MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
Father And Son Reunion
As with most actors, Costner's interest in portraying the male lead stems from a rich character
As with most actors, Costner's interest in
portraying the male lead stems from a rich character. "The
character of Garret is a man that's been fashioned by his environment
and the circumstances of his life; he's a boat builder and a widower,
and his loner instincts have almost totally cut him off from everyone
Integral to the story of Garret and Theresa is the one person
who, despite Garret's attempts to isolate following his wife's
death, keeps the widower linked to society -- Garret's father,
Dodge. To fill that role, Costner approached one of the industry's
legendary talents, Paul Newman.
At his production office for the last ten years, Costner has displayed
a poster of Newman's Cool Hand Luke. Costner says, "That
should tell you something about my admiration for his career and
the impact he would have on this particular movie. He's one of
those guys in the business that everyone points to. I've modeled
a lot of the things I've done after him without knowing him or
having worked with him. This role matched up with Paul and where
he is at this point in his career -- we were very lucky."
Wilson remembers, "The minute Paul signed on, Kevin walked
around with this big grin on his face. Both the actors and the
characters they're portraying are cut from the same cloth."
Newman himself is somewhat pragmatic about his choice of material.
He says, "There comes a time, when I haven't worked for awhile,
that I begin to get nervous and think that no one will knock on
the door again. But I really like to work, and this very good
script came at the right time for me. People always ask me, 'How
do you choose your parts?' I say, 'I haven't the slightest idea.'
It's a visceral thing that happens. With 'Message in a Bottle,'
it was a great part. I liked that Dodge is a complicated combination
of distance and affection."
The intricacies of the relationship between father and son also
interested Newman. He continues, "I believe that both Dodge
and his son have lived lives of excess. Dodge has fully explored
all of the possibilities of booze. And Garret is excessive in
the way he clings to his memories. So the question for both of
them becomes whether you live in yesterday or whether you live
in tomorrow. It's that struggle that seems to confound them both."
Costner is more specific in his assessment of Garret's and Dodge's
problems. He says, "It's a father/son relationship that's
been bruised. It's been going on between fathers and sons forever
-- the ability to communicate beautifully at some times and the
inability to understand one another at other times." The
key to Garret's future happiness may lie in the hands of Theresa,
a woman who has closed herself off from the world in her own way.
Filmmakers were in agreement when it came to filling the role.
Costner comments, "I first saw Robin Wright Penn in State
of Grace. She burned up the screen at her first entrance,
and I utterly believed her, the essence of her. In order for the
story of 'Message' to work, we needed to find an actress that
you don't question in the part. Robin is an extremely serious
and talented actress who is underexposed in the best sense --
she's a refreshing face and that works for us. Robin just seemed
on everyone's mind from the start."
Wright Penn is very selective about her film projects, but she
was drawn to Message in a Bottle. The actress explains,
"I don't think we've seen a pure love story in a ver
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