One night a week turned into two nights a week, turned into three, turned into four. I suddenly started to become the student that I wasn't in college. I went to UCLA and took two classes in film financing, film budgeting. I showed up for the first day of class. I had already read the book, the entire book. I wasn't in the mood to do an all-nighter. I was interested. - So at this point, you'd graduated from college at this point? - I graduated from college. I was framing houses out in Orange County. I would go and that's how I'd make my dollars. I wasn't very good, but I could work all day. If you could frame one house by yourself a day, you could get another house. But what guys were doing that were really experienced in eight hours, I was doing in 12. So I was usually out there. And I think about this time of year, 'cause the sun goes down quickly. Guys are going home at 3.30. Sometimes they'd work in teams. Some guys could frame a house by themselves. I'd do it by myself. But I wasn't finished at 3.30. I wasn't finished at 5. And I had that pickup truck, the same one almost killed me. I'd have the lights out and I would frame with the lights on 'til I was done so I could get a house the next day. - And the classes, you took the classes during the day? - No, at night. - Those are at night. - Then I would go at night. And I was, all we can say without beating this to death in a way or boring anybody with it, it was just suddenly, suddenly I was interested. I was interested in my own life the way I used to be interested in it when I was a kid. When everything, when tomorrow was exceptional. And for me, every day was exceptional when I actually realized I wanted, now I wasn't telling people what I wanted to do. Because half of me was going, who's gonna believe this? Especially my dad. - How old, so let's see, how old were you at the time? - So let's say I'm probably 20. 21, you know? And in my mind I thought, how come at 21 I don't know what I wanna be? There's this kind of thing. I thought I was actually getting old. I don't know what I wanna do. Seemed like everybody else did. I didn't have anybody to tell me to relax. Just keep moving, you're doing fine. A lot of what I got was what are you gonna do? And so I just, like the rat in the maze going after the cheese, I just kept going to class. Kept going, I was gonna, graduated with a degree that I didn't care, you know? I did care about the acting. And I started to fall in love with something. Didn't know if I was gonna be able to make a living at it.
Breaking out of the whispers and finding his true self. (32:20)
But I finally got rid of the whispers in my head, which was what are you gonna be? And I thought, it's none of your business. I'm gonna be what I wanna be. I finally shook loose of, I guess, my parents. This is not a session about therapy. But I finally got rid of the whispers. It didn't matter. I knew, I somehow figured out, if I didn't make myself happy, I would never be happy. If I didn't, you know, if I didn't pursue what was whispering to me, I would absolutely be a failure. I would absolutely be an unhappy person. And believe me, when I could articulate that, which maybe many people could, I couldn't. But when I articulated that I didn't care anymore what anybody thought about what I did, except me, all the weight of the world came off my shoulders. And everything became possible. It shifted to everybody else that they were now worried. Now they're worried. But it didn't shift, everything for me had shifted to a place where I felt free. - The, how did the chill come to be? That experience? - That came, yeah. Well, that was a, it was the one part that Lawrence Kasdan could cast without permission from the studio. He'd already done "Body Heat" and people recognize it. It was special, special talent. And a casting director named Wally Nasita, who was a very tough casting director, a no-nonsense kind of person, who really, really actually helped her directors instead of, she would offer up people that she thought. She put me up in front of him saying that she was, I was somebody that she thought was very good. And I was lucky enough to get the big chill. And I knew immediately that my life would change as a result of that movie. And a lot of people talk about, well, you're cut out, you know, then, you know, were you disappointed? Like, I guess I had a small measure of disappointment, but none to the, not anything like what I think people thought I should have. Because I realized at the moment that I was hired that somehow I was on my own yellow brick road and that appearing in that movie wasn't nearly as important as being in it.
Finding his stable footing in The Big Chill. (34:32)
I knew I was in it. The people I was around knew I was in it. I had suddenly found my footing that had probably taken from the point of, you know, that accounting class probably taken six years, seven years. You know, people talk about entrepreneurs, you know, and the idea of being an entrepreneur is being willing to do a job that nobody else wants to do, to be able to live the rest of your life doing whatever you wanna do. And so the idea, how I can correlate that a little bit would be to try to be an actor when you don't, there's no guarantee that it's ever gonna work for you, but that you're willing to really work at it for a long time when all the other responsibilities that followed you at being married, trying to provide, but still not giving up on your dream. It sustained me. I was lucky. I was able to make it. And when I got to that point, I was a better actor. I would not have been a good, a better actor. Even though I made a check and everybody had been really happy, I wouldn't have had the foundation. I had to reeducate myself. And I loved the idea of educating myself. - Over that course of six or seven years before you were cast for The Chill, what did you say to yourself to keep yourself going? - Well, it's hard because if you wanna be practical and you need to be, it's very difficult to be around people that don't see themselves clearly. So when your parents tell you you're the fastest little runner, you believe that. But by the time you get to the sixth grade, there's people blowing by you and your chances of being in the Olympics, they're not good. And so somebody says, well, I'm gonna make it anyway. Okay, that's a hard person to be around a little bit. But in the world of acting, you have to say, you have to think where you would fit. So I was looking out at the landscape. Obviously I was going to class at night doing everything I would do and hating everybody I saw or being around other actors who I realized hated everybody on television that had parts. I mean, there's like bitterness among actors among actors who don't have jobs looking out there and the people that do or whatever. And I was like, I didn't really feel that, but I could understand that. But as I was moving along, there was a moment in time where I actually thought I wasn't going to make it.
Experiences And Challenges In Acting
An early brush of doubt (37:10)
I did. And one thing I did once I decided that I become an actor is I didn't want to put a clock on. - I was gonna ask you that. - Put a clock on things. So I didn't, but I was also a practical person. I mean, look at me, I know what time it is. And I'm starting to think, you know what? The people I'm supposedly gonna be going up against are getting more parts. I was going up against Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage and Ken Wall and Mel Gibson and Richard Gere. And you can think of all the people that were already on the landscape when I actually decided that I would act. So they not only had those credits going for them before I started, some of them, you know, they had 20 films behind them. And so these were the parts, this was the category that I was in. And so if I would go up for a part, there'd be four or five of these names being thrown around and they would just work their way right down. And suddenly, and so my chances of getting those parts weren't very good, but somewhere along the line, they started using me on certain movies going, "Well, if you want too much money, we're gonna go with this unknown guy." Well, who's this unknown guy? Kevin. And that, I was a bit of a stalking horse for some people to either take less money or we're gonna give this good part away. - By stalking horse, you mean like a bargaining chip or like a plan, like a plan B? - We'll go with this unknown. We'll go with this unknown. They continued to go with unknown. So I actually thought, you know what? I'm not gonna be able to jump over these guys. Timothy Hutton, you can just go right down the list. But then the big chill happened for me. And, you know, I was working as a stage manager at Raleigh Studios and for three years, and I would be taking cable and working late, late, late at night. And I didn't tell a lot of people that I acted because nobody wants to be around a pining actor. So I just didn't say it. But what happened was all of a sudden when I did start to emerge, big chill moved to Fandango, moved to American Flyers, moved to Silverado. Suddenly it seemed like it was happening very fast for some people. It's like, what, where did this come from? And then when I decided I would direct, which was about two pictures later, people thought, wow, he's moving really, really fast. You know, what they didn't know was I had been dreaming this moment for six, seven years before that. Then when it was starting to happen, I had already been planning for these things. So what was fast for other people wasn't fast for me. - Well, it makes perfect sense. I mean, you hit a certain escape velocity in a sense, and then, or you'd use maybe a different metaphor. I mean, you got, you'd been cranking and cranking, got to the top of the roller coaster, but you'd been sort of thinking of that descent all along. I've heard you say that the big struggle in acting is staying loose.
Weirdest fan request encountered (40:02)
If you were to have the opportunity to go back to yourself, say at the Silverado point, what advice, acting advice, or otherwise would you have given yourself? - Well, I just wanted, I tell you, I would give myself almost the same advice as I did, which was I'm gonna try to hold out for the good movies. I'm not gonna just try to go to movie after movie. Maybe what I should have given myself, which is be really ready to do the sequels. At 30, I would say, just be prepared to do "Boldurum 2," "Ten Cup 2," "Bodyguard 2." Get in the mode of making these movies later on.
