When Matt Barr was about 11 years old, he met Kevin Costner during a film premiere and told the star he would play his son in a movie someday.
Now, about 17 years later, the Allen, Texas, native is playing son “Johnse” to Costner's character, “Devil Anse Hatfield,” in the three-part, six-hour miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” airing at 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday on History. “Hatfields & McCoys” centers on the true legendary American family feud that lasted for decades during the post Civil War era in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Bill Paxton, Tom Berenger, Mare Winningham, Powers Boothe and
Barr, 28, whose television credits include “Hellcats,” “Harper's Island,” and “Friday Night Lights,” grew up south of the Red River but has friends and relatives in the Sooner state.
He shared the story about Costner during a recent phone interview with The Oklahoman.
“Yeah, he had premiered a movie down in Texas years ago, and I was about 11 years old, and I got to go down there and made my way, somehow got up to him and shook his hand and just said real quickly, ‘I'm gonna grow up someday and play your son in a real movie.' And he smiled and said, “OK, I'll see you in Hollywood.' And, I literally never forgot that.”
Barr discussed how filming “Hatfields & McCoys” in Romania was a different experience than being in his home state.
“It wasn't quite like Oklahoma or Texas. ... At least there wasn't any good chicken-fried steak there,” Barr said. “We filmed a lot of the movie up in the mountains. We kind of all lived in almost a ski resort, so it was like we had camp up there. I enjoyed it 'cause we all got to bond as a cast.
“And, it was easy to kind of slip into that world. Up in the mountains, those people are kind of stuck in the 1800s. It's very primitive up there, so as we built our sets and we'd be on location, it felt very authentic as an actor.”
The first scene Barr shot with Pulsipher, who portrays Johnse's love interest Roseanna McCoy, was a skinny-dipping scene, and it wound up being a blessing and a curse for them to begin with that segment.
“That was actually the first day of filming. On one hand, I thought, ‘We have to get naked our first day? This is humiliating,' but once it got to winter, I kinda gave the producers a big hug and said, ‘Thank you for shooting that water scene the first day.'”
‘Elevates your game'
Barr described working with acting veterans such as Costner, Paxton and Winningham as being like a young athlete playing with a superstar.
“It's just amazing how it elevates your game and the mysteries of the universe are revealed. The craft becomes, it just reveals itself in ways that it hadn't before, 'cause those guys are so, you know, they're such pros.”
Costner's enthusiasm in particular impressed Barr.
“Something that really stands out to me was that he so purely loves it, just like me, like the 9-year-old dreamer in him that loves movies shows up on set every day. To be successful and have, you know, decades of it, and he's kind of done this whole rodeo before, and he's still 110 percent every day and he loves it, like just with pure, with joy in his heart, and passion, and I'm so glad that you don't lose that.”
And, during a media conference call, Costner had high praise for Barr, as well, and told journalists about that long-ago meeting with Barr.
“We have a little photograph where I spoke at the University of Texas and he had come, and I don't know if he was 12 years old or what, but he's looking up at me and, you know, asked me about acting and I think I signed something for him,” Costner said.
“He's a really handsome guy, but he's a very thoughtful person,” Costner continued. “There's a lot of handsome guys out there, I guess, ... but he's just a very, very serious guy about what he wants to do in his career and how he wants to approach it.
“And, I really think that a lot of things will come to him. But he was a really fine actor and he's kind of a better person, and that's not minimizing his talent. It's just I really appreciate him, and everybody else liked him, too.”