Kevin Costner On 'Swing Vote'

Imagine what would happen if the entire presidential election came down to one improperly cast ballot, and the man who owns that vote is a two-bit loser, played by Kevin Costner, who long ago traded his dreams for a drink. That's the premise of the new movie Swing Vote. Kevin Costner speaks to host Andrea Seabrook about the film and his band, Modern West.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Now the story of a guy who's wooed by two of the most powerful men on earth. One night, Bud Johnson is shaken awake by his young daughter. He opens his door to this.

(Soundbite of crowd of people)

SEABROOK: The flashing bulbs and media frenzy of a political firestorm. It turns out Bud is the swing voter, and everybody wants a piece of him. Kevin Costner plays Bud in the new movie, "Swing Vote," which opens this Friday. Kevin Costner, thanks so much for coming in.

Mr. KEVIN COSTNER (Actor): Well thanks.

SEABROOK: So Bud, he ends up being the one guy whose vote the entire election turns on. It's really circumstances that make the Florida recount in 2000 look tame.

Mr. COSTNER: Yeah, both - what happens is it does come down a single vote, and no one's sure how it's been cast. There's been a voter error. Legally, you had to have 10 days for this individual to recast his vote, and so what happens if you have Kelsey Grammer playing the Republican president and…

SEABROOK: Dennis Hopper.

Mr. COSTNER: Dennis Hopper is playing the Democratic candidate running for the office. If you've got two men vying for the biggest job on the planet, is it any wonder that maybe when their base is reduced to one that they begin to waffle?

SEABROOK: Yeah, there are these fantastic little - I mean, a really bright spot in the movie are the parodies of political ads that these two make to try and get Bud's vote.

Mr. COSTNER: And at the same time separating themselves completely 180 degrees from what they really believe.

(Soundbite of film, "Swing Vote")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KELSEY GRAMMER (Actor): (As President Andrew Boone): Bud, with your help, this Republican administration will say I do to gay marriage.

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character) I do.

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (As character) I do.

SEABROOK: The Democratic candidate makes an anti-abortion rights and a pro-life and…

Mr. COSTNER: And immigration. I mean, people are just running across the border.

SEABROOK: Right, yeah. That one was very funny. Now I have to say, though, that as we're talking about both sides being represented as being pretty flimsy, in the end, it does seem like the correct stand on the issues in this movie is pretty left of center.

Mr. COSTNER: I don't know where you're going there, but I'm listening.

SEABROOK: Okay, for example the working poor. The issues that really seem to coalesce as the issues to be worked on in this country are about the working poor, health insurance, jobs. There isn't really much talk about bloated government, taxes the sort of social conservative agenda, other than the farcical commercial on gay marriage.

Mr. COSTNER: Well, we couldn't take on the whole issue. I mean, this isn't "Thirteen Days."

SEABROOK: Sure.

Mr. COSTNER: It's not "JFK." It's a comedy, and ultimately, those issues I don't see as being left or right. That's what always bothered me about (unintelligible). I mean, it seems to me in the country that about 80 percent of our problems are not really problems. They're just problems that exist between people who can't get their ego out of the way in order to solve things for Americans.

SEABROOK: But it seems like the issues you choose and the priorities you put them in, the movie ends up looking like you want people to vote, but you kind of want them to vote for the Democrat.

Mr. COSTNER: I didn't really get that feeling, but - and that's the beauty of a movie. Somebody else got that feeling. I thought what happened at the end was that Bud, instead of doing a rah-rah speech, he looked at himself, and he dug really deep, you know, and ultimately, he said, you know, an average man is going to pick between two exceptional men. Does that seem fair? Not really, but that's what it's wound itself down to.

SEABROOK: You portrayed on reporter getting a lot of pressure from her producer, her TV producer back at the station, and there's a line where he says something like this is bigger than God. This is television.

Mr. COSTNER: Yeah, yeah, this isn't news anymore. This is bigger than news. This is television. Listen, I have a lot of friends in the business that you're in, and I can't tell you the writers that have to write about me or interview me or whatever, the pressure they come under once their story is turned in, how it gets re-edited, and they see their story evaporate down to some kind of story that we've, you know, all seen, and when a producer says no, you ask him about his first marriage, you do that, and you go, I don't want to do that, and he goes you do it. The air goes out of the room.

SEABROOK: So tell me about your first marriage - no, I'm just joking.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COSTNER: Gotcha.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COSTNER: You almost didn't have - you couldn't even let it lay there long enough.

SEABROOK: I couldn't help myself.

Mr. COSTNER: Yeah, you couldn't even let it lay there to go beat, beat, beat, that's a joke.

SEABROOK: You're right.

Mr. COSTNER: Beat, beat, beat.

SEABROOK: Beat, beat, beat. Your band, you formed a band called Modern West.

Mr. COSTNER: Yeah.

SEABROOK: And you're coming out with a CD in October.

Mr. COSTNER: I don't want to - I'm not content to just be what people think that I am. Music was a part of my life before movies. I was - in the church, my grandmother was the - played for the choir, my mom was in the choir. I was a wise man as eight years old, you know, and all the Christmas stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COSTNER: So I would sing, "O Holy Night," you know, and all that stuff. I took classical piano. I've, you know, found myself around the world, even doing these press junkets and finding myself in the city and in hotel rooms, and I talk about the movie or whatever, and I don't really have an exchange that I feel comfortable with, and being able to play music, if I was playing tonight in Washington, and you were able, you know, to come see it, I would gather that you would have a different feeling about me. It might be a bad feeling, or it might be a greater feeling, but it would be what I would call an expansion of a relationship, where you go: I know now more about him than I've ever known.

So I love being in front of people and telling stories, whether it's in music or in movies.

SEABROOK: Kevin Costner's new movie is called "Swing Vote." Thanks so much for coming in.

Mr. COSTNER: You're welcome.

SEABROOK: We really appreciate it.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: That's Kevin Costner's band Modern West.

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