Scariest scenes (40:55)
- What are some of the scenes that have scared you the most? And I've heard you talk about after you've read a script and sort of picked up on the secret, something you can't wait to hopefully portray or share with an audience or tell in a certain way. What are some of the scenes that come to mind that you're most scared of in any film that comes to mind? - Well, I'm usually scared of the scenes. Number one, there's gotta be a scene in there that you really wanna do, you think you can do, that you really, really wanna say, that you wanna be known. I guess, listen, I remember seeing Spencer Tracy in "Inherit the Wind" and watching Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird," stand up, there's your father's walk, you know what I mean? And I thought to myself, I mean, I love McQueen and I loved Newman and there were minimalists. And so I understood how to work with a lot of economy. I knew I would do Westerns, but I was never afraid of language either. So I wasn't, I remember I read a lot about McQueen and something, it's like just always ripping lines out, ripping lines, didn't have any elongated anything. It was just not gonna happen. Me, I wanted to have the "Inherit the Wind" speeches. I wanted to have those things. And I've been able to have four or five of those in my career, had one with black or white in the courtroom. The problem is when you see them written so well, the thing in "Bull Durham," I believe, is that you realize you're also the person that can mess them up, right? You're also the person that can miss, take a big whiff at something that was so great. And so I usually know when I'm onto something, which is when I'm a little bit afraid of it, go, wow, I could mess this up. I put myself there a lot of times in my life, and I've often asked myself, why have I tried so hard to be in a place where I could fail so badly in front of so many?
How do you prepare for scenes? (42:57)
And I have gone to bed at night knowing the next day I have to deliver. And if I don't, everybody else is gonna know. - I've been recalling a commencement speech that was given by one of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman, an amazing fiction writer, and it's called "Make Good Art." But at one point he says, when you feel like, and I'm paraphrasing here, you're walking down the street naked, extremely uncomfortable about what you're about to say, then you might just be getting it right along those lines. When you're tackling a scene, like the "I Believe," say, in "Bull Durham," how do you prepare for that? How do you practice beforehand? Or how do you-- - Well, you know, I never thought that I did that scene as well as it could have been done. The writing there was so great. I just did the best I could. And I had a great director, Ron Shelton, and launched me in another movie called "10 Cup." But how do you prepare? Let's take the scene in "JFK," which was about 11 pages long. It was a really intense thing. And I started on that probably a month and a half, two months before we ever started filming. I'm really slow. I'm a, I can memorize, I think, as well as anybody, but I can't perform with memory. I have to performance when I actually own the words and I can do them in any state. And so to do that, I know that I have to get off book, which is a term for, you know, I don't need the script anymore. I do that before every movie. I'm off book. I don't trust myself to learn lines the week of, the night of. I just don't do it. And it's kind of anal, but for me, it makes me more prepared to step through what I call a window of opportunity if one presents itself on the set that day. You know, a lot of people, they come, they go, "No, I'll just wing it. I like being fresh. I like being, you know, open to the spontaneity." I would never trust the work that I do to that. And I would never, I couldn't do that to a movie I was working on. I wouldn't trust myself. I think going in really prepared makes me really confident to do anything that happens that day. I'm not just stuck there. I'm just prepared to do that.
Room to suggest changes, without being adversarial (45:45)
- Well, it seems also that your familiarity with the material allows you to make some very intelligent suggestions. You brought up JFK. I mean, the, let us suppose, maybe you could explain the conversation with Oliver Stone. - We did, you know, Oliver comes under a lot of scrutiny. You know, he really has a really active mind and is really, you know, a patriot in his own way after a truth and he's willing to go out at very, very hard and people have questioned him on it. And the directions he goes down, the roads he'll, the rabbit holes he's willing to go down and what gets said and who said it. And I knew I was gonna be the voice of all this. And as I was going through that script, I wanted to serve Oliver, but I also wanted to serve myself a little bit too, which was to make sure that I wasn't so far out on the limb saying explicitly, you know, what Oliver is saying. And when I came to certain things that I was unsure about and some other people questioned it a little bit, I said to Oliver, I go, I'm not comfortable with saying this. I said, I would be more comfortable saying, let us suppose, as opposed to this actually happened. Because the let us suppose is framing things for people to see, because if there's no actual eyewitness there, you go, let us suppose this happened, you know, and Oliver didn't fight that at all to his credit. He said, that's fine. Let's just paint that picture because that's the picture I believe that's there, you know, because you could turn and say, and now let us suppose that didn't happen, boom. And you go down that thing. And I thought it was a fair depiction. And I was proud of Oliver instead of fighting that, no, we're gonna say that's fact. It is fact because this guy said it was. And I said, well, let's just think about that a little bit. It was a good collaboration.
A note to Oliver Stone (47:42)
- You mentioned something that Oliver, I hope he doesn't burn himself up. What did you mean when you said that? - I said what? - I hope he doesn't burn himself up. I hope he hears this. - I don't know where I said that, but that's just, that's just one friend to another, one colleague to another. And listen, you know, we all burn pretty hot and bright and go pretty hard. And, you know, I don't need to let people know anything more than that other than, you know, this is a guy that was good to me. And I know he plays hard and I know he works really hard. And I wanna see him have as long a life as he possibly can and do the work that means a lot to him. So I just kinda let it go at that.
Personal Struggles And Directorial Debut
Contending with burnout and divorce. (48:28)
- And the reason I ask is, quite frankly, because I think that it's out of personal interest. I mean, you've had a very long career and you've lasted. I feel like I burn the candle at both ends quite often, particularly when I get immersed in a creative project and can't kinda pull back to 30,000 feet. Have you, do you feel like you've ever been at risk of burning out? I mean, you've had some, for instance, I mean, Waterworld, massively long shoot, right? What do you do or how have you contended with that if you've had to? - Yeah, well, you know, I was also going through a divorce, which was something that I didn't see happening to me, you know, kinda from a conservative point of view, how you're raised that you think, well, this is how it's gonna be the rest of your life. And you kinda know even before that, that it wasn't really working that way. But all the planets lined up with this incredibly long movie are very tough thing. And I actually went through that entire movie, divorced, separated and then divorced before the movie started. People don't know that. They happen to think that somewhere halfway through that that happened. I didn't, I was going to work every day with feeling a bit like a failure. But, you know, to me, I just go back. You just, you put your head down, you keep working and you keep doing the very best you can and you don't let the people know around you that your heart's on the ground. But, you know, my life is so much more than acting. So I've never, you know, I stop sometimes because I just wanna stop, not because I have to stop. Please, you know, it's not like I'm, you know, I remember in college when we do like black beauties, you'd just be up all night, you know, just somebody needs to come in and stop me, you know what I mean? And I didn't have that. I have my own governor and I have my own energy level, which might not be the same as somebody else who's think, I think you need to slow down. I kinda know when I need to. - Got it, you have some type of limiter. - Yeah, and I have other interests that actually almost force that. - Right. - I have my own seasons as a man, so to speak. I gotta go hunting, I gotta go fishing, I gotta go be with, I gotta be back for little league. I gotta, you know, I have these things that are important to me and important to my family. - This is a bit of a non sequitur, but I'm so curious 'cause I've spent just a little bit of time in Aspen doing some work with the Aspen Institute. And I bumped into somebody at one point and they're like, you know what, I actually bumped into, and this could be totally false, but they're like, I walked into this bar in Aspen and Kevin Costner was bartending.
