Kevin Costner Reflects on One of His First Starring Roles in Powerful New Post

by Suzanne Halliburton

Kevin Costner went way back in the memory bank this week, musing about his first-ever starring role in Fandango.

Did you ever see this movie, the one some view as a cult classic? It’s back when Costner was young enough to portray a college student on a road trip with his frat buddies, who called themselves the Groovers.

Kevin Costner posted his Fandango thoughts earlier this week on his Instagram feed. He shared a cast photo of the Groovers and captioned the snap:

“Movie law would have it that 51 years ago today this group of fictional characters embarked on their quest to unearth Dom.

“I get asked a lot what Fandango meant to me when people look at the body of my work….and I just can’t emphasize how important it was to feel like I was finally doing what I was born to do which was to act.”

It Was Judd Nelson, Not Kevin Costner Who Hit It Big First From Fandango

Kevin Costner filmed Fandango in 1983. It wasn’t his first-ever meaty movie role. That was The Gunrunner. But that film wasn’t released until 1989. So the first time movie fans had the opportunity to see Costner in a big way was Fandango. Judd Nelson was the first actor from Fandango to hit it big in Hollywood. In 1985, he also appeared in hits The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. That put Nelson right in the middle of the so-called Brat Pack, which included Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy and Ally Sheedy.

The year 1985 also was a good year for Costner. He appeared in Silverado and American Flyers. He still was two years removed from his career-defining roles in the Untouchables and Bull Durham.

So what was Fandango about? It was your basic coming-of-age, buddy movie. The film was set in May 1971. And the major characters were about to graduate from the University of Texas. Graduation meant real adulthood, like being shipped off to serve in Vietnam.

Fandango started as a student short called Proof. Kevin Reynolds created the movie while attending Southern Cal film school in 1980. He based the movie on his own frat life at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His father was president of the school. So when the full-length movie came out, Reynolds switched the school to UT. Steven Spielberg was so impressed with the student movie that he talked Reynolds into making it into a full-length feature.

Here’s another reason why Fandango was so important for Kevin Costner. He and Reynolds became friends. They also worked together on two more big movies, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Waterworld. Plus, Reynolds served as a consultant on Dances with Wolves, the movie that earned Costner an Academy Award.

And decades later, more fans are catching up with Costner as John Dutton on Yellowstone.