So what exactly is that accent Kevin Costner takes on in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"? "I'd say Mid-Atlantic, if you have to categorize it," says John Watson, the film's co-producer (with Pen Densham and Richard Lewis) and co-writer (with Densham).
Alan Rickman had no trouble with his English accent: He's a Brit who trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Neither did American actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio: She has played the classics on-stage, has lived in England and is married to a British film director.
But it was important for a well-known American star like Costner to sound natural, Watson says. "He had a tempered accent, a softened-up Americanization," the British producer-writer adds. "It was inappropriate to have him sound like Prince Charles. We didn't want to go all the way to British royalty. But we didn't want him to sound Californian."
According to Watson, Costner had one dialogue coach on the set and another on the dubbing stage in Los Angeles, where most of his lines--as well as the lines of other actors--were reinserted after filming wrapped.
But Costner complained to a Premiere magazine reporter during the production in England that he had wanted to master an English accent, but the producers dismissed his dialogue coach before he had fully prepared for his role. Watson insists that if Costner was unhappy about the extent of his coaching, he didn't make it known. "It was a non-issue," Watson says. "I was puzzled when I read that."
As for Costner and director Kevin Reynolds--they're not talking. Now that the movie has survived a critical drubbing and is raking in millions at the box office, they clearly don't see any percentage in answering questions from the press (especially if they're less than friendly ones). Costner didn't return phone calls, and Reynolds' assistant says the director doesn't want to talk about the movie anymore.
Watson says he doesn't understand all the fuss over Costner's accent. "The audience loves him. It didn't bother them at all." He adds that, so far, critics in England--where the film is being screened--haven't complained either.
Sources close to Morgan Creek, which produced the film, say polls of audiences in five cities found that 70% came to the film because of Costner. And 82% said they would recommend the film to friends. That's a far cry from the reaction the film received among critics.
Although "Robin Hood" is an action film, it primarily drew moviegoers in the over-25 age range. In the coming weeks, the ad campaign will be revised to include more action in the hopes of drawing a bigger teen crowd, sources say. Historically, repeat viewings by youngsters are what fuels blockbuster hits.