Have you ever bartended in Aspen, Kevin? (50:56)
Have you ever bartended in a bar in Aspen or anything like, even as a, like a, just a-- - I have friends that bartend. Maybe I jump back to helping for a second. - Okay. - But I haven't, you know, I don't know how to make change. My nightmare is when something costs $8, you know, or something and I give them a certain amount of money and the guy goes, can you give me 10 more cents or something like that? You know, and I go, no, I'm only giving you, you know. - Like PTSD after accounting class. - Yeah, yeah, it was like, it's like, please don't do that to me. That my, that my temple start to pound. And it's like, hey man, why are you asking for more money or something, 'cause you wanna make life easier on me? You're not, you're humiliating me, stop. I just like, I literally kind of throw the money down on the counter and just like walk out. It's like some reflex, like don't have me do math at the chalkboard. - Yeah, like-- - It's a real creep and I was in fourth grade and you know how sometimes the teachers will tell you, hey, the fifth grade teacher needs you to take this note over, right? Well, if I look back in my life, I've got a very, very sound life, but if I really look back at it, I do have moments where, you know, I have real problems as a result of certain things. You just don't realize it. And I remember I would go to this, so I'd go to the fifth grade class and there was this little prick, his name was Mr. Chapman and he was short and he had a flat top like a Marine, a flat top and he wore a bow tie, all right? So, you know, he-- - Sounds like a handful already. - He's a prick already, right? And so I walked in and I brought the paper and he goes, what are you doing in class? And I go, oh, we're doing clay or something. He goes, well, we're doing math here. You know, we're doing, you know, whatever kind of math. Oh, that's really great. He goes, why don't you show us the math? You know how to do. - Oh, God. - Can you believe that? This guy would do this to a fourth grader and he would have me try to do their math and he laughed at me. - Oh, what a mess. - And the kids laughed. And I remember that teacher told me another time, can you take this over to Mr. Chapman? I go, no, no. And she said, look, you just have to do this for whatever reason. I wasn't able to say no to her either. Again, maybe that's a conservative background. Into that class I went. Chapman, this little prick did the same thing again. He humiliated me and he allowed his fifth graders to laugh at me. And I, believe it or not, I could never go to the chalkboard again without that fear of being laughed at. So the truth was I could go to the gas station now and give the guy the money and he goes, give me an extra dime and I'll make this even on you. And that's the chalkboard to me. It's the chalkboard. And that guy was cruel. That guy shouldn't have been a teacher.
How Kevin's Middle School Trauma Manifested (54:06)
Somebody should have jerked him on his ass. And so you don't talk to anybody like that. You don't humiliate anybody. Let alone a kid lower grade coming into your class just to give you something. There was something really wrong with him. I probably conjured that story up for the first time probably about 10 years ago telling somebody about it. And because I always wondered why everything would go into a fog with me when I would go up to the chalkboard. I couldn't follow the directions that anybody was saying to me. They go, this is really simple. It wasn't simple to me. Why? 'Cause I couldn't hear it. My brain was pounding. - That's horrible. I mean, it's incredible how just even, I mean, that sounds very sadistic. - It's wrong, you know? I mean, I've got this life where I have this fame worldwide fame. Somebody's listening probably going, Jesus Christ. Listen, we're all bruised in this world. We've all been kind of, that wasn't, not the kind of abusive home, thank God. Somebody said, hey, gee Kev, that's pretty mild. I would agree with you. But nevertheless, you realize if you take that and see how it affected me and then maybe add on heaps of the stuff that happens to other children, my God, we really can ruin people. - And it could just be an off the cuff remark. I mean, I remember my mom, for instance, at one point was in a music class, I think it was, singing and the teacher said, yeah, you should just stop singing. Or it was some like off the cuff remark. Maybe that teacher was just having a bad day, whatever it was, but my mom has carried that throughout her entire life. - Exactly. - And she can't sing or she shouldn't sing. And I had a similar experience with a math teacher in high school, just was constantly kind of heckled or needled in this class. And so my choice of college was partly determined by where I wouldn't have a math requirement. - Right. No, I tell you, you know, and so we understand how we affect people and that's followed me with my whatever fame I carry around the world that I know I come into contact with people. And there's a moment that I can have an impact on them.
Kevin's Comfort Zones (56:11)
It's very with me. - How have you learned to contend with, I mean, for instance, and I mean, this is just in my small like startup world space, but I'll have people who like come up to me, I'm at a urinal and they'll come up and wanna like pitch a startup behind my head at a urinal. How have you learned to contend, 'cause it must be difficult for you to go out to a lot of public places, I would imagine. - I go anywhere I want. I tell you the problem, you know, 'cause I never wanted my kids to be liming, oh, daddy can't go here 'cause daddy's too famous. I tell you where I can't go very well is to the bars because there's alcohol. When there's alcohol, people get loose, they get too free. They say things and under the guise of it or whatever, and a girl will say something and somebody will say, so that's not a good place for me, to be honest. And I'm not a drinker, so it's not really a loss for me. The other place that's more difficult is like Disneyland where people think you're part of the ride. But I go to both places regardless because if my friends are there, I'll go. And I'll make sure that my kids go to Disneyland. I have determined to not let fame affect them.
Writing and Directing Dances with Wolves (57:32)
- See, you mentioned you have many different interests. One I'd like to touch on before we talk about some more recent projects is directing. And specifically, Dances with Wolves, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, as a side note. But could you describe how that got started and your interactions with Michael Blake? - Yeah, you mean the story of it being written, the whole thing? - Well, specifically what I was thinking of is sort of how Dances with Wolves started up on a wall. Well, Michael, and we've lost Michael. Michael passed away. Michael was a real total child of the '60s. He was on the newspaper staff. He was against the establishment. He was with Jane Fonda. Just imagine everything, Berkeley, the long hair of the whole thing. But Michael was really after the truth. But then Michael got to a point where he wanted, as we moved into the '70s, wanted to write screenplays, wanted to write books. He did write books, but he really wanted to write screenplays, and that's how we met. And in a little downtown off the LA River, near the Coors, well, the Coors plant used to be down there, and there was this chemical plant, and that's where Michael slept. And we met, and there was an acting group that none of us had to pay any money. And it was a very eclectic group of people, a lot of rock and roll people, a lot of screenwriters, people who wanted to direct, people who wanted to produce. And so we could all do what we wanted to do every night, which was act, and which was hear our own writing. And at one point, the big chill thing happened, and I started to emerge, so I was the one person in the group that started to emerge, and things started to go well for me. And so I was quickly dragging along my friends, if I could, to get them interviews, and Michael was one of those. And I got Michael eight or nine interviews that I could never get when I was struggling, and every one of them went south. Every one of them, I'd get a phone call. Michael insulted us. Michael told us, "We don't know what we're doing. "You don't know good writing." And so those calls were getting very difficult for me, 'cause I was trying to help him, and pretty soon, some of the people I was sending him to were actually as good a friend to me as he was. And so now he insulted them, and so I was losing patience with him, and losing patience with him really putting down Hollywood and everything, and putting this down. And somewhere along the line, I mean, I'm short-changing this, 'cause I don't wanna bore the audience, but he really crossed a line with me and said something about some people and about this, and I kinda was letting him know, "Mike, maybe the writing's not good enough right now. "I'd ask you to get this," and then he said one more thing, and next thing you know, I had my hands on him, and I had him up against the wall. He had really crossed a line with me.
Why Costner was mad at Michael Blake (01:00:29)
And basically what I said, I said, "Well, then quit pretending you wanna be in Hollywood, "because everything you're writing is ending on page 120, "which is code for a screenplay is about 120 pages." And I said, "Why don't you start writing things "that mean something, like a short story or a long story, "something that ends on 88 or 188 or 888, "and quit trying to write these." And I literally had him off the ground, and there was scripts under his feet, and I kicked them, and they went dramatically sliding like a deck of cards out there, and now I let him down. And I just, I said, "Why don't you quit pretending "this thing you wanna be in you actually hate?" I thought really our relationship was over there, because I had put my hands on him, and that would be hard for me to come back from. But you know, Michael, three weeks later, says to me, typical writer, he goes, "I don't have any place to live." And so I said, "Well, all right, come live at my house." And every night I would come, he goes, "I'm writing something," and he goes, "You wanna hear it?" And I go, "No." And every night, he goes, "You know, I'm writing, "can I read whatever?" He says, "No." - Why'd you say no? - 'Cause I was sick of him. I almost beat him up. And so now I'm having to look at him, have cereal in my house and everything in the morning and at night, and I got one spare bedroom of a house I bought, and my wife's even beginning to wonder about him, and she's saying to me after two months, "Hey, he's down there "reading to our kids in his underwear." So my kids are like five years old, they can't understand this story he's reading, and I said, "Michael's fine, there's nothing going on down." She goes, "Well, I'm not so fine with it "after about two months." So I say, "Mike, you're gonna have to go finally." So Mike goes and spends a little bit of time at another one of my friends for about three weeks, and now he's done, and he gives me this manuscript, and I said, he goes, "I hope you read it." I go, "I'm not sure I'm going to." I was pissed at this guy, but I'm also a softie, right? I let him live with me, and I just didn't want anything to do with him for a while. He was so, bugged me so much, and so he split. He went down to Bisbee, Arizona, and worked at a Chinese restaurant, washing dishes at night, and then killing raccoons in the day at this ranch. And he would call me up and say, "Did you read my thing?" I said, "No, no." And this went on for about three weeks, then I get a letter, he goes, "I'm cold." And I said, "Ugh." And so I'd send him down sleeping bags, some Coleman stoves, I'd send him some stuff, and he goes, "Did you read my thing?" I go, "No." One night, I pick it up, about four months later, five months later, and I start reading, and I read it all that night. It was Dances with Wolves.
