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Kevin Costner has most certainly earned his status as a cinematic legend - starring in a number of modern classics and winning plenty of hardware in the process. Back when he made The Untouchables in 1987, however, he was still an up-and-coming star, and it turns out that acting opposite Robert De Niro presented a serious challenge for him while he was on set. The actor recently revealed,
I had trouble with some of the scenes with [De Niro], because my character was very straight-arrow, and Robert was able to jump off the page. I was trying to survive with my straight-arrow language against someone who was throwing a level of street language at me that had a level of improv to it. So it was hard for me to survive in some of those scenes, and Sean [Connery] talked to me a little bit about it.
In Brian De Palma's gangster film, Kevin Costner famously plays Eliot Ness, the Prohibition agent who took down Al Capone - but according to a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, he didn't have the easiest time playing off of Robert De Niro as the movie's notorious antagonist. Ness and Capone only share two scenes in The Untouchables, but evidently the experience shooting those sequences is still fresh in Costner's mind.
For a bit of context, you can watch Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro's first face-to-face meeting in The Untouchables in the video below:
Playing Al Capone in The Untouchables is one of Robert De Niro's most famous performances for a reason - as he went full bombastic with the famed Chicago mobster - but one could see another reason why Kevin Costner might have been a bit intimidated sharing the screen with his co-star. While Costner had about six years of big screen experience under his belt when he made the Brian De Palma movie, by that time Robert De Niro had already won two Oscars (for The Godfather: Part II and Raging Bull), and had also been nominated for two others (for The Deer Hunter and Taxi Driver). Regardless of the character being played, that presence alone would put anybody a bit off kilter.
Though it may have been "trouble," everything clearly worked out just fine, given that The Untouchables is considered a modern crime classic. As you may have figured out by now, the film is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year - so if you haven't seen it before, now you have a perfect excuse to watch. And when you do, be sure to pay extra special attention to the Kevin Costner/Robert De Niro scenes.