Kevin Costner is one of those guys who’s rarely unsure of himself. During a recent visit to Boston to promote his new political comedy “Swing Vote,” he mentions that one of the last times he felt hesitant about a decision happened to be one of the last times he was in Boston.

Kevin Costner is one of those guys who’s rarely unsure of himself. During a recent visit to Boston to promote his new political comedy “Swing Vote,” he mentions that one of the last times he felt hesitant about a decision happened to be one of the last times he was in Boston.

It was when he visited Fenway Park, scheduled to announce the players who were chosen for the All Century Team at the 1999 All Star game.

“I was at Fenway to shoot ‘Field of Dreams,’ and it’s clearly a special place,” says Costner, a hardcore baseball fan. “But that was a night that I tried to get out of. I thought there were probably 20 other guys that could do that better than I could. But so many people — both in and out of baseball — came up to me and said, ‘Kevin, baseball wants you to introduce these guys.’

“And finally I reconciled that I would do it, even though I was upset for two days because I was so nervous. But about five minutes before I stepped up to home plate I thought, ‘I am the right guy.’ It was a beautiful night and I’m so glad to have been a part of it. I still don’t know if I did a good job, but when it happened I felt that it was my moment.”

Costner knew to say yes to starring in “Swing Vote” practically from the moment he read the script. Written as a reaction to the 2000 election vote-counting debacle in Florida, the film tells of a presidential election that’s so close, its result comes down to one vote from one man.

That would be Costner’s Bud Johnson, a shiftless, out-of-work, white trash single dad who would rather be drinking or sleeping than doing anything else. But his young daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), insists that he does his civic duty.

“The script had been around,” says Costner. “People thought they might want to make it, but then they began to second guess themselves that it didn’t have an international upside because it was such an ‘American’ movie.

“But at one point the director had me in mind. He came to me, we had dinner, I liked it, and I said that I’d do it, and I’d also produce it. As it turned out, my wife and I financed it.”

Bud also happens to be a good father, and his daughter, though sometimes exasperated by him, also loves him dearly. Costner and up-and-coming Carroll are onscreen together for most of the movie, since so much of it is about their slightly strained relationship.

A look at Costner’s resume reveals that he’s done quite a few roles opposite very young actors, from the much-derided “Waterworld” to the underappreciated “A Perfect World.”

“I don’t talk down to kids,” says Costner. “I deal with them. Whether I’m dealing with them empathetically or whether I’m having to hit one in the face in ‘3,000 Miles to Graceland.’ ”

Costner stops talking, seems to get lost in thought about that whack in the very violent and sometimes hilarious “Graceland,” then says, “That was a funny moment, and I knew it would be funny because I had been true to my character. This kid was overstepping. And when you saw him keep overstepping, you were in the audience going, ‘He should quit doing that.’ Then I was able to tie hitting him into a joke. But there are different kinds of laughs. You just have to try be true.”

When Costner first met Carroll, they talked about how they would work together on “Swing Vote.” He initiated the discussion by bringing up the mutual trust they would have to share as actors. The first time they did a scene together, he purposely didn’t say his line on time, which confused Carroll and threw off her timing.

“I could see her getting edgy, but I did that on purpose,” says Costner, who then asked her what was wrong. “She’d say, ‘I didn’t know if you knew your line.’ I said, ‘I knew my line, but I’m still acting over here. I’ll give you my line when I want to give it to you. If I don’t know my line, I’ll say so. So we should trust each other. Nothing says that you have to say your line right away. I could go and pour myself a Coke and sit down. So I’m gonna trust that you know what you’re doing, and you’re gonna trust that I know what I’m doing. And when we don’t, we’re not gonna be afraid to say, “I’m lost.” ’ ”

There was also the issue of physical trust, since the story is about a father and daughter who are very close.

“I told her that I needed to be able to touch her,” says Costner. “I said, ‘I need to be able to touch your bottom, to kiss the top of your head. You need to be able to lay in my lap, to be able to hit me on the back, hard.’ But she wouldn’t hit me hard enough. I finally had to go over to a piece furniture and ‘Wham!’ ” — he hits the hotel room table  —  “and that furniture just shook, and I said, ‘That is the right kind of hit for a child that has run out of patience, and it will be funny to an audience.’ ”

Audiences will also be able to check out a different side of Costner when he straps on a guitar and starts singing in one scene. And he’s not bad!

“I have a band called Modern West,” he says of one of his out-of-Hollywood activities. “We’ve been playing for about two and a half years. I had played music before and I just wanted to start playing again. I wanted to play in the cities where I was working, and I wanted to play when I’m on the road promoting a movie.”

He smiles and adds, “That’s my band in the film.”

“Swing Vote” opens on Aug. 1.

Ed Symkus can be reached at

Madeline Carroll

Twelve-year-old Madeline Carroll plays Molly, the civic-minded daughter of Kevin Costner’s apolitical character in “Swing Vote.”

Asked if she has any interest in politics when she’s not playing a role, she says, “I like politics, I didn’t so much before. But now I’m starting to get into it more because I understand some of it. I was aware before the movie, I was watching the news about the last election with George Bush and Kerry. I remember some vivid images from it. And I’m really interested in this year’s election, because there’s so much going on. I think kids need to be more interested too, because we’re gonna run the country one day; we’re gonna run the world.”

Modern West

Listen to and watch Kevin Costner and Modern West on their MySpace page: