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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 around him."

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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