Since making his debut on the big screen in the 1980s, Kevin Costner has become one of the most iconic screen presences of the modern era. Thanks to his work in both Field of Dreams and Bull Durham he is the first actor many think of whenever the topic of baseball movies comes up, and roles in movies like The Untouchables, Dances With Wolves and JFK will be remembered forever. He has spent decades on the roller coaster that is Hollywood, and it was fascinating to listen to him talk about all of it while on the set of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit back in late 2012.

While the actor actually wasn’t even supposed to be on set the day we cane to watch some of Jack Ryan’s production in London, he took a special trip to join us for a roundtable discussion that wound up lasting more than 35 minutes. During the conversation he spoke not only about his latest project, but his career as a whole. He was full of surprising and revealing commentary about the industry and why he does what he does, and I’ve plucked out the five most fascinating parts below.

Kevin Costner
He Almost Played Jack Ryan In The Hunt For Red October
In Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Costner stars as William Harper, a character that is being introduced to the Tom Clancy universe through the film. Harper is a veteran at the CIA and when the titular hero is sent to Moscow as an analyst Harper serves as both his handler and his mentor. It’s an important supporting role, but the truth is that 24 years ago it was actually almost Costner who was playing the eponymous lead in the franchise.

According to the star, back in the late 80s when John McTiernan’s The Hunt For Red October was first being developed as a feature he had actually been approached to star as Jack Ryan. While it would have been a big role for him even at the time, he ended up walking away from the offer so that he could focus on a certain passion project.

"I couldn’t do it because I had already postponed Dances With Wolves for one year, and now I had a chance to do Red October but I had already assembled this crew and I’d put my money into it. Then they offer me really a lot of money – more than I had ever seen – to do Hunt For Red October, and I said, ‘You know, ‘No’ doesn’t mean more, it’s just no."

The story ends with a happy ending for both sides. Alec Baldwin took the part in Red October and put on a critically-acclaimed performance, while Dances With Wolves went on to win Costner both a Best Director and Best Picture Academy Award. After that, the role never came up again. "I went off and [made Dances With Wolves], and then never caught back up with the thing. It seemed like different people played Jack Ryan or something like that. I think Jack Ryan passed me."

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