First Encounters And Building Relationships
Unafraid to attach his own mice-killed script to the project... (01:03:03)
And I was really proud of him. I was really, really proud with him, because when you live in this town, there's people always giving you things, giving you their last, best work. This is my best work. And so you're honored to be able to read somebody's thing, but you're also in the position of having to turn around and tell them if you like it or not, and that can really take the air out of somebody. So unbelievably, Michael without, I was right not to try to listen to any of his stuff. I didn't wanna edit any of his stuff. I didn't wanna influence it. I wanted him to go till he was done. And it just took me six months to read it. And it was Dances, and I was really proud. And I called him up. I said, "I'm gonna make this into a movie." I said, "I don't know how I'm gonna do it," 'cause I didn't have that kind of money. I said, "But I'm gonna do it, "and you're gonna write the screenplay, "and I'm gonna pay you more than you've ever been paid. "I'm gonna find out what the Writers Guild is "instead of working for $3,000 "for all these goombas in town writing low-budget films." I said, "I'm gonna find out." It was like, I don't know what it was, $27,000. And I went and figured out how to get $27,000 and paid Michael. I said, "Let's do this." And we made that movie about two years later, and Mike won the Oscar. - It's such a fine movie. Was it originally titled Dances with Wolves? - Yeah. - It was, right from the beginning. - Yeah. - How long did he give it to you, in basically novel form, or what? - Yeah, it was all written out in manuscript. It was about as thick as a phone book, but when you mashed it down, it was, I don't know what it was, 200 pages, I'm not sure. - And how did you end up directing that movie? Was it your intention? - Well, I actually went out to three really important directors. I'm not gonna use their names. I know that would be interesting, but they were the top of the heap guys, and all of them had things that they wouldn't do to the movie. Some would get rid of the opening Civil War sequence. Some thought it was just too long. Somebody thought that probably it shouldn't be a white girl, that that seemed like a cliche. And I said, "Well, it really wasn't on the frontier. "People were traded. "There was a lot of that going on." And so once I got past them, I thought to myself, "You know, I think I should direct this." And I'll probably, going back to our earlier discussion where you talked about were you ever afraid, I really had a good script. I knew it. I worked with Mike. In fact, Mike said, "Man," he didn't have a lot of fun working with me on the script. He said it was like having to clap because I made him rewrite himself till we got it right because I would look at him and I said, "Well, look, you're either gonna write it "or I'm gonna do it. "I think you should do it." And you know, Mike never rewrote himself after that and he never had another produced screenplay. But I-- - So that was his only produced screenplay? - Own produced screenplay. And I was hard, not hard, but I knew when it was working in my mind and when I didn't think it was working, I knew we had to fix that. And it just came back to either you're gonna do it or I'm gonna do it. And I said, "I think you'd be wise if you did it." Then you would always be able to say, "It's yours."
The dance and the chalkboard..."Look!" (01:06:18)
And he did. And you know, that's how that happened. - What mistakes did you make early on directing, if any come to mind? Or what lessons learned? - Yeah, I think the, I thought I had to make up my own shot list every day. So I'd be working late at night after a long day of like how I would do the shots. And I don't, you know, I had Dean Simlar at this really world-class cinematographer. And I think I made a mistake worrying about that aspect of it, you know? Because if I, you know, look at directing's kinda like, you know, unless you don't, you know, unless you watch a lot of porn, it's like you kinda, you don't really know how other people make love, right? You don't know how other people direct. - I was wondering where that was going. - I didn't know how other people directed. You know, I'd only been on a few movies. So I wasn't sure how I was supposed to direct, but I had my own idea about how, but it's like, so if you don't see anybody do it, how do you know if you're doing it right? You know, you just, you kind of like, maybe that was a, maybe you'll edit that out. You know, you're just, how do you know? - No, it makes perfect sense. - You're kinda trying your own way. I actually direct sometimes with a chalkboard. And that has a lot to do with my own athletic background. Sometimes when I have really big scenes, I'll pull out a chalkboard and I'll look at somebody because a lot of times I'll be doing what you're doing, which is they're giving me some chin boogies like that. But what I realize is they're afraid. The actor's afraid and he's going like this. He's me at the chalkboard when I'm in the fourth grade. - He's nodding. - He's nodding, but he's not hearing me. So when I go out to do a really big explosive take and he's supposed to be somewhere and he's like over there and I go, hey, what happened? I was looking right at you and he's gone.
About body language & Fresh Directors Program (01:08:08)
So I long time ago, I go, wait a second, maybe he's a visual guy. Maybe he's basically his head's bobbing up and down because he's saying, please don't look at me. Please don't talk to me. So I found that that chalkboard helped a lot of people. They physically understood. - And would you use the chalkboard to storyboard or what would you be doing? - No, mostly in big action sequences where you gotta be here, you gotta be there. I wouldn't like a chalkboard in a sit around thing, but I would find that when I had to communicate with a lot of people, a lot going on. - Almost like football playing. I mean, you have the X's in the circles, right? - Absolutely, I said, look, this is what's gonna happen and I go, don't forget, if there's a shooting and you're over here, you're gonna have to be ducking your head. I need for you to be doing that. It's always like that. I think I compensated for how I learn with other people. I mean, there was other mistakes. I think when we kill the one, the one Native American, the Pawnee, finally in the river, they're chasing him down the river, I think I wouldn't have gotten such a circle around him. I think I would have just had them look and then pour in on him. There was a moment though, where they were glad they caught him. I just felt like the circle was too, it was just too perfect. I just thought there was this kind of thing where he realized he couldn't run anymore. They look, they look, and then just descend on him. So I look at that and I think that was a mistake. I shouldn't have done that. - Such a great movie. I was really struck by it. I only saw "Dancing with Wolves" for the first time a few years ago. I was becoming very interested in Lakota Sioux and looking at a lot of Native American heritage and mythology and whatnot. But anyway, I mean-- - That movie was different than a lot of movies for in the sense that that was a journey movie. It wasn't a plot movie. It's like, how are we gonna rob the bank? Well, you get your crew, you get your plan, and then something starts to go wrong with your plan. You didn't know where the movie was going. And I think people were able to just go for the ride. - Oh, well, just the entire transformation of the protagonist throughout the movie. You don't need the extra kudos, but it had a real impact on me. So thank you for helping to put that out into the world.
Kevin's books and John's background in bookstores (01:10:35)
You have so many different interests. Like you'd mentioned, you have the long-standing interest in music, you have obviously the acting and the directing very manually literate. I mean, you know how to work with your hands, framing houses, et cetera. And I'm holding here in my left hand, this is the Explorer's Guild. And this is sort of a book after my own heart in a way. This is a thick tome. But why writing? Why the Explorer's Guild? How did this come together? - Well, it came together, it's not how, it wasn't on my agenda to do this. As I go through my life, I'm always really open to meeting people. And since there was a writer and a couple of his friends wanted to meet me and I was told that he was very, very talented, but they wanted to meet me at some point and talk about some story ideas that they might've had. And I had a level of trust in a person that told me they were good and that kind of thing.
Kevin's commitment to see the meeting through to the end (01:11:27)
And I like, my mind's always open to things. So we met not with the idea that we were gonna write a book, I was gonna listen to what they had to say. And that person was John Baird. And we met at the Four Seasons actually, John's with us. I mean, you were nice enough to invite him in and let him be part of this. - Of course. - Thanks for letting me crash. - Yeah. - Although, I think I can be a more effective salesperson sometimes when I'm out of the picture. Thanks for having me. - Of course. No, I'm just so curious how something of this magnitude manifests because, yes, I mean, I'd just love to hear you expand on what happened at the meeting and then what followed after that. - Well, he came in and he kind of had this idea that I was, I couldn't get my arms around really what he was saying. And-- Yeah, there was a thing, you know, anybody has to, hard sometimes on a cold meeting to get traction and John was having trouble getting traction. But it turns out he was, you know, in his favor, the story he was talking about was pretty elaborate. But so it was like, how do you do that really, really quickly? And I couldn't get my arms around. I said, why don't we talk the following week? You come up to Santa Barbara, we won't be in the Four Seasons, we'll be in my backyard. And I have to admit that the story was still a little bit unclear. I think John was still working it.
