Director Ron Shelton tells us about the actor's love of sports

Yes, Kurt Russell may also have the moves, but he doesn’t look as good in khakis. With the help of Bull Durham (No. 5) and Tin Cup (No. 28) writer-director Ron Shelton, we offer three other reasons why Costner is our Most Valuable Player. ?Mandi Bierly

HE DOESN’T HAVE TO FAKE IT ”At the end of the day, it’s the emotion of the story line that people respond to,” Shelton says, ”but if the action is bad and takes them out of the emotion, the movie fails.” That’s why you cast a natural athlete like Costner, a former high school baseball player, whose smooth moves included hitting two home runs while Bull Durham cameras were rolling (and insisting on throwing runners out even when they weren’t rolling). Bonus: He’s a switch-hitter, so you can light him from either side.

HE’S A QUICK STUDY Of Tin Cup, Shelton says, ”You’re taking the hardest possible athletic thing to teach somebody — the golf swing — and then having to convince the most ruthless critics.” Perhaps that explains why Costner, not an avid golfer before the film, was such a perfectionist. ”I’d say, ‘Just hit a good shot,’ and we’d sit there for an hour waiting for the perfect shot,” Shelton says. One notable exception: the sand shot with a hoe. ”One take. Thank you, Kevin.”

HE’S VERSATILE He’s also proficient in cycling (American Flyers), sailing (Message in a Bottle), swimming (Waterworld), horseback riding (The Postman, Silverado), and archery (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Is there any sport he couldn’t master? ”I think he’d be a lousy sumo wrestler,” Shelton offers. Oh, it’s on, Ron. It’s on.