Kevin Costner on ‘The Hatfields and McCoys’

When two families, neighbors, clubs or companies clash – and when it becomes deeply personal and dangerously passionate – the cliche goes something like, “They’re fighting like the Hatfields and McCoys.”

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Now, a new docudrama miniseries from The History Channel – starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton – will explore the legendary family feud. Costner plays the aptly named family head Devil Anse Hatfield, while Paxton portrays his rival family boss, Randall McCoy.

The battle between the families raged for years, leaving many dead on both sides. Eventually, everyone from state governors to the U.S. Supreme Court had to get involved to bring the war to an end.

CraveOnline had a chance to connect with Costner and find out what about this deadly clan war drew him to the miniseries.

CraveOnline: Were a student of the Hatfields and McCoys before getting involved with this production?
Kevin Costner:  I knew a little bit more than the average bear. I like American history. Obviously, I became more aware of it doing my own research. So I got involved with it the way I do all the projects that I get involved with. I felt the authenticity of the writing.  I was surprised by the violence, but what was really interested in what was going on culturally at that point – immersing myself in that era.
CraveOnline: You also tour with your band these days. Did this miniseries change your music repertoire at all?
Kevin Costner: I was so surprised at how deep I was actually able to go on this part that I began to write a lot of music about it – about the era and the time and this famous blood feud that occurred there. And we wrote the theme song for the movie. And we then wrote a concept album that will come out about a week before – before the movie comes out. It's called "Famous for Killing Each Other," and it's all about this story.  

CraveOnline: Do you think you were at all able to get a feeling over what this famous feud was really about?
Kevin Costner: I started to go a little heavier into the socio-economic issues that were going on in that time, because so often audiences try to overlay their own sensibilities about something that was happening in 1860s. You know we had come out of this terrible Civil War, and we realize that the repercussions of that lasted 50, 60 years, or more.

So, when we came out of the Civil War there was incredible anger.  I started to realize that eventually it was the children and outside people who were really the provocateurs of this – of this feud that endured. Each (clan leader) had 13 children. They'd tear the scabs off of old memories and for their own purposes.

And it's the same thing, I'm told, for people in Libya and Serbia-Croatia and Afghanistan and Iraq. There's going to be these blood killings in the middle of the night for the next 60 years.

CraveOnline: So you think the feud still applies to today’s world?
Kevin Costner:  I try to go into actual human behavior instead of putting my own sensibilities on it. I try to go back to that time.  You know, 500,000 people died in Civil War. And 56,000 died in Vietnam.  About 6,000 or 7,000 have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  So you understand the magnitude times like these.

We don't even talk about post-traumatic stress.  We understand it since Vietnam – that men coming out of war are affected. Devil Anse and Randall McCoy both came out of a war where they participated in hand-to-hand combat. I try to look at all these things in my research to make sure that the violence seems right.


Photo Credit: Schultz-Coulon/