By Mandi Bierly
Updated November 30, 2010 at 11:30 PM EST
Credit: J. Michael Arnoldi/PR Photos

Image Credit: J. Michael Arnoldi/PR PhotosTonight in Nashville, Kevin Costner will host the inaugural CMT Artists of the Year concert celebrating Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, and Zac Brown Band — some of whom have chosen to perform their own songs, some of whom will leave that up to the likes of Adele and Maroon 5. (The 90-minute special airs Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET.) Chatting with EW earlier this month, Costner admitted he turned down the gig a couple of times. “I didn’t feel like this was the natural place for me to be, but they disagreed,” he said. Costner and his band, Modern West, have been playing live in and around Nashville for the last two or three years. The band is the reason he’s there, but they won’t be performing. “I wouldn’t use the evening for that,” he promised. “It’s about [the honorees].”

Since Costner couldn’t yet tell us if our dream of the show opening with a skit in which Taylor Swift pens a song about meeting him will come true, we asked him a few questions he could answer:

Why is he in a band again? “The reason I did music was I wanted to play live wherever I was making movies. I just really felt the need to quit being somebody who was spotted in the supermarket. I thought if I’m gonna be in a community for two or three months, then I would like to have an authentic relationship with that community, and the best way I know, other than the autograph, is to actually perform.” You’d expect most movie actors to be wary of that kind of contact with fans. Not Costner. “There’s a little bit to worry about, like people turning their back on you and walking away. When you play live, you are putting yourself in an authentic moment of drama — like what’s gonna really happen? The curiosity if you’re known for one thing is going to travel with you, and travel into that evening. You’ve got to quickly overcome it. I enjoy playing live. I like the drama of it.”

Would he ever consider starring in Hound Dogs, the minor league baseball comedy pilot his Bull Durham writer (and Tin Cup writer/director) Ron Shelton is developing for TBS? “Being able to go off to make a movie with him would be one thing. I would work with Ron again in a second. Being attached to a series is not something I would want to do at this point. The work load of being involved with something like [that] would probably overshadow some of the things that I’m doing myself.” (Follow-up question: Yes, he would read a Bull Durham sequel script; no, he hasn’t seen one.)

What is he working on now? “I’ve developed a cartoon with a group of guys that I hope will see the light of day. It’s very literate. I think that’s why it’s having so much trouble,” he said with a laugh. “I’m trying to find the right financing to put it forward. It probably represents about 50 hours of content. It’s swashbuckling, it’s violent, it’s acidic. It’s really cool. It’d be as if you were on an island, and you found three books: One was Jules Verne, one was Charles Dickens, and one was maybe Arabian Nights. It’s high adventure and it’s not based on any source material. It would start off as a series, but it would quickly mold into a feature because of the way it could be cast.”

In the upcoming film The Company Men, is it true he’s the comic relief as Ben Affleck’s brother-in-law? “I don’t know. I haven’t seen a trailer to it,” he admitted. “I’m in the film a very short amount of time, a very, very small part. Maybe they’re using all my scenes. I think I’m only in it 10 to 15 minutes.”

Is there an update on the film A Little War of Our Own, which he plans to direct and star in as a sheriff who must keep a town from exploding into violence during World War II? “Again, I’m just trying to find the money so that I can perform it in the best way,” he said. “Movies have a chance to live forever. I think the only way a movie does live forever is if it’s as close to what it’s supposed to be. I want to make sure that when someone does finance it, they like the movie that I like.”

Speaking of living forever, did he record any new special features for the Jan. 11 release of Dances With Wolves on Blu-ray? “I didn’t, actually. It’s always funny to me to see, like, ‘The Director’s Cut.’ I give my director’s cut the first time. That’s why my movies are long.”

What’s the latest on his oil spill cleanup device? “I continue to put it forth both on Capitol Hill and to the oil industries, because it’s something that’s not been addressed — the mechanical removal of oil from the water. I know how to do it. I’ve known how to do it the past 12 years. It’s now being picked up around the world. I’m developing partners in Nigeria and Angola, pretty soon Saudi Arabia. I’ll be doing some business in Brazil. The rest of the world is interested in taking the oil out of the water, not dispersing it, not burning it. We’re very slow here [in the States]. We’ve got all this information right in front of us, and still, we’re progressing way too slow. I’m devoted a lot of my energy the last seven months to all of that. I hope we have a cultural change here both in our country and in the industry itself. The only way I know how to do that is just to keep the pressure up.”