Kevin Costner’s Huge Flop Cost Him A Role In One Of The Best Movies Ever Made

Kevin Costner choose to star in Waterworld, one of the worst movies of all time, instead of The Shawshank Redemption, one of the best movies in history.

By Jonathan Klotz
| Published

The choices made by actors that end up devoting years to each project they sign onto, can sometimes be the difference between a long and successful career, or a short one. Significant paydays, sometimes reaching millions of dollars, just adds to the pressure actors face to make the right decision. As reported by The Things, Kevin Costner made the wrong choice back in the early 90’s, choosing Waterworld over The Shawshank Redemption.

In the early 90’s, Kevin Costner was a star on the rise following the success of Dances With Wolves, The Bodyguard, and the best Robin Hood movie ever made, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, so with the eyes of the world watching, Waterworld was selected as his next big film. Costner felt that the sci-fi dystopian film was better than The Shawshank Redemption, turning down the lead role of Andy Dufrense.

Kevin Costner was the first choice of Frank Darabont, the writer and director of the film, to play the role of Andy Dufrense, which ultimately went to Tim Robbins. The Shawshank Redemption told the story of Dufrense trying to survive in a notorious prison for a crime he didn’t commit, befriending Red, played by Morgan Freeman, along the way. Based off of a story by Stephen King, the movie has gone on to be a cultural touchstone, widely considered one of the best films of all time.

That was the project Kevin Costner was hand-picked to lead, which he turned down for Waterworld, which is arguably just as famous, except for all the wrong reasons. Waterworld takes place in an apocalyptic future after the ice caps melt and the world is covered in water, with Costner’s mutant hero getting caught up in a quest for the mythical “dry land.” Also starring Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorine, and Dennis Hopper, the film is considered one of the biggest box office bombs of all time.

kevin costner waterworld
Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper in Waterworld

The label of “flop” can only be applied to Waterworld with a few caveats, as the film did gross $264 million worldwide and was the number one movie the weekend it debuted. Unfortunately for Kevin Costner, as the biggest star attached to the project, he was blamed for the rapidly ballooning budget and production issues faced by the practical-effects heavy movie. With a budget of $235 million, Waterworld was the most expensive movie of all time when it was released, making the slim profits it eventually made not worth the hassle faced by the studio.

Even a recent cultural re-evaluation of the film, leading to the announcement of a Waterworld television series being in development, has not wiped the label of flop off of Kevin Costner’s filmography. The release two years later of another post-apocalypse dystopian film, The Postman, led to the star becoming underrated going into a new century, though it would take another 20 years to find his career-defining role.

In 2018, Kevin Costner started appearing in Yellowstone as Montana rancher James Dutton, and very soon, it became the biggest television show in the country. Though his career started in 1981, it took 37 years for Costner to find his greatest role. The world will never know what could have been different if he was the one that dug out of Shawshank.

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Kevin Costner’s Huge Flop Cost Him A Role In One Of The Best Movies Ever Made

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