Kevin Costner isn't shying away from race. He confronts the sometimes dicey and uncomfortable topic in his new movie, "Black or White." It's something that's had an impact on him since childhood, reports "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King.
Costner has a certain kind of charm that's helped earn him leading-man status for almost 30 years. In his latest film, Costner plays a man in a custody battle over his biracial granddaughter.
"I didn't know what I was going to do. But when I read it, there it was right in front of me. And I thought, 'Why don't I share this in its totality. Let me not take out anything that seems over-sensitive,'" Costner said.
Despite the subject matter, he said he wasn't nervous at all.
"I'm not nervous about the things I believe in. I know that when things are diluted, they don't have the impact," Costner said.
That meant the "n-word" stayed -- for more than one line.
In one scene, his character, Elliot, who has a drinking problem, is asked point blank, "Do you like black people?" Elliot struggles with how to answer that question and be truthful to himself.
"I have come a long distance in my life. I have been around racial slurs," Costner said. "I've used them before, innocently but arrogantly as a kid, because you hear these things around."
He was born in 1955 in Compton, California, and said he heard those derogatory words growing up.
"I became crystallized at one point in my life that that word no longer had any place. It had to go in the rear view mirror, you know," Costner said. "So many people say, 'I've never used that word.' Well, maybe they haven't. But boy, I know so many that have."
Although he used those words ignorantly, Costner still recognizes the impact it had.
"It doesn't matter if it's innocent - it still hurts, it still cuts. So I think when people say they're colorblind, I don't --I just don't believe in that. I think that we do see things," Costner said. "It's a built-in device for us to see beauty, to see difference."
And he said that doesn't mean it's a bad thing.
Costner also pushed back against the notion that the film employs racial stereotypes - the alcoholism of his character Elliot, a white lawyer; the drug addiction of Elliot's black son-in-law.
"I don't think there is a stereotype in this movie," Costner said. "Stereotype is a too simplistic word. I mean this is a very nuanced movie."
Yet not everyone in Hollywood shared the same view. Costner had to finance a big chunk of the movie -- $9 million. But he did have a conversation with his wife about the decision.
"At the point where it wasn't going to be funded, it was only appropriate that I say something to my wife, that we're gonna reach deep and we're gonna make this movie," he said. "We had that husband and wife thing where she finally said, 'I know you and these things are important to you, it's been this way with you for a long time.' And she goes, 'I just don't know what's going to change.' So she said, 'You go do that.'"
This is not the first time Costner has dealt with interracial relationships. In 1992 he co-starred with Whitney Houston in "The Bodyguard."
"I had this unique window. I was right there. I held her hand. And I wasn't able to hold her hand after that. And I watched her journey. I watched the spiral," he said. "There was two or three times when I was asked to write her letters, that maybe this would have a level of impact on her. I wrote those letters. I never heard back. I was told that she got them. But she went away."
Costner recently turned 60 years old and reflected on the celebration.
"My daughter, in honor of 60, got 60 of my friends to write personal letters to me and put them in a treasure box. And she said, 'Here's your treasure,'" he said. "I've been able to feast on those-- flying around, take five or six with me and open them up and go, 'Wow.'"
Costner has been married twice and has seven kids that range in age from 4 to 30. Asked how his older children view his younger kids, and the change they've brought to the family dynamic, Costner said "I had to sit them down and I said, 'Listen to me. You and I have had a whole life together. And we're gonna have our (continuing) life. I've seen you from this to that."
But his younger children, Costner said, are not going to have the same relationship with their father.
"The way this works in the world, at 60 years old, I'm not gonna have that much time. And I said, 'So think about what they're gonna miss,' he said. "And my children looked me and a couple of them had tears and they said, 'Of course. Of course.'"
But one thing people may not know--Costner can sing, and is in a band.
"I've been able to reconnect with two guys-- that were in the first band I was in, John Coinman and Blaire Forward. And we created a band called Modern West. But I didn't know that the music would eventually take me around the world. And it has," Costner said.
How does it feel to play before 20,000 to 30,000 people?
"When the drums start, it's almost like being in an ocean and you feel the wave pick you up. You know, when you're with your friends," Costner said.