Inside Kevin Costner's Tense Feud With Director Kevin Reynolds

In the late '80s and early '90s, Kevin Costner was one of the biggest movie stars and heartthrobs in the world, with turns in massive hits like "The Untouchables," "Dances With Wolves" (which he also directed), "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "JFK," and the epic romance "The Bodyguard" starring the late, great Whitney Houston. Houston may have sung "I Will Always Love You" to Costner in the movie, but Costner certainly wasn't feeling that way about "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" director and frequent collaborator Kevin Reynolds. In fact, the relationship between the once-close film buddies grew so acrimonious, Costner reportedly stormed off a movie set and refused to work with him. 

So what happened between the two Kevins, whose collaborative work smashed box office records and even earned their films several Oscars? We have one word for you: "Waterworld." If you're too young to remember, before there was "Avatar" or "Titanic," there was "Waterworld," which previously held the title for most expensive movie ever. The stakes were high with that much money ($175 million, to be exact), and it bled into their working relationship. 

Kevin Costner got too big for his britches

By 1995, Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds had worked together on three projects: "Fandango," "Dances With Wolves," and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." They had a great working relationship, and decided to collab on the bleak, dystopian, underwater epic "Waterworld." Set in the future when climate change has caused rising tides to completely flood the world, it's easy to imagine why a movie of this magnitude might be jussssst a bit pricey. Tempers flared on set, and according to the two Kevins, they came to verbal blows.

In a 2008 in-depth interview with The Sunday Times, Reynolds said that he couldn't stand Costner's meddling in the directorial process and overstepping his professional boundaries. So much so, apparently, that Reynolds abandoned the project before it was finished, walking off the set, declaring, "Now Kevin gets to work with his favorite actor and director." Ouch.

"He asserted himself," Reynolds continued. "We had discussions, then arguments, and then a falling out. It's not something I want to go into in detail." Reynolds was still fuming about the confrontation at the "Waterworld" premiere in 1995, telling Entertainment Weekly, "In the future Costner should only appear in pictures he directs himself." Dang. Costner is going to need some aloe for that burn. 

They were able to repair their relationship ... sort of

According to "Waterworld" screenwriter Peter Rader, there were other things going on behind the scenes to exacerbate tensions. The already-inflated budget ballooned when a hurricane sank the floating set, forcing it to be reconstructed. In addition, Kevin Costner was personally going through the tumultuous breakup of his marriage. "Costner was having to carry the movie, while his marriage was falling apart," Rader told Yahoo! Movies in 2020. All of that, Rader says, and more (they ended up filming for 166 when they had only budgeted for 96!), divided the two Kevins. "It appeared like Costner took over the editing and locked [Reynolds] out. And [Reynolds] just left Hollywood at that point," Rader added.

So has time healed all wounds?  Costner sounded very gracious in 2012 when he told Entertainment Weekly about Reynolds, "We had differences. It happens, especially when the stakes are as high as they were with 'Waterworld.' But out of fire comes steel. And I've always had a real belief in him as a director."

As it happens, that's not the last we'll see of the "Waterworld" franchise. It was announced in 2021 that Universal is developing a miniseries sequel to the 1995 gritty film. There's no word yet if Costner or Reynolds will participate in some way in this sequel, but all in favor of a Two Kevins reunion, say aye!