How Kevin Costner Made a Fortune from Waterworld

In 1995, Kevin Costner released Waterworld, a grand post-apocalyptic movie which he produced, directed, and even starred in. It was, at that point, the most expensive movie ever made. And it was a considered an utter flop. The movie made back less than half of its cost domestically. Overseas revenues ultimately made up the cost of the movie, but Waterworld still has a reputation as a failure.

Yet for Costner, it wasn't. The movie inspired him to learn more about separating oil from water and he decided to invest in emerging oil spill cleanup technologies:

He purchased a company — including some intellectual property — from the U.S. government for $20 million. The technology? A machine which uses centrifugal force to separate oil from water. Costner’s partner, the company’s CEO John Houghtaling, called the machine a “kind of like a big vacuum cleaner.”

For 15 years, he and his business partners refined the technology, waiting for the next great oil spill disaster. When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Costner and team were ready to spring into action. They offered their technology, which allegedly can separate 97 to 99% of the oil out of water at the rate of 200 gallons a minute, to BP. BP ended up buying 32 of the machines as part of the on-going cleanup at an unreported price.

Link | Image: Universal Pictures

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I was too young to see it in the theater, but I love Waterworld. It's a shame it did so poorly.

Gaining inspiration from something is as good as making money from it. The idea counts as much as the end result, imho.
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