Paced over two tense weeks in October 1962, ”Thirteen Days” chronicles how President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and White House aide Kenny O’Donnell bargained and bullied their way out of the Cuban Missile Crisis. ”Kenny O’Donnell”? A few historical purists have howled that the real O’Donnell was nothing like the crisis counselor in the film. Donaldson admits to taking a few liberties, but denies Costner’s man was a bit player. ”He was a powerful guy,” he says. ”If you’ve seen newsreel footage of the Kennedys, Kenny O’Donnell is always there, so much so you’d think he was a Secret Service man.”
Greenwood’s role was equally tough — to play the King of Camelot, the Canadian actor labored over the Bahston accent, coordinating cadences with Culp’s RFK. ”We sparred with our dialects, trying to maintain the one that was right for us,” Greenwood (”Double Jeopardy”) says. ”With varying degrees of success, I’m sure.” But the actor had another challenge: digging out from under the JFK mythos. ”I tried to think of him as more of a man and less of an icon,” he says. ”He becomes larger in our memory, and I thought that was likely to crush me.”
By all accounts, the approach worked — perhaps too well. Rumors and an Inside.com article had test audiences loving Greenwood and snubbing Costner. Donaldson refutes this, saying that Costner, Greenwood, and Culp’s ratings were neck and neck and neck. ”I know Kevin was NOT picked out for criticism,” says Donaldson, who directed the star in 1987’s ”No Way Out.” ”If anything, it was the opposite; for Kevin, who’s been getting a hard time lately, this could be the comeback.” GOOD SIGN Read the last sentence. THEN AGAIN Haven’t we heard that before?