John's evaluation of when he & Kevin first met (01:13:08)
- He's trying to. - But I had a bigger feeling about who this guy was. And I thought, I wanna be around this guy, John Baron. - What gave you that feeling? - I can't always say it, you know, I can't always articulate it. But, you know, you feel you're around somebody that has a different voice, thinks in a different way, as a wicked wit. And it was just, I believe the story was there underneath the stuttering. - So, John, maybe you can tell me because obviously there are two sides to this story, right? It's kind of like the Rashomon of the birthing of a book. So why did you want to meet Kevin? - Well, I'd like to tell you that we had some really well worked out plan and it was just a question of communicating it to him. I think we had a general idea of a secret society of explorers, you know, we thought that this would be a gateway to just innumerable stories. And it was, we were presenting it as a kind of throwback to that classic epic adventure storytelling. And, you know, given an opportunity to meet with someone of Kevin's stature, of course, we wouldn't say no, but the fact is, he has, you know, what we discover is he's got, he's sort of a fan of those same old classic stories that we actually love. And so, you know, things kind of took off from there. We both found that we love that big canvas storytelling. We love the idea of, you know, secret parts in the world and hidden histories and the collaboration took off from there. But I think that, you know, he's not, he is not mischaracterizing the, our first couple of meetings at all. And it had less, I think, to do with being starstruck and more just, you know, this is a very anti-Hollywood story. We didn't have an end game. We didn't have even a format that we liked. I had a couple of sketches, a couple of storylines, a couple of ideas. - Right, it wasn't aliens meets diehard. - I don't present them down, Kevin. It was, my pitching is still terrible. You know, so, and I don't know if that was part of maybe the allure for Kevin, because he would, this wasn't something that was presented to him fully formed by any stretch. It just had some elements and some things that he, I think he may have sparked to.
Collaborative Writing And Publication
When did Peter and Kevin decide to work together? (01:15:21)
And it was always going to be something that we formed together. - And then, so what, when did, when did you decide to actually pull the trigger and work together on this? - I think, I think it was that second time, or did you come up one more time? - Well, and again, to Kevin's credit, it was, it was, and it was, we're recording in a place right now, and it was maybe five feet from where we're talking. And he said, yeah, you know what? I still really don't get this, but let's do it. And it, as a testament to, you know, you probably heard him as he's recreating some of his biggest successes and people always see him when the rock is rolling down the hill, that's the part they see. What they don't see is all the pushing that goes, and he's pushing it downhill, no mistake. But I think by the time, you know, people see him, it's, you know, you kind of think he's got it pretty easy. I've been witness, you know, myself now to the, this is eight or nine years ago when we met. And there was just all kinds of, all sorts of misfires, all sorts of, you know, trying some things and scrambling back, reformulating, trying it again before about four years ago, we sort of, I came to him saying, look, let's just do this as the book. - Okay, so initially was the plan to do a whole collection of multimedia properties, or was it intended to be a film initially, and then decided to be in this iteration of the book? - Well, it was always a book that's my background in sort of minor books, but, you know, we think that the story, the structure of it is so expansive, it lends itself in, I think 360 degree media was a popular thing at the time, perhaps still is. And we saw a lot of opportunity there. I think we tried, you know, we tried animating it for what could have been, you know, in these very small chunks, Kevin put some of our smaller animations together and thought, you know, maybe we have a, go from a web series, or maybe this is an animated TV series or something like that. - It was really cool. We did animate it and everything I saw about it is, once we started working, I just picked up the momentum of loving it. And, you know, we talked earlier about some of my films that I haven't done the sequels to. I saw this as something that had innumerable stories. You know, it just was going to, it could be, it was big storytelling, it was big canvas. So I thought to myself, gravity's gonna just fall right to our, everything's gonna come right to our door. This is what people are looking for. And so we did this and I think John's, you know, alluding to the fact that no, people didn't. They wanted to know, well, you know, who's the boy in it? You know, and, you know, there is a little boy and he go, could he have a magic watch? Make him fly, 'cause our boy doesn't have a magic watch or fly. - What if you don't have lesbians? - Yeah, we could get a lesbian in here too. And so we said, yeah. - Are these Hollywood people giving this feedback? - Yeah, well, John heard those versions and I heard the magic watch version, which is we can put them in because they exist in the world, but maybe not in our world in this particular moment. So we think our boy's better off having a hole in his head than having a watch in his pocket. - A magic watch and lesbians. - So what happened was it didn't work. And then we went on and we kind of got out. That was like, again, that was probably five years ago and we stopped. And I think John felt that I was humiliated by all the no's by executives. I wasn't, but I appreciated him. That's the only time I ever saw John get really mad. He goes, these people shouldn't be saying no to you. And I needed to look at them and think, well, who am I, John? Other than a storyteller, they can say no. It is what it is. But I loved his defensiveness for me. But we stayed the course. We went off and wrote a Western together and John came back and said, I'm gonna write the book. 'Cause that's my background. And I said, go, man, go. - And so this is a beautiful book.
Creating the book: Form following function. (01:19:10)
I mentioned before we started recording that I wanted to be a comic book penciler for a very long time. Aesthetically, how did you think about putting together the book? Because I mean, just it's clearly very, very consciously decided. I mean, the paper stock, the tint of the paper. I mean, it's just a physically beautiful. - Yeah, well, I have a long background 'cause as you might know, writing books is not a great way to make a living. And though I had a couple, I had to support myself doing other things. And I was always an art director and a designer and wanted to be an illustrator. And I got to, I had a lot of experience in not just design, but right through press. I got very into the, 'cause I really like the sort of ins and outs of paper stock and printing techniques and finishing techniques. So the two things I had done before this, that they didn't find much of an audience, they were very same thing, very carefully done. Each page was well thought through and this always is going to have a graphic element in it. Before we leave the idea of Kevin just sort of saying, go man, go on the book.
Kevin's collaboration in the book. (01:20:11)
It's true that that was the initial brief, where we kind of ping pong some story for many years. And then when it came format wise, he was doing his things and I was gonna run off with the book. It started that way, but the thing I really always need to say, 'cause I think people will make certain assumptions when they see there's a celebrity, someone of Kevin's stature and someone who's me. I think the thought is probably that, here's a guy who's probably reading it along with the rest of America and wanted to sort of show up when it's on press, make sure his name is in the right place. This was really, it may have started, he may have started in more of a backseat role on it because this was a book and not a film and 'cause it was something I brought to him. But as pages started coming in, it was very natural for him just to slip into it like he has on any other project. And I mean, it started in a general way, kind of shaping it like you would bounce material, but then it was, he's bringing characters and storylines and dialogue and then he's page by page with me, always making time, knocking these out, getting through it. And at a certain point, it was no longer something that was mine that he was giving input on, this was ours and we were collaborating on it. - What would a jam session look like? In other words, to organize those inputs and try to synthesize it. This is something I've always been fascinated by because I've never had a writing partner, which I quite frankly envy a lot. And I've come to know a lot of comedy writers who work in film and they're almost always at least a pair. In this particular case, how did you guys collaborate and sort of capture and decide then what would be drafted? - There's a third component too, as you kind of alluded to, I didn't illustrate this thing myself. It's way beyond my talents and certainly my endurance. There's a guy named Rick Ross, who is the major part of making this book what it is. We joke, we'd like to characterize it for you as like a sort of an extended keyboard that we're both kind of jamming on in our berets. My process is very, very solitary generally. And I think probably a lot of people who hack their way through, especially this kind of writing, it starts in just a room alone and there were long stretches like that. But the rewarding part for me was getting to bring product up here. Kevin, I think has a little more of a kinetic type of process where I think it's the actorly directorial sort of mindset where he envisioned sort of living in these people and he can sort of from character to character and he knows how certain people would act and how certain people wouldn't. He knows where he wants things to lead and how best to get there. And so where I might be following up on his ideas from last time and bringing them up in a certain form, he would kind of springboard off of that. And then it was kind of following around and burying through notebooks while he just goes. So that, it was very different from what I am used to doing, but it was sometimes very hard to keep up. - Did you capture that flow of ideas in say, a single word document, on a board, on paper?
