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'You never feel like you're what people want... I have my own insecurities'

As Kevin Costner's new film The Highwaymen is released, he tells Gemma Dunn why he still wants to stay relevant, both on and off-screen

Crime drama: Kevin Costner
Crime drama: Kevin Costner
With Woody Harrelson in The Highwaymen

Kevin Costner is musing over the concept of fan selfies. And fresh from the red carpet of his latest film premiere, American crime drama The Highwaymen, it seems the A-list actor isn't short of requests.

"It's a problem because I never think I look good in these pictures and I have to take them all the time," quips the Hollywood veteran.

"Sometimes the camera doesn't work and I have to stand there for three or four minutes," he adds, raising from his chair to show off his tried-and-tested pose.

"Then there's a fight between the husband and the wife because, 'He doesn't know what he's doing.'"

For a star as sought after as Costner -"I can't tell you how many people go, 'You know, my mum really likes you'" - the adoration is part and parcel of his celebrity.

That's not to say it's expected, however.

"You still never feel like you're what people want - I have my own insecurities," the 64-year-old explains.

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"Listen, there was a moment in time when I wasn't famous and no one would notice anything, so I'm aware of why those pictures occur - it's because of the movies.

"It's because I love movies so much that I will stop and try to do that, because I understand the connection people have had for a long, long time."

He's not wrong. Since rising to prominence with his portrayal of agent Eliot Ness in The Untouchables over three decades ago, Costner has gone on to win legions of fans, from the days of his Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves to cult hit The Bodyguard and more recently Hidden Figures and beyond.

Proving his prowess extends to the small screen too, he took home a Primetime Emmy Award for his lead in the mini-series Hatfields & McCoys in 2012, and since 2018 has starred as ranch patriarch John Dutton in returning series Yellowstone.

But now the California native is turning his attention to a different platform entirely - Netflix.

Based on true events, The Highwaymen, directed by John Lee Hancock, follows the story of two Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer (Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson), who are drawn out of retirement in a last-ditch effort to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde.

Celebrated for their heroism, despite scepticism from state and federal agents, it's an account that paints a very different picture of Hamer to the one seen in the 1967 biographical film, Costner notes.

"It glamourised (Bonnie and Clyde) in a way," he begins. "It was their pain. They were somehow the victims of cops who were angry and had vendettas.

"We didn't make this movie to say, 'That movie is wrong'. That movie was great, but they were really wrong about Frank Hamer.

"His reputation after the film was murder and his family has lived with that for the last 60 years, thinking, 'Our father was heroic - he was a legendary lawman. How dare you use Hollywood to make him a buffoon, a clown, just so that Bonnie and Clyde can look better'.

"So our mission was just to take this movie (and say), 'What kind of men were they?'"

How does he relate to Hamer, if at all?

"Well I haven't retired yet, but I relate to him as... sometimes you just feel like you're the person for the job," says Costner with a smile.

"I was given this script 10 years ago and I didn't want to do it. And 10 years later I felt like I could, but I also felt like I wasn't really him still.

"I thought I better put on a bunch of weight, I better run really funny, I better not be able to get over that wall. I needed to embrace that part of where he was at in his life.

"As an actor, I always feel my first job is to tell the story, so if Frank needs to be fat a little bit, he's gotta be fat a little bit.

"You have to play it - you can't wink at it. You've got to just embrace it."

Next, Costner, who also has director, producer and musician credits under his belt, will return to the big screen for a feature film. But while he's keeping schtum on the finer details, he will say he's excited by the prospect of a strong script.

"Literacy has propped up my career - not just my natural charm," he jokes. "I've depended on the words of writers and the ones I write myself, on story and how it's done.

"But I know my category is shrinking, so if I take care of myself, I'm in really good shape.

"As long as I stay relevant, I can play 15 years younger if I have to.

"But I can play 15 years older right now if I have to because I've worked at how to do that.

"I am passionate about making movies - and if I'm not passionate, then I shouldn't be in the category anyway."

The father of seven takes the same self-care approach when it comes to family.

"I have three kids I play with - and I play hard," Costner says, in reference to his three youngest children, whom he shares with his second wife, former model Christine Baumgartner.

"I have a beautiful wife and I don't want her to look anywhere else.

"I want to be something for her and I want to stay interested in life."

After all, his body of work will be the legacy he leaves behind.

"My kids will be able to look back and there will be a time when I looked young and strong and untouchable," Costner says poignantly.

"I've had a second family and so they know me the way they know me now, so they'll look back and maybe they can smile at it.

"But I've gotten to be almost everything I wanted to be, either in real life or in make-believe, in the movies.

"I know how lucky I've been and now I just want to make more cowboy movies."

The Highwaymen is on Netflix now

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