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Kevin Costner explains why 'Let Him Go' scared him

Kevin Costner can now be seen in the family drama, Let Him Go. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Kevin Costner can now be seen in the family drama, "Let Him Go." File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
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NEW YORK, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Actor Kevin Costner wanted to star in the screen adaptation of Larry Watson's novel, Let Him Go, because it was intelligently written, emotionally satisfying -- but a bit unnerving.

"I'm always looking for an original story -- at least that is how I've tried to conduct my career -- and, as I started to read this, I had this No. 1 immediate dread," Costner told UPI in a recent phone interview.

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"I saw where it was going, and it really kind of scared me as a man to know that you have to follow the person you love because they are relentless in their pursuit of what they think is right," Costner said.

"The best storytellers get to the point and hold your attention. So, as long as I choose to do this, I need to be about stories that... actually do that."

Written and directed by The Family Stone filmmaker Thomas Bezucha, Let Him Go is set in the early 1960s.

The film follows retired Montana sheriff George Blackledge (Costner) and his headstrong wife Margaret (Diane Lane) as they try to bring home their late son's widow, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and 3-year-old grandson Jimmy after Lorna marries the abusive Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), who takes them to live with his menacing, off-the-grid family in North Dakota.

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The Weboys don't care about Jimmy, but are willing to do everything they can to keep him out of the arms of his loving grandparents.

The movie has stark themes of power and cruelty that might resonate with modern audiences.

"There are a lot of people fighting in this country over really misguided ideas," Costner said. "It's there. It's part of us. It's an ugly part of us, and it just came out in this movie, and I was really happy to do it."

The road trip George and Margaret take to North Dakota strains their decades-long marriage to the brink.

"The only reason why it just keeps going is love. The only reason why he makes that ultimate sacrifice is just love," Costner said. "It was a terrible moment in their relationship where one [person] was obsessive and felt morally and ethically entitled."

Let Him Go marks a reunion for Costner and Lane, who played Superman's adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent in 2013's Man of Steel.

"It was great," Costner said of working with Lane again. "She just threw herself into it completely."

Lane does most of the talking in Let Him Go, and Costner thinks that is only right since Margaret is the one driving the action of the story.

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"I would have said, 'We're done and, as bad and as sad as it is, we're going home. This is not our fight at this point. This is done.'

"That's what scared me about the screenplay when I read it, because I realized how true that could be," he said of going against one's better judgment to follow a loved one into danger.

The title refers to Margaret's silent prayer.

"Just let him go. You don't want him. You don't need him. You're going to ruin him. Let him go," Costner said.

Costner, who lives in Montana, is a western icon, having directed and acted in the Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves, and starred in Silverado, Wyatt Earp, The Postman, Hatfields & McCoys, The Highwaymen and Yellowstone.

The actor and filmmaker doesn't sign on for roles just because they film in the picturesque Mountain-Prairie Region, though. These projects seem to find him.

"I don't throw darts at the map or have a wish list. I go where the part is. I wish they were all close to home," Costner laughed.

"There is nothing more beautiful than horses running and landscapes that are untainted. I am sitting in the Bitterroot Mountains exactly where Lewis and Clark came down. The only thing ugly about it are buildings and trash along the highway."

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Godless, Mrs. America and Bad Education actress Kayli Carter plays the pivotal character Lorna in Let Him Go.

Although her poor decisions spell disaster for her family, Carter views Lorna as heroic in some ways and not strictly a victim.

"In intimate partner violence situations, women are making very quietly heroic moves when they stay in those relationships," Carter said in a separate phone interview.

"There is a protective aspect there, that when you decide to leave a relationship like that is actually when the threat level is the highest."

The time period in which she lived and the social restraints on women meant Lorna had few opportunities to leave her second spouse and make a decent life for herself and her boy.

Why she didn't just stay with George and Margaret after her first husband died is a complicated matter.

"It's such an interesting mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship," Carter said. "If you're a first-time mother trying to learn how to do it your way, it's going to be an impediment to have someone who thinks they've raised a perfect son and thinks they can teach you how to do it step by step."

Booboo Stewart plays Peter, an ostracized Native American man who helps George and Margaret find their missing family members.

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Known for his roles in the Julie and the Phantoms series and Twilight and Descendants movies, Stewart was grateful Let It Go shines a light, however briefly, on indigenous people who for years were removed from their homes and sent to U.S. government-run schools and taught to assimilate into White culture.

"I loved the tone, the slow-burn of it and my character Peter," Stewart told UPI about why he wanted to appear in the film. "To give a voice to the people who actually experienced [the traumas Peter went through], I thought, would be very powerful, very interesting."

Viewers might connect with Peter since, like them, he is an outsider swept up in the families' dispute.

"It's an odd situation that Peter is in, being caught in the middle of it all," Stewart said. "He's so hesitant toward George and Margaret when they come around. The reason he is on the outskirts of town is because he is just trying to live a peaceful life."

Carter and Stewart said they learned a lot from their veteran co-stars.

Asked about younger actors studying him, Costner said he is happy to answer questions or offer guidance to anyone who seeks him out on a film set.

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"You don't want to try to come off like Yoda. If they want to talk about it, I love acting. I love everything about it. I understand how hard it is. The only way I know to get there is to work at it," he said.

"I just try to come as ready as I can be, and I want to be as supportive of whoever is across from me and they were very equipped," Costner added. "I'm working just like them. I'm afraid just like them. I want to get it right just like they do."

Let Him Go is now playing in select theaters.

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