Kevin Costner is one of the few actors to spend a career almost entirely avoiding sequels. In fact, the only role he’s reprised from one movie to the next is that of Jonathan Kent, the adoptive father of Clark Kent/Superman. After a supporting role in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, he returned for a cameo in the controversial Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
It’s not that the actor/director has lacked opportunities to make sequels, though. Michael Blake, the novelist and screenwriter behind Dances with Wolves, wrote book continuations to Costner’s biggest hit as a filmmaker and reportedly long tried to get a sequel movie off the ground, but Costner never showed interest.
Hits like Bull Durham and The Bodyguard also had sequels in early stages of development at one point or another, but the star never jumped too hard on them. Even major box office successes like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves surprisingly came and went without followups.
There was one film, however, that Costner showed an uncharacteristically enthusiastic desire to franchise early on in its promotion — Mr. Brooks, a 2007 cult film that found Costner playing the role of a serial killer fighting his taste for ending human life.
The rare villainous role for Costner, Mr. Brooks was a play on the horror genre that was released across the country over a summer that included sharp competition like the third installments to the Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek franchises. Perhaps if Brooks had debuted in a year like 2017, where mass audiences seem more open to horror movies that bend the rules, it would have found some modicum of success at the box office. In 2007, it did, well… just okay.
On a $20 million production budget, the film took in just under $30 million domestically. It had a worldwide total gross just below $50 million.
The film has since earned more of a following, but it never became the breakout success that Costner and company needed to justify two promised sequels to round out a trilogy telling the tale of Earl Brooks, a successful business and family man harboring an addiction to murder.
After decades of fictional serial killers like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger being embraced by audiences, screenwriters Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans (who also directed) delivered a horror film from the killer’s perspective. In a wonderful and kooky twist, Brooks’ killing is not something he takes major delight in, but rather a weight on his shoulders and an addiction he can’t kick – sort of like alcohol or drugs. Except way bloodier.
There’s even a scene of Brooks attending an AA meeting, so how can you not love this wacky movie?
Though the trilogy of Mr. Brooks films was touted by Costner, Gideon, Evans and everyone in between through press interviews, it just never came to be.
Entirely on its own, as it ended up being, Mr. Brooks is a one of a kind killer thriller starring some seriously great actors. There’s Costner as our titular killer, plus William Hurt as the id of Mr. Brooks, brought to life as an adult imaginary friend who has a surprisingly gripping emotional relationship with our main character.
Then there’s Demi Moore as the detective hot on the trail of Brooks, a criminal who is providing a nice distraction from her own personal turmoil, which includes a messy divorce and the possibility of losing much of her family’s considerable wealth. There is also Marg Helgenberger and Danielle Panabaker as Brooks’ wife and daughter, respectively. Rounding out the cast is a surprisingly strong Dane Cook as a young man blackmailing Mr. Brooks into an apprenticeship in killing.
The final product is lightning in a bottle. It manages to be darkly humorous in parts and surprisingly moving in others. It’s an absurdist concept molded in the hands of craftsmen looking to create a true character drama, no matter how out-there the twists and turns get.
“When the writers first presented the notion [of a sequel] to me, I said, ‘Oh, bullshit!,’” Costner told Entertainment Weekly in anticipation of the film’s release. “I haven’t done ‘Tin Cup 2,’ or ‘Bull Durham 2,’ or ‘Open Range: The Early Years,’ so you don’t have to try to hook me with that.’ But when they told me their idea, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. We’re hoping this little movie develops a following so we can play this story out the way it should.”
There’s no telling where Mr. Brooks 2 and Mr. Brooks 3 would have gone with this world. There is one thing we know for sure, though — the options were endless. Would Brooks have become some sort of anti-hero, helping Demi Moore’s detective solve cases? How would he have dealt with his daughter, a (spoiler!) killer the film suggests is far more disturbed than Brooks could ever be?
Costner’s Brooks was a truly original creation who could have only grown with sequels. He was Freddy Krueger or Charles Lee Ray, but with the twist of a moral conscience. He craved the same things those lunatics craved, but he was filled with regret over his desires. And we buy into all of this because Costner and the writers so deeply commit to the idea of realistic addiction and recovery at the center of this chaotic and unpredictable world. The first film presented a redemption arc for Brooks that would have been superb to see played out until the end.
Costner has never been a great admirer of the sequel in his career, which is what should make people even more disappointed that Mr. Brooks 2 and Mr. Brooks 3 don’t exist.
After all, they had to have been pretty special to get him excited.