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The Legend Meets The Novice
Even before the screenplay was completed, THE GUARDIAN's filmmakers knew that the fate of the film would turn on being able to cast the right two actors as haunted veteran Ben Randall and high-energy newcomer Jake Fischer—who both antagonize and bring out the best in one another. That's why they were so gratified when two of Hollywood's biggest stars immediately signed on: Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner and rising leading man Ashton Kutcher.

Costner was an early choice for director Andrew Davis. "He is perfect for this role because he has that kind of masculine power as a leading man combined with being a sensitive human being—so he can play a guy who is not only tough and capable but also looking inward to see where his life is heading,” he says.

For Costner, whose roles have ranged from his passion project "Dances With Wolves” to such blockbuster hits as "No Way Out,” "Bull Durham,” "Field of Dreams” and "The Bodyguard” to the recent acclaimed drama "The Upside of Anger,” the script was hard to resist. "The excitement of the opening and the moving nature of the ending absolutely grabbed me,” he says.

Costner says it was the script's "mythic quality” that drew him most of all. "I think all of us would like to think if we were lost at sea, someone would come and find us, even when conditions couldn't be worse,” Costner says. "That's a comforting feeling, which translates into a heroic or a romantic idea—the notion that someone will always come to the rescue. And I believe that's the awesome promise of the Rescue Swimmers, that when all the ports are shut, when other people won't go out, they will! They're willing to put their lives on the line at any time, and I think screenwriter Ron Brinkerhoff did a great job of capturing the emotions and personalities behind that. From the beginning of the story to its riveting climactic conclusion, there's the sense of what it's like to be that person who helps the scared and the lost to hold on.”

The more he learned, the more impressed Costner was with the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer program. "These guys go out and risk their own lives for complete strangers, and that's something that only human beings do for one another—it's really one of those things that can make us proud of who we are,” he says.

Costner's character, Ben Randall, is someone who has always been there right on the frontlines of rescue missions, but now in the wake of a terrible tragedy, he has to face change on the horizon. "Ben reminds me of one of those great athletes, like Michael Jordan, who keeps coming out of retirement because he still has the bug and he can't get rid of it,” observes Tripp Vinson. "Rescue is the only thing Ben knows, and he can't let it go and he can't move on with his life to the next chapter…until he sees himself in this kid, Jake.”

Adds Costner: "Ben's a lifer. They say you don't make Rescue Swimmers, you find them, and he's a part of that breed. It's far more than just a job for him, it's a calling, but that has also taken its toll. So when we meet Ben, we also see a slightly bruised and broken character.” Despite his flaws, Ben must step up to a new and unexpected mission—passing along his knowledge to a group of raw recruits who have no idea what they will experience ahead. "Ben's not a natural teacher,” Costner admits, "so his methods are quite unorthodox. He's faced with these cocky kids, and he tries to find ways to give them a strong sense of responsibility.”

The urge to knock some sense into his talented young students reaches its apex with Jake Fischer, whose strength as a swimmer is exceeded only by the power of his youthful confidence. Costner enjoyed the opportunity in THE GUARDIAN to watch Ashton Kutcher bring the character of Jake full circle—from tough kid to heroic man—with his own unique touches. "Ash

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