The tools they used while collaborating. (01:23:15)
How did you capture and then process? - I'll occasionally come up if, 'cause something like this, there are just storylines on storylines and wheels within wheels. And it's, every once in a while, even just for me, I need to whiteboard it. And he always sort of takes shots at me for being sort of an egg head. But he's always very indulgent. No, no, I'll go with this. I'll go with this now. Bring up some sort of chart or something that will go through. But mostly it's sort of theater of his mind. And I can kind of be there, sort of rolling with it and trying to get what I need out of it and sort of give and take some of that. - So mostly it's really just conversations. - There would be a level of point by point thing. Sometimes if I would have to write down everything that I'm thinking about what I was actually thinking about and that would go to him. And then sometimes out of that, when we've come up, then we would really begin to rift. Because it's made up of five books. People call them five chapters. We call them five books. And we would advance down the line, even though we were in book two. Sometimes we would be dealing with what was gonna happen in four and five and actually then circle back to something else. So it was like that. Sometimes it's written down. Sometimes it's on my feet. - What do you mean by that? Oh, just I got it. Improvised. - Well, not improvising, but trying to break it down.
The Pocket Cop (01:24:52)
It's John's voice, absolutely. And I think it's really appropriate that when you talk about the book and you look, it was really important that John's name stand alone up top there. That was very important to me. I had a lot to do with the cover and versus what was on it versus what is, what people wanted. Rick Ross and I, we always wanted to be a part of something that could stand the test of time. When you talk about these books, Kipling, Jules Verne, Robert Lusit Stevenson, Mark Twain, Conrad, the kind of books that have that heft, that sit up on the shelf, that's what we wanted. Now, whether we got there or not is nearly as important as what it was we wanted to do. I liked the idea of taking something off the shelf that has the heft of this, actually having to blow the dust off it. And that's what this book is. This book is almost an heirloom for me. A book that who reads us goes, I'm gonna pass this down to my little brother, my little sister. I'm gonna get this book for them. 'Cause there hasn't, where are these books? I mean, we're looking in our last century, in the century before for our classics. Who's writing them for us now? That's what we wanted. That was our love of it. And so I brought, I guess, the love of that to the characters that I liked in this and where we wanted to go with them. But only John writes in this specific way. I can't write the way he writes. I can see my stories in there, but I can't see them as beautiful as how John has written them. - And who is the target audience? Who is your sort of ideal reader or type of reader? Who would like this book? What type of person, what type of reader? - You know, I think we're not always the best equipped. I think, you know, I'm sure our marketing gang at Simon & Schuster, at Atria Books, who've been really excellent partners too, might have a real good spiel for you on the demo for this. - But when you were writing it, like who was in your-- - Yeah, no, I think that's exactly it. I think when we were, like anything, and especially when you're talking about four years of just, there's not gonna be any feedback from the world while you're doing it. You really have to be doing it to please yourself. I think one of the things that set me loose most was Kevin saying, look, you know, ultimately, we're not gonna judge the success of this by units sold or, you know, where it goes in the world if it makes a big movie or not. Don't worry about the movie. Don't worry about all that stuff. Worry about doing something that's meaningful to us that he says, you know, like he said, like that can sort of sit on the shelf. I mean, this is a big, big statement. I don't necessarily say we delivered on it, but the aspiration was always sit on a shelf with Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Connor Kipling, you know, try to hold a place up there. And if we feel like we're at least trying for that, and we feel like we're being honest to the ideas that we have and true to that, we're gonna reach maybe not everybody, but the people we do reach, those 10 percenters, who feel it and who are gonna feel like this was really written for me. I've been waiting for something like this and it hasn't been in the market. That's gonna be our success.
Who is the Target Audience? (01:28:02)
- Yeah, you know, you can quantify. You can actually put an age, okay, a 12-year-old, you know, a 12-year-old who's pretty, you know, really wants to get with it, who loves reading. But six-year-olds are gonna become 12-year-olds. So when we were also doing the book, there was a notion of, well, can we simplify the language? Can we, I don't wanna use the word dumb it down, but there's, I don't know how else to explain it. What do you mean, simplify it? This is how we wanna talk. Because when you think somebody's gonna travel through time, people are gonna find it. And they find it when they're probably, look at when you make bull derma, you make tin cup, there's R to it, okay? So the 12-year-old can't see it, but he's gonna see it. So there's something about trying to be true. The problem that we deal with, I think, in the world, artistically, is that everybody's got this little meter on their shoulder, something like go faster, or somebody's like, you know, a pace. It's going too slow. When we decided that we were gonna make a book, we weren't gonna have anybody tell us how to do it, other than how we felt about it. And we felt that this could become, perhaps, a classic in our own time.
Artistic Development And Influences
Kevin's thoughts on developing oneself as an artist. (01:29:03)
- So this is not maybe directly related, but for you, Kevin, after all of the accolades, the awards, the box office success, how do you continue to develop yourself as an artist? How do you think about that? - I just move towards the things that interest me. And if I get really interested, if I'm not doing a movie and I'm really interested in Little League, I'm gonna do Little League with my kids in the spring, and I'll be really interested. I move towards the things and towards the people that interest me. And story usually has a bit of a attachment to almost all of those things, the poetry of telling a story. - What, John, for you, what type of fiction or nonfiction writers have most influenced your thinking about storytelling?
John discusses other writers' styles that influenced him. (01:29:47)
- I think we mentioned a few of the canon. When we talk about more recent comparables, we just generally put this in a framework for people to go to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but what we're really doing is drawing from the same well that those guys drew from, which is, I mean, that specific was probably more the H. R. Edgar books, the King Solomon's mind, the quarterly mysteries. So for me, the Treasure Island, Moby Dick, all these classics filtered through Thomas Pynchon. You'll see that layering and creeping into a surrealism toward the end that I always dug in him. But I think there's a reason that those stories of Conrad and Kipling's "Stay Evergreen," and they may be thought of now as kind of required reading, but I think our idea was there's a reason why these stories still thrill us today. If we can, as Kev says, well, more metaphorically, blow a little of the dust off it and bring it to a new audience, we felt that that would succeed. There's also just, parenthetically, when you mentioned the graphics, that was another decision too of, I think, 'cause what you'll see when you open it is it's a little bit of a hybrid between a traditional novel and not just an illustrated novel, but a paneled sort of graphic novel. But I think it was a little more of a problem than we would have anticipated. Just with the "Gatekeepers of," I heard a lot of heads kind of between two chairs was a phrase that pecked at me for a while. - Was it heads between two chairs? - This kind of lands between two chairs. The idea is, are we gonna put it in a graphic picture? - Yeah, I was the first one to say, huh. - I know, I know. But which I know, there are a lot of knee-jerk things. People's job is, you gotta classify it one way or the other, and sometimes it's difficult to classify, is usually like, thanks, but no, thanks. - Well, it's a very anachronistic element of old-school publishing, right?
Controversy around the book's comic strip format. (01:31:50)
Where they think in terms of a retail store and not a search algorithm, where it's like, and word of mouth. - And you think like, well, my feeling was if we put it in front of somebody, they're gonna get it or they're not. And there are people who will stumble when it's going from a straight paragraph into paneled graphics who are not gonna get it. I feel like after the third or fourth time, though, the idea was always that the graphics weren't gonna be ancillary. There weren't gonna be something you could skip. The story would go right through them. I wanted the art to be really integrated and in a way that you don't see in a lot of places. But I also wanted our story to have a lot of heft when it went right to the text. So yeah, it's a bit of an odd doc. I mean, we don't need a fish in our file. We heard a lot of that, and we're like, you know what? We think when people see it, they're gonna get it, and that was more important. - I always remember the joy of when I'd have one of those books, "Treasure Island," that I could see in the middle of that book that there was pictures. - Yeah, yeah, that you'd see the glossy pictures. - And I wanted to get to them. I did, and I somehow knew in my heart that I wasn't supposed to just go to the... It's not like the centerfold of Playboy. Let's just get right to it. And you had to earn your way. But I was always, maybe this was the jock part of me, but I was always like, I wish there'd be more pictures. You know, because that always let you really imagine the duel on the beach with what those guys had cutlasses and they were gonna go, and who was gonna win, and there was something about that. And so, you know, I kinda wanted more of that. And I think, but the reality was, when you came to those pictures, often you just stopped and looked at it. You just stopped. And here it's not that same experience. You can stop and enjoy, but the story is gonna travel through those pictures. So it's not just that you're feasting on it, although the drawing of Rick is that spectacular, I think, but really the pictures are, you're still in the middle of the story. - Yeah, it's a cool combo. I mean, I remember with my last book, decided to make multi-sections, illustrations, photographs, and I'd never done either before, really. My previous two books.
