Costner steps up to bat

Thesp not shy about ratings/cuts talk at 'Love' preem

HOLLYWOOD — Though Kevin Costner didn’t encourage questions at Wednesday’s premiere regarding his well-publicized controversy with Universal regarding length and ratings-motivated cuts in “For Love of the Game,” the star didn’t back away from them either.

“I don’t like fighting windmills, but this is a real issue,” Costner said. “They’re (films are) all worth defending if you work a year on them. They are for me.”

Costner was at the preem’s baseball-themed, 2,000 guest after-party held a block from the Century City Cineplex Odeon. The star spoke calmly and adroitly, especially considering he was in the eye of a virtual hurricane of well-wishers, security, publicists.

Not exactly the perfect situation for a thoughtful reexamination of complex issues. But when asked if in retrospect he would have handled the ratings/cuts quarrel differently, Costner said: “It’s not always that it has to come out in public. When the (Newsweek) questions didn’t go in that vein, I didn’t go there. And when the questions went there, I responded. What I’ve really tried, is not to put myself in a lot of positions where it’s about that. ‘Cause I know how I feel and I don’t need to continually repeat myself.”

Costner’s filmmaking colleagues were more middle-of-the-road in their comments on the situation.

Co-star Kelly Preston, who has the best role of her career in the film, stressed how “committed and serious” Costner was to the film and how he “had a certain idea of what he believed it would be.”

“I understand both sides and the desire to take it from an R to a PG-13,” Preston said. “I didn’t feel it was that different in the end. There wasn’t a lot we lost in my opinion. I’m really proud of this film.”

Director Sam Raimi said he was “proud of Kevin for speaking his mind. He just decided not to play the game when the MPAA said ‘this goes and this goes and this goes.’ This is a work of art for Kevin.” He also praised U topper Stacey Snider for “really believing in this picture.”

Raimi took the view that “the movie industry is actually a very healthy place. They’re coming from where they should be from. It’s a healthy back and forth. There has to be conflict like that.”

Among those on hand for the healthy back and forth of the premiere were U’s Ron Meyer, Brian Mulligan, Snider, Kevin Misher and Scott Stuber; exec producers Armyan Bernstein and Amy Robinson; plus guests John Travolta, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Pete Sampras, Nastassia Kinski, Bill Paxton, Danny Glover, Steve Garvey, Mike DeLuca, Kevin Pollack, Tom Shadyac, Sally Kellerman, Chazz Palminteri, Sandy Climan, Eric Estrin and Karl Austen.

“I’ve always been honest,” Costner said. “I’ve always shown up on time. I’ve always done my interviews. And when I think something is not right — not something small — I say something.”