HomeEntertainmentTVYellowstoneKevin Costner’s Breakthrough Role Is As Far Away From John Dutton As You Can Get

Kevin Costner’s Breakthrough Role Is As Far Away From John Dutton As You Can Get

by Craig Garrett
Kevin Costner
(Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

Every struggling young actor needs to get their start somewhere, and Yellowstone‘s stoic lead Kevin Costner is no exception. Of course, fans of Taylor Sheridan’s neo-western hit series have loved watching the veteran actor play Montana rancher John Dutton for five seasons. Before that, Costner enjoyed a prolific career both in front of and behind the camera.

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Of course, one of Costner’s early breakthrough performances was in the 1985 Lawerence Kasdan western, Silverado. He played a more comedic and rambunctious character in that film (he was something of a kid brother sidekick to Scott Glen and Kevin Kline), but from there was frequently cast as the square-jawed lead. He played military men, athletes, cops, and cowboys in pictures such as No Way Out, Bull Durham, The Untouchables, and Wyatt Earp. Concurrent with those roles, he was often cast as an everyman protagonist in dramas such as Field of Dreams. Of course, he even scored an Oscar in 1991 for directing himself in Dances with Wolves when he was still only 36.

Kevin Costner’s first role is hilarious… and fleeting

However, The Bodyguard star’s first substantial acting gig was decidedly humble. According to Costner, the role that earned him his Screen Actors Guild card was as “Frat Boy #1” in the 1982 Henry Winkler comedy, Night Shift. The cult comedy is something of a Happy Days reunion, as Ron Howard also directed his Fonzy castmate in the film.

When you reach the midway point of the film, Bill Blazejowski (Michael Keaton) chooses to host a wild, beer-filled party at the morgue. During this scene, watch for that handsome man standing behind him. Conspicuously, it is Kevin Costner who plays one of the inebriated frat boys stumbling around a mortuary after having had way too many drinks.

Yellowstone fans might have a tough time spotting Costner at first (but that’s what the rewind button is for). We’ve grown used to seeing the veteran actor play grizzled, stoic men. Of course, he’s a far cry from that’s Frat Boy #1. He’s almost cherubic and clean-cut in the hilarious bit part.

Costner opened up about playing Frat Boy #1, and how much the role actually meant to him

Back in 2015, Costner opened up about the small early role on Ellen. “I was an extra on Night Shift, he told Ellen at the time. Of course, an image of Costner from the film appeared on the screen behind the pair. It showed the youthful actor wearing a letterman jacket, mid-scream, and bug-eyed. “Yeah, that’s me,” he quipped after glancing back at the screenshot.

Costner revealed he wasn’t quite as young as he looked in the film. “I think I’m about 26 or 27,” he recalled. He vividly remembered startling the film’s lead, Michael Keaton. “I remember I screamed really loud right at that point. And I remember Michael kind of jerk.” However, it ended up that Keaton appreciated Costner’s gusto. [Keaton] turned and looked at me and said, ‘when we [shoot the scene] again, would you do that again?’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, thanks.’

Despite the modest part, Costner still likes to reminisce about working on his first big film. “[When] I see Ronnie Howard, we’ll talk about things, just little small beginnings.” Just the next year, he’d be cast in a small, but pivotal role in Lawrence Kasdan’s hit drama, The Big Chill. However, the majority of his role (and all of his lines) were cut. As a payback, Kasdan included Costner in Silverado, effectively launching him into stardom.