[WATCH] Kevin Costner (‘Hidden Figures’): ‘I’m embarrassed or ashamed that I didn’t know this story’

“I don’t know that I’m embarrassed or I’m ashamed that I didn’t know this story existed,” admits Kevin Costner about the real life plot of his latest film “Hidden Figures.” In our recent webchat (watch above), he adds, “I think to myself, ‘Knothead, why didn’t you know?’ Of course, there were African-American people that contributed in so many ways in this country. Why would I be surprised that in this particular film, with everything on the line, it came down to old-fashioned math and a little girl who we saw in this movie as an eight-year-old who could completely blow college men away became the woman that John Glenn said yes to?”

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For the film directed by Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent”), Costner plays Al Harrison, director of the Space Task Group at NASA in the early 1960s. The story is about three women, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), who worked in the segregated offices of NASA at Langley in Virginia. The governmental agency employed a large number of African-American women as “computers,” people who had to do complicated math on paper and blackboards to assist the male-dominated team of scientists and engineers. The film co-stars Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, and Aldis Hodge.

At one crucial point in the movie, Costner has an inspiring moment where he stands up against racial and gender bias. Of that scene, he says, “The great thing about movies is it gives us a chance to do some things we would hope we would do in real life. There’s a moment where we all want to tear some stuff down that’s holding people back. We all wish we were that heroic. I hope I am that way in my life. I knew when I was tearing that sign down, I was tearing it down for a lot of people.”

Related: Watch our interview with Pharrell Williams
(‘Hidden Figures’ producer and composer)

Costner is a two-time Oscar winner for producing and directing “Dances with Wolves.” That 1990 film also brought him victories at the Golden Globes, Directors Guild, and Producers Guild. He is also an Emmy, Globe and SAG winner for his lead role in the limited series “Hatfields and McCoys” (2012). His lengthy film career has included “Silverado,” “The Untouchables,” “No Way Out,” “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “JFK,” “The Bodyguard,” “Waterworld,” “Tin Cup,” “The Upside of Anger,” and “Man of Steel.”

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