The process of illustrating the book (01:34:06)
It's a huge undertaking. I mean, it's, from a production standpoint, I can imagine it being quite challenging because did Rick start, when did Rick start on the illustrations? Was it after the primary text was done or was it concurrent? - Yeah, well, in the interest of getting it in in a sort of finite timeframe, I think after the first chapter, we brought Rick in and there's a sort of a interesting story behind that, our finding of Rick, but-- - Well, hey, I like interesting stories. - Well, I mean, look at, you know, John, he said, look, John's a beautiful drawer and himself, an illustrator, he's mentioned that and really good, but he understood that the volume of work that was gonna be here was just unbelievable. It was epic. It's epic and I hope that people out there, however we've managed to bore them, go, the book is better than this interview, at least on our part. I think, Tim, you're doing great, but the book is really special and it's a great thing to give yourself and to give a young friend, you know, it's a stocking stuffer, if you will, but we knew that this was gonna be an amazing task to illustrate this. Probably should have been four guys, but he wanted somebody to be able to draw in the vein of Windsor MacKay. Now, I don't know if you know who Windsor MacKay is and we've been to big giant book signings and I always think I'm gonna be blown away by the intellectuals and usually only one of them out of 400 knows who Windsor MacKay is. That always makes me happy because my problem was, when John said, well, we gotta get somebody that draws like Windsor MacKay, if you're me, you go, then why don't we get Windsor MacKay? Well, Windsor MacKay's dead. He was doing this in the '20s. It was really the father of this kind of work, if you will, or whatever. And so John, I said, so how do we find this Windsor MacKay? And John said, let's get him in Craigslist. And that's what we did. He put an ad in Craigslist. He threw out that bait knowing that only a few, like the dog who can only hear a certain sound out there. - Yeah, I know, that's genius. - Only a few people are gonna know who Windsor MacKay is. So that we knew the line out in front wasn't gonna be that long. And out of that, great artists culled down to one fabulous artist. And Rick happened to be in between jobs. He thought he had a month to kill and he ended up working on this for almost three years. Did every bit of art on it, including the cover. It's really, it's a jewel of a book. - That was a beautiful piece of work. I mean, and I haven't yet had the chance to read it, but it sort of combines a lot of elements and aspects or genres of storytelling that I find very appealing. And you were talking about the genre and the slotting, which the categorization, which I'm really disillusioned by in a sense, because for instance, I mean, you have these books and you're talking about age earlier. There's some fantastic books out there, whether it's the "The Never Ending Story" or Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials." I think it is like "The Golden Compass" where that's in the young adult section, which in my mind meant, oh, this is written for young adults. And I picked up the book and I had to look up probably 200 words, including a lot of nautical terminology. I was like, how can a 12 year old read this? But this is great writing. It's really compelling. And I think the fact of the matter is that if you put something out there that is truthful in so much as it's what you wanted to write, that younger readers will rise to the challenge if it's, you don't have to-- - That's right, there's no ceiling on who's gonna be able to enjoy it. - Yeah, you don't have to dumb it down. So I'm very excited to dig in. I assume people can find this everywhere in terms of Amazon bookstores. - I think so Barnes and Noble, Amazon. - The usual. - And I think, and a lot of the independent bookstores are picking it up. It's selling. And six days in, we were able to jump to the New York Times bestseller, which was kind of a surreal moment. - When you have partners, you're really glad for them. I was really glad for Rick and for John to be able to say that one day. I do think these guys are gonna be, you're gonna be hearing about John into next century. That's what I believe. And I'm really glad that you gave us a chance to talk about this book. - Yeah, absolutely. So where can people find this online? I'm gonna put all the show notes for those people listening. There'll be links to everything we've discussed, including the book, obviously, in the show notes at fourhourworkweek.com/podcast, all spelled out. But for those people who want to find it on social, on the web, where are the best places for them to look? - There is a welcometotheexplorersguild.com that is set up by the publisher, and that has links there to not only the places you can buy it online, but also our various sort of social media feeds. I think there are, I haven't got them memorized. - That's okay.
A treasure hunt for listeners (01:39:21)
We also have our own, we created a website. What's it called? - Well, we've got our Facebook thing, our Instagram. I don't know what we got. - What do you say? What do you call our Facebook thing? - You know it. - I don't know. - That's the beauty of the internet. - You know what it is? If you can find it out there, this is like a treasure hunt for everybody listening. But if you find it, you're gonna see exactly how we start it. We have all our starting materials. - Oh, you do, very cool. - And we did our own kind of - The making of. - Internal interviews about our own process. So it's almost as long as a book now. You see our drawings. - Oh, that's cool. - We do time-lapse drawings. - Oh, nice. I love seeing the behind the scenes. - I don't even know what my own website is. - Well, that's the beauty of the show notes.
Kevin's definition of success (01:40:06)
So folks, I'll provide links to all of that. But Kevin, do you have a few minutes to do just a handful of more sort of rapid fire questions? - Yeah. - And - My lawyer's standing by and my other lawyer's standing. I have a legion of lawyers, so go ahead and shoot. - All right, we have, I'm getting the green flag. - Tim's eyes got big for a second and they just normally don't do that. - The good news is my eyes are already kind of fishbowl size. So they start off big. - Well, you keep wanting to go outside like me on the piano. It looks fun here. - Oh, it's gorgeous outside. So everybody take a look at the show notes. We will come back to that before we take off. Just a handful of questions here, Kevin, and obviously very much appreciate the time. When you think of the word successful, who is the first person who comes to mind and why? - The first person, I think Steven Spielberg's really successful. You know, I, and I think Thomas Jefferson was successful. You know, I guess I'm not leaping to the giants of today, but you know, as you drill down on that list, you know, then you start to go to Bezos and you start to go to Jobs and you go to Bill Gates. Really successful, really found their way. But I guess at first blush, I don't know, I just said Spielberg is, I mean, here's a guy that's probably not so dominant in his personality that has been able to do everything he's wanted to do. - Is there anything else about how he's led his career otherwise that you particularly admire or? - I don't think Steven has limited himself. I think that early on people tried to say, oh, we can only make this kind of story. This guy is really gifted, he's a really gifted filmmaker. And I think he has challenged almost all genres. He really has, you know, from Sugarland Express to, you know, it's, he's, I think, you know, to Minority Report and to these different things, besides the obvious ones, you know, that really changed the way people look at film. You know, Jaws and E.T. and Close Encounters were giant, giant movies. And I think that he has really bounced around.
Personal Interests And Trivia
Favorite documentary (01:42:35)
I think he's been incredibly successful. - A very diverse canon of work. - I do. - Do you have any favorite documentaries? - Yeah, it was called Coney Island. - Coney Island. - Narrated by McCollum, David McCollum, and it blew me away. It blew me away to finally understand that Coney Island was so much more than just roller coasters. It was the most popular place on the earth at the turn of the century. It was bigger than Paris, it was bigger than Chicago, and it was because all the inventors were going there. They were allowed to do things. The medical profession, which wouldn't allow this guy who said, "Hey, I think I know how to keep babies alive. "You know, I can heat 'em, incubation." And they just ran 'em out on town. Coney Island said, "Do it here." And so he did, and it was the most popular exhibit. You could walk in and see these babies that were kept alive. The great Edison, all these guys were hanging around Coney Island. We think of it in terms of the warriors, like decrepit roller coasters and things falling apart. Coney Island, there was three competing parks that were all as big as Disneyland. Luna Park, Coney Island, and it was the place to be in the world. And so look this documentary up, Coney Island, narrated by David McCollum. I was blown away by it. - When do you go to bed and wake up in the morning?
