In ‘Draft Day,’ Costner tackles another sports movie

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Kevin Costner is a lifelong follower of the NFL, but the obsession many fans have these days with fantasy football mystifies him.

The actor considers himself to be more of a football purist.

“I’m a fan, but I’m not a fanatic,” Costner says. “I’ve never participated in fantasy football. It just doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m really not that interested in keeping up with the scouting combines either — or in following the draft, except maybe about who goes No. 1.

“I consider myself to be really connected to the sport, but I don’t participate in any of the extraneous stuff.”

Which is tad ironic, because his new movie, Draft Day, opening Friday, is practically tailor-made for the fantasy football fanatic.

Costner stars as Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the cellar-dwelling Cleveland Browns. The movie chronicles Weaver’s wheeler-dealer draft day moves, some inspired, others ill-advised, as he weighs the many options that go with having a No. 1 pick.

The premise quite cleverly taps into today’s fantasy football culture, which has changed the way people enjoy the game.

No longer do fans daydream about being the star quarterback; now they want to be the GM, showing their prowess as team builders.

Not that Costner thinks of the movie in that way.

“I thought it smacked of being real,” he says. “That’s always a great place to start. I don’t want to do a movie if it’s not authentic. I wouldn’t have done this movie if the NFL hadn’t put its stamp of approval on it.”

Remember how the reality of Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday was shattered every time it referenced fictional pro teams such as the Miami Sharks and Dallas Knights?

“I hate it when I see a movie and the team names are all wrong, like the Outlaws,” Costner says. “It bothers me when I don’t recognize the jerseys. It takes me out of the moment, no matter how good the movie might be otherwise. I’m sure other people feel the same way.”

There are no distractions like that in Draft Day, which uses real NFL teams and weaves in cameo appearances by real players, past and present, and real NFL Network analysts.

The filmmakers even shot part of the movie during the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, with Commissioner Roger Goodell standing at the podium.

It can’t get any more authentic than that.

Costner knows a thing or two about what really goes on behind the scenes with an NFL franchise. He has known Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones for years, for example.

When the Cowboys held spring training in California in 2001, Costner let Jones stay at his home in Santa Barbara. In 2005, Jones invited Costner to the team’s training camp.

None of that was done in the name of researching a movie role, mind you, but Costner likely absorbed details large and small that helped his performance in Draft Day.

Thanks to his winning performances in Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, a couple of baseball classics, and in Tin Cup, a favorite among golf fans, Costner’s name is synonymous with sports movies.

That’s not something he achieved on purpose. His only agenda was in doing the best material available to him, he says, and much of the good material had sports themes.

“Those movies just found me at the right time,” Costner says.

Now he’s very particular about what he’ll do in this genre.

“So many sports scripts come across my desk that they have to be something special for me to be able to enjoy it and want to do it,” he says. “I get a lot of Westerns, too, and I very rarely respond to any of it.”

So what was it about Draft Day that drew Costner in?

“I just thought it was very entertaining,” he says. “The story gets more and more interesting and eventually works itself to an ending that is quite exciting. I wouldn’t have anticipated that you could actually do that, but the author managed [it] and that’s the miracle of great writing.”

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