On Tuesday night, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s cold open was a bit unusual. In lieu of a skit ridiculing Trump’s latest bout of chaos-agenting, the program aired a mock trailer for the re-release of Kevin Costner’s 1997 film The Postman. “In its day, a critical and box office disaster. But today, chillingly accurate,” the voiceover said. “Looks like somebody owes Kevin Costner an apology.”
As fate would have it, I was scheduled to interview Costner the following day to discuss HearHere, his new storytelling platform/travel app providing, “A hands-free experience that delights, informs and entertains by fostering a deeper connection with the people, places and histories of the land you are traveling through.”
Costner hadn’t seen the Colbert sketch, though chuckled when I brought it up.
“Stephen Colbert said that?” he said. “I liked making that movie! I did.”
The Postman was a post-apocalyptic Western set in a 2013 America ravaged by plagues and a murderous white-nationalist militia, led by Nathan Holn. These “Holnists” have stripped the country of every last vestige of democracy and freedom, transforming America into a totalitarian state. Costner plays a drifter who finds a U.S. Postal Service uniform and mailbag, and inspires hope for a “Restored America” by, well, delivering the mail. The film was savaged by critics and made just $20 million against an $80 million budget.
But now, given Trump’s systematic dismantling of the U.S. Postal Service in recent months—that he’s openly admitted is being done to stop mail-in voting, and thus influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election—Costner’s film glorifying the U.S. Postal Service appears to have been rather “prophetic,” as he puts it.
“Listen, a movie is what it is when it comes out. It has a chance to be revisited, and I was always kind of proud of it,” Costner tells The Daily Beast. “I thought that I had made a mistake not starting out the movie with, ‘Once upon a time…’ because it’s kind of like a fairy tale. ‘Once upon a time, when things got really rotten, the only thing that could stand the test of time was the post office. The only thing people could count on.’ I didn’t say that, and I should have. Because it is like a fairy tale you’d read to your children at night. That’s how I did the movie.”
As for Trump’s starving of the U.S. Postal Service, which has already caused massive delays in the delivery of life-saving medications to elderly patients and the distribution of pension checks, among other things, Costner doesn’t mince words.
“It’s terrible. It’s terrible,” he says. “Nothing is surreal. Everything is highly real, and it’s dangerous. And it’s shameful.”
The 65-year-old screen icon campaigned for Pete Buttigieg during the Democratic Primary, and though he identifies as an independent, having voted for both Democrats and Republicans in the past, he says he’s alarmed by what he’s seen from the current White House occupant.
“History will judge you,” says Costner. “When you look back at [Joseph] McCarthy, when you look back at black-and-white footage and see people who were beating on those who were marching for freedom, you don’t want to be that person. And there’s a lot of people where, when you look back ten years, they’re going to see themselves.”
That’s why the star of Field of Dreams and The Bodyguard is urging all Americans to get out to the polls in November and exercise their constitutional right.
“What you have to try to lean on is that every four years we get to decide whether we’re going in the right direction or we’re not,” he says. “And we now, because of the way the country is set up—which is beautiful—we have that opportunity. And anyone who would interfere with that process in a deliberate way to have an outcome—that’s criminal. And it spits on 200 years of freedom.”
“So this is what you do: you wear your mask and you go vote.”
Stay tuned for The Daily Beast’s full interview with Kevin Costner—running on Sunday—where we discuss his planned Bodyguard sequel with Princess Di, the legacy of Dances with Wolves, the removal of Confederate monuments, why he turned down Django Unchained, and much more.