Kevin's sleep schedule (01:44:07)
- When do I go to bed? I don't have a regular schedule when I go to bed, but when I wake up is pretty specific. The alarm starts going off, and one, two, then the dog, three people end up in bed. There's five people in bed, dog, and now the cat coexists there too. It's really a problem. My kids are really hot, way too hot to be around. It's like warm, the bed's not comfortable. It's just now it's just too hot and I want out. - What time is that? - Well, that's probably around seven, and we gotta be in the car at 10 to eight, or I gotta sign this crummy little sheet that says, "Why you're late." Our name is in it so much at their school. They all go to the same school. There's tears before they get there sometimes, 'cause there are five, six, and seven. There's backpacks that are all over. My kids are just like me. They can't keep their shit together. It's everywhere. - Tools and baseballs and everything. - It's just everywhere. It's just everywhere, and when you say, "Where's your sweater?" They'll say, "It's in the car," which is a bullshit answer, but I hope people understand that my life is just as cluttered as theirs probably, but my wife and I both, if I'm not making a movie, and I haven't made one since last November, just taking a year into my own life, we drive together. We did this morning. We drive 'em, and we drop 'em off. I don't know why. I look like a dorky dad in the seat, and I get out and give 'em their backpacks, and my wife's driving, and it's like, I don't know how that looks, but it's how my life plays. - Do you have any, well, this is, I suppose you could choose either one of these questions.
The one thing Kevin would change about himself (01:45:47)
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, and/or, do you have any bad habit or bad habits that you're currently working to overcome in any way? - I wish I was more disciplined about wanting to work out, 'cause I need to, but I hate it. I hate thinking about the clothes you have to wear if you go to a gym. I hate the idea of picking up lead. It makes no sense to me. I don't wanna run with headphones. I wanna, if I'm gonna run, I wanna make sure I'm watching the news. I'm not disciplined about taking care of my body. I wish I could, but it's not, it just, exercise is just a drag, man. - I'll do some thinking on that.
Did Kevin do his own equestrian scenes? (01:46:39)
I might have some ideas for you. Is it true that you did all of your, that you've done all or most of your riding, equestrian work in your movies? - Yeah, I've done most of it. I've had some, I've always had stunt guys in my movies, and they have done some really, really difficult things, but because it's important for me to put the camera as close to the action as possible, I've done most of my riding, but I have been covered by excellent stuntmen. I've had stuntmen make me look faster and make the jump look farther, but I have put myself in the middle of stampedes. I don't know why, with no reins and going. So I like that part of it. I always think, who wouldn't wanna go after the bad guy yourself? Why do you just automatically give that up? I heard Roger Moore, who I think is great, but used to say, oh no, that's too far. I don't do that. And it might've been just a step over. Get my stunt, no, I'm not gonna wrestle here. I kinda wanted that. I wanted to jump on it and save the day. Who wouldn't wanna swing from rope to rope in Robin Hood? Who wouldn't wanna do that? I had a stunt guy help me, but whenever I can, I do it.
Historical figures (01:47:49)
- Is there, are there any particular historical figures that you identify with? - Not that I identify with, but Mark Twain is someone I think about a lot. - He's amazing, yeah. - Lincoln I think a lot about, and Jefferson, you heard me mention him, is somebody I think a lot about. I would've liked to have met Crazy Horse. I would've liked to have met Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. I would've liked to known how fucked up they must've felt about at the end going, Jesus, we're just gonna have to fight for our life. And we've been here for thousands of years. And who are you people that would make me run for my life and watch my brothers and sisters and my children die? Who the fuck are you? This used to be the Garden of Eden. What happened? - And I know we don't have time to get into it today, but Tatanka, the story of the bison. Can you describe that briefly for people so they can sort of look into it? - It's a very humble little information center. I had bigger ideas for it, that it could be a hotel, that it could ultimately be a museum. If there's anyone out there, entrepreneurial enough, I'm an entrepreneurial guy, but I've put about as much as I can. If anyone thinks there's something missing in this country, like where the first people went, especially on the plains, I have a place where we could make a great museum together. And I fear that I've long chased everybody away from this interview a long time ago. But if there's somebody out there, there's somebody out there that burning to keep that story, which is our story, alive, I have the place to put it. And along with it, I'll put these incredible statues, the story of the bison, these bronzes that are amazing. Right there in Actually Deadwood. So I need a partner now. I've done all the heavy lifting I can, but if somebody is in love with our history, and has a way through money and love of the history to keep it alive, you come be my partner. - Do you recall your Twitter handle offhand? - My what handle? - Your Twitter. - I don't do Twitter. - Okay, all right, we don't do Twitter. I will-- - I don't do Facebook either, though I'm told I have an account. - Okay, so I will do some detective work and put in the show notes, - Thanks. - Perhaps how you can, how you can track down Mr. Costner. - I just need one guy. - Just one guy. - I don't want a bunch of partners. I need one guy who goes, I like this stuff, and I got a ton of money, and we are gonna remember this stuff. I'm gonna do it in a really classy way.
- If you could put one billboard anywhere, what would it say? What would you have on the billboard? - Not the book, but just a general-- - I'd put it in Washington, I'd say no term, no, you know-- - Oh, no term limit. - Yeah, I'd say enough. You know what, we don't need more experience. We need a work ethic that by the time you're done there, you're so tired, you don't wanna go back after one term or two terms. You're done after two. Experience is not helping us, it's clogging us up. - Two more, that's it.
Final Remarks And Advice
What advice would you give to your 30-year-old self? - To my 30-year-old self? I'm gonna say something. We talked about the conservative upbringing I had, the idea that you were gonna do this, this is how a man makes a living. My turning point was at 22 when I said, I'm gonna be an actor and I don't care what anybody else thinks. So I wish I could have got that advice earlier, but I had to actually give it to myself. So what would I give myself at 30? I think I would have stayed in more control of the projects that I lent my name to. - Good advice. 'Cause I'm 38 now, that's the conclusion I just came to last year, in retrospect. And last question is, do you have any asks or requests of everybody listening to this?
Parting thoughts (01:52:23)
Is there anything you'd like them to take away with them? Obviously, everybody will see in the show notes and elsewhere, the Explorers Guild, but is there any message or any parting comment or suggestion that you'd like to make? - Well, one, obviously, whatever audience it is that is out there supporting you likes the long form of communication. And I hope your audience understands that we like it too. The thing that's hard for us is to go on these nighttime television shows and come up with some small pat joke, and then you introduce your movie and then you're done. So this has been good for me. And I do wanna return to the book for those who have waited through this interview with us. This was something that I didn't know that was gonna be in my life. And this book, which I hope you read, it turned out better than I thought it ever could. It was really something that I'm proud to be a part of. And I hope you not only get the book, but the book does something to you, which I think all stories or art can do, which is, and it's something we all have in common. I know that when I read something great, the first thing I wanna do is share it. I know that when I hear a great song, the first thing I wanna do is share it. If I hear a joke, the first thing I wanna do is share it. I hope, it's the same with movies. And I hope that when you read Explorers Guild, your first instinct will be, I need to share this. And that really is what I hope, you know? And my advice out there for people who get so completely overwhelmed by Christmas, it's a great way to stuff your stocking. Take the thinking out of things. You don't know what to get somebody, get them the Explorers Guild. Let them go on their own journey. - It's a beautiful book, and you're a wonderful creator. I really appreciate all the time. - Thank you. - And I'm a huge fan of your work, so please continue to create and collaborate with other people. And I'm waving to John just a few feet away. Also, thank you. I appreciate you guys making the time. And to everyone listening, you can find the show notes, links to everything at 4hourworkweek.com, all spelled out, forward slash podcast, or just go to 4hourworkweek.com and click on podcast. And as always, thank you for listening. Hey guys, this is Tim again.
Tim Ferriss email. (01:55:00)
Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Five Bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend? And Five Bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up. In the world of the esoteric as I do, it could include favorite articles that I have read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to 4hourworkweek.com. That's 4hourworkweek.com all spelled out and just drop in your email and you will get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you by 99designs. 99designs is a great partner for creating and growing your business. It's a one-stop shop for all of your graphic design needs, whether that's a logo, website, business card, or anything else. I use 99designs to get book cover prototypes for the 4-Hour Body, which went on to become a number one New York Times bestseller. I also use them for banner ads, illustrations, and other things. With 99designs, designers around the world compete to create the best design for you. You give feedback and then pick your favorite. You end up happy or you get your money back. It's very simple. You can check out a few of my own designs and those of yours, meaning Tim Ferriss Show listeners, at 99designs.com/tim. And right now, my listeners, you guys, will get a free $99 upgrade on your first design. That's 99designs.com/tim. Check it out.
Sponsors And Commercial Breaks
Trunk Club. (01:56:58)
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