Kevin Costner plays for sporting chance in Draft Day

Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner at the after party for their film Draft Day on April 7, 2014 in Los Angeles. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner at the after party for their film Draft Day on April 7, 2014 in Los Angeles. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A resurgent Kevin Costner makes another play for big-screen success in his latest movie Draft Day, returning to the sports genre he has scored big hits with in the past.

The film is the third in four months - after Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 3 Days To Kill - by the 59-year-old actor, whose career has known some low moments since 1990's Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves. Directed by Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, No Strings Attached) it recounts the day of the draft, the annual high-stakes, high-profile event when major National Football League (NFL) clubs bid for players from college team ranks.

Costner's character Sonny is general manager of the Cleveland Browns, facing decisive choices for his club while also in demand with his girlfriend Ali (Jennifer Garner) and mother Barb (Ellen Burstyn).

"I loved the idea of a character who is under pressure from the moment a story begins, and the pressure just keeps mounting," Reitman told a Beverly Hills press conference ahead of the movie's US release this Friday, April 11, 2014.

"And it's not only the business pressure but all kind of other personal things, on a very complicated day, keep affecting how he's thinking."

Costner, known for playing the everyman type, appears comfortable with a character dealing with multiple challenges at the same time, sometimes forced to be ruthless but in the end victorious.

And while his recent films have not triumphed at the box office, Draft Day could score a hit to rival Costner's baseball trilogy - Bull Durham (1988), Field Of Dreams (1989) and For Love Of The Game (1999).

The American actor, whose career turkeys have included 1995's Waterworld and 2001's 3,000 Miles To Graceland, also played to the sporting gallery in his 1996 golf outing, Tin Cup. With a strong screenplay and first-class direction, Draft Day has the blessing of the NFL, which allowed its makers to film the actual 2013 draft.

"I don't know if it will be a box-office hit, but I think it can be a classic movie, which by definition means it will be shared from generation to generation," Costner told reporters.

"To me, that's the mark of a great movie." Tom Welling, famous as a youthful Clark Kent in the Superman TV series Smallville, plays a young Cleveland Browns team member who disagrees strongly with the boss, and is worried about his place after the draft.

The confrontation between the two men is embodied in one crucial scene.

"I'm so convinced that I'm right and by the end of the scene I realise he's right," Welling told AFP. "I'm the one who's unfocused and I need to pay attention to the things that I can control, and let him do his job.

"Everybody's trying to tell him what to do, without carrying the burden of being responsible for the choice.

"That's one thing that people can learn from this film. People want to tell you what to do, but when you make your choice, you're the one who's responsible for it."

For Costner, there is a secret to making a good film in the sporting genre.

"I think if you want to make a good sports movie, you've got to cut down on the sports. You have to make it about people. You can't try to impress people with your knowledge... and all the details and the technicalities," he said.

"Yes, there's this backdrop of the NFL. He wants to tell his mom that they're going to have a baby. There's a lot going on in the movie.

"That's when movies are always going to be at their best.

"It's when they are about moments, and the smallest gesture that maybe you never ever forget. There are too many movies that we see that we can't remember one thing from them.

"Sometimes the thing you remember is the wink."

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