When Kevin Costner phoned Wednesday afternoon, it wasn’t to talk about the football-themed feature film he’s been shooting in Cleveland since early May.
He was promoting a more personal project — the concert he’ll be performing at the Kent Stage on June 22 with his six-piece band, Modern West, in which he sings and plays guitar.
“When I’m making a movie, playing a show with the band gives people in the community a chance to see me in a natural state, above and beyond asking for a picture or an autograph,” said the 58-year-old actor, whose many films include “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “Dances With Wolves,” “JFK,” “The Untouchables” and “Open Range.”
In “Draft Day,” filming through the end of June at multiple Cleveland-area locations, Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, who’s trying to land the No. 1 draft pick for his team. Directed by Ivan Reitman, “Draft Day” also stars Jennifer Garner, Joe Manganiello, Sam Elliott and Denis Leary.
While the interview lasted only about 10 minutes, Costner seemed both cordial and fully focused on the conversation. Highlights follow.
Q. Were you musical at all before playing in Modern West?
A. “I was in a band before this called Roving Boy with two of the same members. I was trained classically on the piano, I performed in musicals, I was in a traveling show choir. I started singing in church. I kind of did music before the acting.”
Q. Did you form the band just for a diversion from acting?
A. “I didn’t have a plan or a strategy when I formed this band. There was no desire to play for money. It was just something I wanted to do. I didn’t have any idea we’d make four records and travel around the world. I just got done playing outside the Kremlin at Red Square, played in Paris, been to South America. People ask us to play everywhere.”
Q. How does it feel being onstage playing and singing rock ’n’ roll with your own band?
A. “It’s a really cool thing when the drums start behind you and you know you’re holding a crowd with your own tunes. I think this band has a lot of firepower. We put on a show that’s loud and live.”
Q. It seems like the band is kind of flying under the radar.
A. “I have been asked to do television multiple times (with Modern West). There’s a temptation to go on TV — ‘SNL,’ Leno, Letterman — but I’m only going to do that if I think there’s a really good reason to do it. I’ve had enough attention for a lifetime.”
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Q. Would you describe Modern West’s music as roots-rock, Americana?
A. “I think we’re far from a country band. I think we’re closer to what you just described. We’re capable of doing a lot. ‘Famous For Killing Each Other’ (the soundtrack album to the History Channel miniseries ‘Hatfields & McCoys,’ for which Costner won an acting Emmy Award) is purely a concept record with a whole Appalachian theme. It’s really quite good.”
Q. I just read a review of the new Superman movie (“Man of Steel,” opening today) that said you’re the best thing in it. The reviewer didn’t much like it overall.
A. “It’s bold, really awesome film-making. I can understand people thinking it’s too dark, but it’s a pretty fantastic movie. (director) Zack Snyder definitely had the fans on his shoulder for that one. He made it to please himself and to please them.”
Q. Is “Draft Day” a big movie, with big game scenes?
A. “It’s a very small, $20-million movie, which in the ranks of movies today is almost an independent. I think it could be a classic. That’s why I’m making it.”
Q. Is it kind of an adventure, being on location in a city like Cleveland for a couple months?
A. “This city fits me really well. I like it a lot. It’s really negotiable. I’ve encouraged my friends to come out. It’s a city that’s building on itself.”
Q. Have you been out and about much in Cleveland?
A. “I’m not an every-night-out person. I’ll go out sometimes. I went to the market and got my food. I’m pretty tired when I get home.”