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The filmmakers quickly moved ahead to cast the major roles in "The Postman

The filmmakers quickly moved ahead to cast the major roles in "The Postman." Costner had almost always had Will Patton in mind for the tyrannical General Bethlehem. The pair had previously worked together on the spy thriller "No Way Out."

"Bethlehem is a classic historic figure, the brutal conqueror," says Jim Wilson, "but we didn't want him to be a stereotype. Our writers gave us a complex character with inner contradictions and a personality that emerges over time. We wanted to find an actor who could present all of those aspects on the screen, and Will Patton, who's very subtle and intense at the same time, was a great choice."

"He was very good in 'No Way Out,' the first movie that we did together," says Costner. "I didn't forget that, and I like that level of talent. I really believe in him as an actor and a presence."

Patton says, "We felt real good about working together then and I think we always wanted to do it again. And this is a very unique kind of character and a unique script. What is interesting is that both the characters I've done with Kevin have been about as far removed from me as you can possibly get!"

Bethlehem is aided in his domination of the settlers by his right-hand man, who uses the name Idaho. James Russo, who most recently appeared in "Donnie Brasco" and has played villains in such movies as "Beverly Hills Cop," "State of Grace" and "A Kiss Before Dying," plays Idaho as a man who seems to revel in the repressive violence of the new regime. Says producer Tisch, "He was utterly believable -- and someone the audience could love to hate!"

Larenz Tate, as Ford Lincoln Mercury, plays a young survivor whose self-dignity is transformed by the example of The Postman. Through Ford's allegiance with The Postman, he finds a purpose in his own life and a reason to fight for his future.

Costner notes, "We needed somebody with Larenz's presence in order to pull off Ford. And he was unafraid of either the physical or the dramatic demands of the part."

"This film and my character are a lot different from everything I've done in the past. I've never been on a film of this magnitude," Tate reflects. He describes Costner as "a giving director and actor; he's really clever. He allows the camera to do a lot of performing for you."

The role of Abby required an unusual actress to play the part of an unusual woman. Explains producer Jim Wilson, "Abby is a very strong person, unsentimental and tough, but with the capacity to love passionately at the same time. We think she's a refreshing change from the 'heroines' of most action-dramas, in that she's really an independent woman, not just simply someone waiting to be rescued."

After a long search, the producers chose newcomer Olivia Williams for the role. "The Postman" is Williams' first feature film.

"We saw so many great actresses, and you never know if you're going to make the right choice," says Costner. "But I wasn't wrong about Olivia. We took a chance on her, an educated one, and she really came through."

Making the transition from her extensive theatrical background, Williams explains the difference between film and stage acting. "In the theater you get to play your story through in one evening. The challenge has been to gauge the emotional level at any one stage in the plot and know, when you arrive at 6:00 a.m., what emotional pitch to co

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