Costner goes for big, dark chills in ‘Mr. Brooks’

What if you just had to kill? It’s the mind-bending premise behind “Mr. Brooks,” a chilling new film that pits Oscar-winner Kevin Costner against a very twisted nemesis — his subconscious.

In the movie (think “Silence of the Lambs” on low simmer), Costner taps into his inner serial killer, played by William Hurt. He shoots his victims, later waxes philosophical, and then experiences a guilt that registers somewhere just north of the feeling one might get over indulging in one too many chocolates.

The big surprise? “Mr. Brooks,” which opens Friday, often exudes a sweet, upbeat tone in between all the darker shenanigans.

“I had almost the same sense I had after reading “Field of Dreams,” Costner says of the film’s script. “I know they are total polar opposites, but I thought, ‘Wow, this is a really delicate, nicesurprise about a subject I never even thought was possible.’ Then I kind of felt weird because the filmmakers felt they had kind of written it for me — that they saw me playing it. I was like, ‘Wait a minute!’

“But I got over it really quickly,” he adds with a laugh.

Odds are audiences will get over it, too. Admittedly, Costner has managed to do two things really well, when it comes to filmmaking. Over the last 20 years, he’s slayed the box office (“Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Untouchables”) and showed terrific range playing diverse characters (“No Way Out,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Open Range,” “The Upside of Anger”).

About making movies, in general, he’s quick to note, “I always have this argument and say, ‘The better the movie is, the odder it is — something that gives it its classiness — the more it gives it its economic life.’ They are not exempt from each other. The oddity can be just as entertaining as a concept that tries to expand a demographic.”

To that end, “Mr. Brooks” may benefit with the presence of Demi Moore and celeb du jour Dane Cook. Moore plays a tough-as-nails cop; Cook morphs into an unlikely, obsessed sidekick to Costner’s killer.

As for stepping into the seemingly soul-less soles of a happy-go-lucky killer, Costner said he didn’t have any real reservations.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the screenplay,” he says. “I’m a writer-driven actor, but I didn’t live 24 hours in my head as a killer. I believe in the literature of movies and not the commerce of them. And, by the way, I’m not dumb. I think that those two things make for good business.”

But how do you learn to play a murderer?

“The fascinating thing is that you and I both know more about serial killers than we ever should know,” Costner says. “They’re exposed on TV. I mean, I didn’t have to go very far for research. It was like, pick a name of about 20 people that we’ve known in our lifetime. And we don’t know who’s next door to us, or across the street. We really don’t.”


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