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Kevin Costner Challenges Audience Expectations with Role in 'Mr. Brooks'

Kevin Costner is familiar to audiences as a hero, but in his new film he plays a deadly serial killer. Alan Silverman has a look at the psychological thriller Mr. Brooks.

The man quietly reciting the Alcoholics Anonymous 'serenity' prayer is a loving husband and father, a successful businessman and a pillar of his community.

But Mr. Brooks is also a serial killer.

Marshall, played by William Hurt, is the embodiment of Earl's conscience. Only Earl can see or hear him; but their inner dialog shows the struggle going on between the impulse to kill and the desire to be 'normal.'

Kevin Costner says the role of Earl gives him a chance to 'play against type' or challenge audience expectations when they see him.

"I might be playing against type, but I think the movie is absolutely in parallel with everything else I've ever done," says Costner. " I think you could equate this movie very easily to "Field of Dreams" in that it is American in its sensibility and what I think American cinema should be, which is an original experience."

When Mr. Brooks inadvertently leaves the curtain open at one of his murder scenes, an eyewitness snaps his picture through the window. With this damning evidence as his leverage 'Mr. Smith,' challenges the killer to teach him what it is like to take a human life. Dane Cook better known for his comedy, takes a dramatic turn as the thrill-seeking 'Mr. Smith.'

"He is just a deviant, dark soul," Cook says. "We all have that voyeuristic, dark side of ourselves, whether it be watching a high-speed chase when there's that little thing in the back of your brain going 'oh, this car is going to crash; I've got to watch this.' I used to watch skiing and thought 'at some point somebody is going to fall. I wonder what that's going to be like.' We all have those dark little nuggets. It's just that certain people actually make those come to fruition in a bigger way. That's what this guy is, so I went for it ...full-tilt boogie [all the way].

"As an actor in the collaborative effort, it is fun. It is a role," he adds. "You say 'how can we dig this out together? how can we figure out your vision and get what you need and how can I give it to you right now?' All of that is a blast, just being a part of how that works; but away from it, being in your trailer and thinking about where you need to go and what you need to be and do, you realize that guy exists. He is somewhere, right now. As I'm filming a make-believe version of him, he is out there. That will scare you."

Costner says his challenge in playing a killer was to recognize the danger he poses, but also try to understand his perspective:

"While we can't ever forgive "Mr. Brooks" and we can't ever make an excuse for him, there are moments where we go 'Okay, I get it.' We will never meet a serial killer that we can ever have any empathy for unless you actually knew him or grew up with him and knew that he was abused every night," says Costner. "Then you could go 'I'm not saying what he did was right, but that poor little kid never had a chance.' So movies at their best are when characters have elements that we understand. I believe you can be hideous in a movie. I think what you need to do is create a level of understanding. Not forgiveness, just understanding.

Mr. Brooks also features Marg Helgenberger (of TV's CSI) as the unsuspecting Mrs. Brooks. Demi Moore co-stars as the police detective who always seems to be one step behind the notorious murderer. Mr. Brooks is co-written and directed by Bruce Evans.