The historically overlooked real-life heroines of the NASA Space Race are quite rightly the stars of Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures. However, the supporting cast of the likes of Kevin Costner and Jim Parsons add a depth which allows Melfi’s film to explore the wider society of 1960s America. James Kleinmann had the chance to sit down with Kevin Costner to talk about his role as Al Harrison, a fictional composite of a number of the top men who headed up NASA’s Space Task Group.

Costner explained how he approached the role, and what the essence of Harrison’s role in the narrative was,

“You have to be a scientist first and foremost, or you can’t lead them. They talk in a very specific language, and a lot of scientists and engineers don’t have that. They’re so brilliant at what they do but they don’t naturally bring a managerial [style]. So those guys are few and far between. And Al Harrison (Costner’s character), somebody that was tasked to head up NASA, get them to a certain point, he had that extra skill.

“Trying to get so many people to work together on something when they are the very best wherever they were working before they were brought into NASA, trying to have a single purpose, and then trying to identify when human nature raises its ugly head – insecurity, jealousy, laziness – that was the least fun for him.”

Kevin Costner Hidden Figures
Jim Parsons, Taraji P. Henson & Kevin Costner in Hidden Figures

The actor also spoke briefly about his work on Molly’s Game, and working with Aaron Sorkin on his directorial debut,

“It’s time that he direct, and there’s a smaller part in that movie and he tapped me to do it. I read it and it was just beautiful. It’s a very sharp, acidic screenplay.”

Hidden Figures is released in UK cinemas on the 17th of February, read our glowing review here.

Kevin Costner – Hidden Figures Interview