Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

He was always aware of the pitfalls but says he wouldn't change a minute of his experience in bringing 'Dances With Wolves' to the screen.It was simply, 'the one film in my life I knew I had to make even if it meant I could never make another.'

At one stage it looked as if that might be the case. Costner turned down some of the best leading man roles on offer -- 'Presumed Innocent' (which went to Harrison Ford), 'The Hunt For Red October' (Alec Baldwin), Bonfire of the Vanities'(Tom Hanks) -- which turned out to be a lucky miss -- and 'Prince of Tides' (Nick Nolte) and spent two years trying to convinced Hollywood to give him $18 million and to let him produce, direct and star in a three-hour Western about peace, love, racial injustice and Sioux Indians.

While gossip talked of a stupendous 'Kevinsgate' flop first time director Costner kept his cool. And his faith in his vision, the film he still describes as 'my love letter to the past.' On Oscar night 1991 he was vindicated: 'Dances' won him seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. He also won the prestigious Directors Guild Director of the Year and an armful of Golden Globes.

Before 'Dances' Costner had been little more than a Hollywood pretty boy, a sexy stud to the smouldering Sean Young in 'No Way Out' -- she called him 'shy, puritanical and such a private guy' and worried that she'd embarrassed him during their electrifying sex scene -- and the artfully passionate toe-nail painter of Susan Sarandon in 'Bull Durham'.

He'd made a lot of people, notably Sean Connery, dance on their toes in the brilliant 'The Untouchables' and the word was out, at last, that he was a star in the making when he took his all-or-nothing gamble on 'Dances.'

Afterwards he was as famous as Madonna was infamous. The two icons met, famously, backstage after her show; he, polite, earnest, a strictly brought up Californian working class boy, told her show was 'neat'. She stuck her fingers down her throat as he left, a moment captured on her no-frames banned video that signalled 'square' to the world.

The incident seemed to sum up the essential Costner. He was 'nice', polite and honest, a man of his word and a loving family man out of place in back-stabbing, fingers-down-your-throat Hollywood . He also talked the image:

'You like to think you do the right thing. It's the way we were brought up.' His father Bill, a former railwayman, says:' All the Costners are good men'.

Whenever possible his wife Cindy, a woman who insisted on keeping her marriage and family as private as possible and the children would travel on location with him. They were on the set of 'Dances' in South Dakota, appearing as pioneers in the opening scene, and Cindy helped release tensions by organising parties, including a Hawaiian luau and a 1950s' prom.

The couple were just like 1950s prom sweethearts when they met in 1978..She was shy, he was shyer; she was Snow White while he was, he says, 'a bit like Goofy, a late developer.' He's made up for it and until the divorce action whatever the rumours of his attraction to women and vice-versa, he maintained Cindy and the children were the most important thing in his life.

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