Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's Kevin Costner eases into mentor role

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LOS ANGELES—As one of the most accomplished actors working today, Kevin Costner is firmly placed in the role of mentor to younger actors. This is certainly true in reference to his latest effort, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (now playing), in which the 59-year-old plays Thomas Harper, a CIA operative and adviser to Chris Pine’s title character.

The film represents something of a full circle for Costner, as the veteran actor was pegged to play a previous incarnation of Tom Clancy’s famous hero in The Hunt for Red October before turning down the film to make Dances With Wolves, winning Oscars in the process.

Now he’s the Miyagi to Pine’s Karate Kid, and Costner talks about the role of the mentor with gravity, as previous tutors helped him get to where he is. With the litany of roles the man has taken on, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t always the bona fide movie star he is today. Indeed, for every JFK, Field of Dreams, and The Untouchables, his early IMDB credits are littered with characters like “Newlywed Husband”, “Alex (scenes deleted)”, and “Frat Boy #1”.

At a news conference in a Beverly Hills hotel room, Costner ruminates on what it means to be giving advice at this point in his career. “The mentor role is always, ‘What can you offer a younger man? What can you offer a younger woman?’ ” he says. “You try to give them lessons that you learned in your own experience.”

Costner himself had a pretty decent source for advice he received when he was younger: a Scottish thespian who had some influence in the spy genre himself. “For me, I’d have to say it was [Sean] Connery.” Costner reflects about his Untouchables costar. “He was so calm. We’d be waiting to go on-camera, watching another scene, and I’d be getting nervous and he’d just say, ‘Hold on there. We’ll just watch here. Sit down, and when it’s our turn, we’ll do it.’ ”

Shadow Recruit is a decidedly modern take on the spy genre—the plot involves a Russian plan to crash the U.S. economy via terrorist attack—and when asked how spy films have changed over his career, the actor replies, honestly: “I don’t know what’s changed, really. Hopefully, when movies are realer, they get realer.”

In a genre that relies so heavily on technology, keeping up with the times is of utmost importance to an actor who’s seen it all. “When they happen to be the James Bond situation when guys parachute in, that’s another kind of spy movie,” Costner says. “Our job is to entertain and to find the rhythms that do that, the language of the day. Hopefully, we don’t try to reinvent the wheel, because spies are trying not to get caught, trying to stop bad things. But, hopefully, the level of sophistication always is going up.”

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