Kevin Costner has been around the cinematic block. He has starred in a spate of blockbuster hits. In the late 1980s and early '90s it seemed he was everywhere: "No Way Out" and "The Untouchables," both in 1987; "Field of Dreams" in 1989; "JFK" in 1991; "Tin Cup" in 1996.
His acclaimed "Dances With Wolves", which he directed, produced and starred in, won seven Academy Awards in 1991, including two statues for Costner for best director and best picture.
The actor recently took time to chat with Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers about his new election comedy "Swing Vote," which opens nationwide on Aug. 1, and his experiences from more than two decades on the silver screen on "Popcorn With Peter Travers" on ABC News Now.
"Swing Vote" tells the story of Bud Johnson, a slacker who is inadvertently thrust into the national spotlight when it turns out that his vote -- cast by his 12-year-old daughter -- will determine the outcome of an impending presidential election.
"The good thing about Bud is that he's not living in the past, he's living in the future," Costner said. "But he'd rather that future be on the bank of a river fishing. He doesn't have all the ambition in the world. He's not what I would call a PTA dad."
The fact that the film will be released just months before the 2008 presidential race is a mere coincidence, Costner said. "I wasn't trying to anticipate an election year, I just simply saw it as a film that makes that journey and does that special thing that I think movies can do once in awhile: You begin to feel something that you didn't think was possible when you went in."
But Costner certainly isn't unaware of the timeliness of the movie.
"You think at a certain point that 'my single vote doesn't matter,'" he said. "But I think that's when people are thinking selfishly. When you think in terms of that you're a fabric of a whole, when our whole democracy depends on this one event, voting. To exercise this one privilege that was clearly fought for, designed for, and one of the great things America stands for that your voice can count."
Controversy isn't anything new for Costner. At this point he's used to extremes. Some of his films have received the highest accolades, while others are regarded as some of the biggest "turkeys" of all time.
"I don't see myself as a risk-taker," he said. "I see myself as more of somebody that hears the voice that's talking to me. When I hear it, when I see the story, I can't ignore it. I haven't ever starred in a movie that I never thought had a chance to be great ... never."
He specifically cited 1995's costly "Waterworld" as a case in point. "I feel that 'Waterworld' has actually stood the test of time. It's a beloved movie around the world," Costner said. "It's a highly entertaining, flawed movie. And almost all movies are if you talk to filmmakers."
For Costner, it's the personal achievement that is most gratifying.
"You stop getting report cards when you leave college or high school. So who's the person there? There's going to be a point in time where you don't look to see how well you did, you have to kind of do that yourself," he said. "I deal pretty well with constructive criticism. What I don't deal well with is modern kind of critiques that are meant to be cute or hurtful or don't even get below the surface as why maybe something happened."
He added, "I just don't believe in the conventional wisdom of everything because you know the instinct is, What if everybody's wrong? You have to trust yourself and hope that you haven't lost your true north."
Years of experience tell Costner that preparation and rehearsal are key in any filmmaking process.
"I just believe the foundation of our business is the literacy of it," he explained. "It's not the charm of an actor who is suddenly the most popular actor around. It still is about the written word. It's still about a way to communicate to an audience. A good story is not a good movie -- a good script is a good movie."