Kevin Costner And His Co-Stars Almost Died Making His Worst Movie

Was it worth it?

By Michileen Martin | Published

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For years, the 1995 post-apocalyptic thriller Waterworld remained perhaps the most recognizable cautionary tale in Hollywood. The waterlogged epic was lambasted by critics, underperformed at the box office, and gave Kevin Costner’s career a knee to the kidney. What’s worse is that as poorly as it performed, Costner and some of his co-stars wound up with their lives in very real danger to make the cinematic lemon.

As reported before the movie’s release by People, Waterworld‘s production designer Dennis Gassner called the making of the film, “18 months of hell,” including conditions that came close to killing Kevin Costner, the female lead Jeanne Tripplehorn (Basic Instinct), a young Tina Majorino (Napoleon Dynamite), and Costner’s own stuntman. Tripplehorn and Majorino almost drowned, Costner’s stuntman came up to the surface after a dive too fast and the case of the bends he suffered as a result almost killed him, and what happened to Costner could’ve killed him in a number of different ways.

Kevin Costner in Waterworld (1995)

In December 1994, Kevin Costner was strapped to the mast of a sailboat during filming; 40 feet up in the air. Without warning, incredibly strong winds hit the boat, throwing Costner against the mast. The winds didn’t let up for a half hour, and in the meantime the crew didn’t dare lower Costner to the deck because of what could happen on the way down. Luckily, Costner was okay when it was all over, but People said he bluntly told a friend, “I nearly died.”

The same month principal photography began, Tripplehorn and Majorino–who was only 12 at the time–were thrown into the ocean during filming when the bowsprit of their sailboat unexpectedly snapped. Over a dozen divers went after them and fortunately were able to get them both to safety quickly. Apparently, these were just the beginnings of the troubles faced on the Kevin Costner production.

According to People’s story, the issue was, of course, the water. Waterworld takes place in a distant future in which the ocean levels have risen to the point where dry land is seen as some kind of fairy tale. As such, just about every set was a floating set, which caused no end of pain for the cast and crew. Seasickness and jellyfish bites were universally suffered by everyone in the film, though Kevin Costner seemed to have a lot more to deal with than most. Along with coming off a trio of flops–A Perfect World, The War, and Wyatt Earp–he was in the middle of a very public divorce.

Kim Coates in Waterworld (1995)

It’s a testament to Kevin Costner’s professionalism that, in spite of all that was on his shoulders during the long production of Waterworld, he managed to leave such a powerful impression on his co-star Kim Coates. In a recent interview on the Inside of You podcast, Coates admitted to being shocked with how warm, friendly, and smart Costner proved to be when he met him while making Waterworld. In fact, the leading man impressed Coates so much he became one of the Sons of Anarchy star’s best friends. They collaborated again eight years later on the Costner-directed western Open Range.