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One of the biggest names in American cinema, Kevin Costner, was in Istanbul recently to shoot a promotional film for Turkish Airlines' new First Class service. Costner shared his views on Turkey and Turks with our magazine.
Every now and then there are moments when a newspaperman would easily give up a few years of his life to be an unseen, unheard witness, a 'fly on the wall' so to speak. To be there and witness everything that happened at one unrepeatable moment in history.
I would have liked to be seated on that plane that took off for the U.S. from Mexico one day in February 1978, and to have seen what transpired when that attractive young couple, college sweethearts, consummated their bond in marriage.
I would like to have seen that young man, his eyes fixed meaningfully on distant horizons, who respectfully approached Richard Burton and struck up a conversation with him.
That young man who, after being told, “If you really want to be a good actor, then leave your marketing job right this minute and plant yourself
at the doors of the studios,” went back to his seat with a determined expression on his face. That moment, that tip from Richard Burton, was perhaps the turning point in Kevin Costner's career as an actor.
Costner was born in Lynwood, California. His mother, Sharon Rae, was a welfare worker, his father, William Costner, an electrical technician who was constantly on the move, with the upshot that Costner spent his childhood starting a new school and making new friends almost every year.
One idea would form the core of this young man's character, a young man who played baseball and basketball in the streets of California and who braved life's vicissitudes to set his sights high: Challenge! We are not talking here about 'being competitive', which the American system forces everybody to be to some degree. Or about not being a 'loser' or a 'failure'... In Kevin Costner's life, 'challenge' manifested itself as a determination to reject the clichés people tried to impose on him and to passionately follow the path he laid out for himself...
You played Eliot Ness in 'The Untouchables' and the distinguished prosecutor Jim Garrison in 'JFK'. What's it like being Hollywood's 'good-looking boy from a good family'-type, a strong and slightly macho character?
Although both may seem fictional, in fact they aren't. Both films are taken directly from American history. The Untouchables is a mafia film that also recounts the early days of the FBI. As for the character of Jim Garrison in JFK, Garrison was a great prosecutor who describes what he came up against as he was investigating the Kennedy assassination, one of the most horrific assassinations in our national history. John F. Kennedy was a leader at least as important as Abraham Lincoln, a leader who knew what he was doing. Unfortunately, the assassination deprived not only his country of him but also the whole of mankind for whose good he was working.
We both remember the '60's, don't we? I'm not going to talk about the '60's in Turkey. But what about the '60's in America? When we look back now, it seems hard to believe and very far away. The Vietnam war protests, the racial discrimination, the hatred, the endless violence in the streets...
The journey America has made from the 1960's up to today shows how important change is for mankind and how rapidly it occurs in our day. Of course, I remember those years. The intense hatreds, the conflicts, the wars... But one part of the U.S. was always after what was right for all of us.
Do you mean like Barack Obama?
I see a lot of Kennedy in Barack Obama. I believe that America has gone back now to the pains of change it experienced in the days of John F. Kennedy and that it is going to try to produce good results from those pains. Just like Kennedy, Obama sees the world as an opportunity, not as an enemy. If you believe that the world holds out opportunity for all people, you will pursue war but peace and cooperation.
I see... Like the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk... He, too,
as you know, sat down
for peace talks with the countries he had fought hard against to save his country from occupation. He was a statesman who knew how to take his place on the front lines of civilization.
I regret that I came to know Ataturk so late. When I came to Turkey the first time, last year in Ankara, I was astonished that a nation could feel such pride in an historic leader and to see how his story continues even today. Mankind always has a need for leaders with courage and a clear vision. They take such leaders into the future with them. Some leaders have very strong vision, but they lack courage. In others it's just the opposite; they are long on courage but short on vision to impart to mankind. I see Ataturk as a leader, just like Abraham Lincoln, who had both vision and the courage to translate that vision into reality.
The Turks love tough male characters on the silver screen, characters that stand up for what is right. The main characters of their own national cinema are very similar to the ones you portray. Turks feel a cultural affinity to those characters.
I understand, but the good and the true do not always win in the world. The whole world loves the characters you mention. But there is a difference. The region in which Turkey is located is one of the most dangerous regions in the world. And yet the Turks live here in complete self-confidence. The Turks are one of those rare peoples who have been able to turn their hardships into strengths. In every period of its history Turkey has occupied a place on the world stage, and it's going to continue to do so.
You've done great things... Oscars, Golden Globes, Academy Awards... No Way Out, Dances with Wolves, The Bodyguard, Clint Eastwood's A Perfect World, Mr. Brooks... These are incredible films, with incredible characters. It's as if you and Hollywood have a 'thing'...
Yes. They like to shoot sequels to films that were box office successes. When The Bodyguard was a hit, they immediately said let's make a second, even a third. But I don't go along with that. It's too easy. It doesn't square with my idea of the cinema. Consequently I'm in conflict with Hollywood; we are always a little at odds with one another. But I'm not going to back down in the face of their attitude.
I know you're a big Los Angeles Lakers fan. There are two Turkish stars in the NBA. Hidayet Türkoğlu and Mehmet Okur? What do you think of them?
I've seen both of them play in three or four matches. They are very good. They are both doing well. Not every basketball player can have a successful career in the NBA.
I've taken up a lot of your time at the end of a very busy work day. It was extremely gracious of you to to give us an interview. Is there anything you would like to add?
I'm am American. I have a right to be proud of my country. Everyone is proud of their country, but at the same time they should act in the awareness that they are a citizen of the world. The nations to which we are attached are important. But there are other nations in the world that are at least as important as ours. I am a friend of yours who sees the world this way.