Kevin Costner turned down the best movie ever to make his worst

Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and Kevin Costner all turned down the lead role in the best 90s movie, and Costner spent that time making the biggest turkey ever.

Kevin Costner in Waterworld

There’s one film from the ’90s that nearly always comes near the top of best movies of all time lists – almost as frequently as Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Casablanca – and that’s The Shawshank Redemption. But before Tim Robbins signed on to give his wonderfully mild-mannered and understated performance as Andy Dufresne, some big stars was almost attached – including Yellowstone’s Kevin Costner.

In a 2014 Vanity Fair article celebrating The Shawshank Redemption’s 20th anniversary, it explains that; “offers went out to the 1990s’ usual suspects for the part of Andy Dufresne. Tom Hanks and Kevin Costner passed. And though Tom Cruise loved the screenplay – even doing a table read with the filmmakers – he balked at taking direction from a green director.”

It’s almost impossible to imagine Tom Cruise starring in The Shawshank Redemption, although this was a time when he was making drama movies like A Few Good Men. Hanks did his Oscar-winning double of Philadelphia and Forrest Gump around this time, so it’s fair enough that he passed. And he would go onto star in the very similar The Green Mile, with the same writer-director as Shawshank, in 1999.

So, what was Kevin Costner doing when he passed on The Shawshank Redemption, you may well reasonably ask? The ’90s were certainly a wild rollercoaster ride for Costner. He began the decade by winning multiple Oscars for Dances with Wolves, and followed this up in quick succession with Robin Hood, JFK, and The Bodyguard (in 1991-1992) – making him one of the biggest stars in the world.

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But when Shawshank came along, Costner was preparing to produce and star in a movie that would become maybe the most notorious turkey and biggest box office bomb of that decade – Waterworld. He interspersed two mushy romance movies – Tin Cup and Message in a Bottle – in between two post-apocalyptic disaster movies (in more ways than one) – Waterworld and The Postman. He even directed the latter movie.

It’s not all bad news, because Waterworld has become enshrined at Universal Studios as a fan favorite stunt show and like many so-called turkeys, has been reappraised as something of a cult classic. Also, Costner’s career hasn’t exactly suffered as a result of not doing Shawshank. He’s even back in the director’s chair for a new movie he hope will join the best westerns.

Check out our guides to the best 90s movies and the best action movies. And if you’re a Yellowstone fan, we’ve got plenty to discover – such as the Yellowstone cast, the Yellowstone filming location, and much more.