Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell play ex cons turned Elvis impersonators who rob a Las Vegas casino in ”3000 Miles to Graceland,” but the duo discovered that there’s room for only one King in the editing suite. Late last year, reports surfaced that both actors were allowed to cut their own versions of the film, which were then screened for test audiences. A Costner version, which emphasized the movie’s casino heist and gunplay, reportedly won out over Russell’s cut, which played up a family friendly subplot involving Courteney Cox’s single mom character and her son (child actor David Kaye).
”If you have different ideas about what should happen in a movie, it’s worth playing those out,” explains Costner, 46, who famously usurped final cut from director Kevin Reynolds on 1991’s ”Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and 1995’s ”Waterworld.” ”Kurt felt very strongly, and he had a really good idea, but it didn’t really bear out.”
Warner Bros., which hired director Demian Lichtenstein and produced the film, also seems to have sided with Costner, since not one of the TV commercials for the film features young Kaye or more than a passing glimpse of Cox — instead, the emphasis is on gun toting Elvis impersonators (Costner, Russell, Christian Slater, Bokeem Woodbine, and David Arquette), tough guy attitude, and explosions.
But even though both Costner and Russell concede they had different ideas about what the movie’s tone should be, they say there was no animosity between them. ”It wasn’t a very heavy process,” says Russell, 49, who points out that some of his suggested changes were added to the final cut of the film. ”Sure, you get animated about what you believe in. And yes, I did trim some of the violence in the version I was working on, but I knew that Demian might want to put some of it back in. Seeing the final cut, I really think we ended up with the best combination.”
Costner says that his influence on the final cut of the film was smaller than reports suggested, and that Lichtenstein’s vision, not his, is what audiences will see. ”I’m a supporting player in this movie; Kurt’s the star,” Costner says. ”And even though Kurt had a really interesting idea, and he made a good effort in trying it, it wasn’t as good as what the director had, and I supported the director.” Russell also points out that Lichtenstein invited the stars into the editing room, and that neither threw his weight around to provide input. ”Honestly, I’ve gone to war with filmmakers before,” says Russell. ”Absolutely gone to war. But that involves saying ‘I’m not going out there to sell your movie,’ and clearly, I’m not doing that.”
Lichtenstein, whose only previous feature credit is the 1997 indie flop ”Lowball,” claims that the story of dueling versions of the film is an exaggeration. ”There was never a Kurt Russell edit or a Kevin Costner edit. There was my edit, and their opinions on my edit,” he says, noting that many of the actors’ ideas were tried out in the future cuts of the film. ”What Kurt said was, ‘Look, I have to fight for the love story. I have to, because to me, that’s what the movie is about.’ He was adamant that that not be squashed out of the movie. And Kevin agreed that the love story was very important, but at the same time, the tougher the bad guy is, the better the hero looks. So it was a question of balancing out a psychotic character and a love story.” Isn’t it always?