Last week, in an interview with Newsweek, Kevin Costner virtually spit in the face of Universal Pictures over his upcoming baseball flick, For Love of the Game.

This week, the movie studio is stepping up to the plate and spitting right back.

The reputedly temperamental star blasted Universal for making cuts to the film to meet the Motion Picture Association of America's criteria for a PG-13 rating. The Field of Dreams star said the studio "hurt the movie" and was shamelessly pandering to the "biggest common denominator."

The studio, apparently fed up with Costner's cracks, is on the attack. "Kevin's not the director and it's not fair for him to hijack a $50 million asset," Universal's cochair Stacey Snider said in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times. "I realize this is very much about principle for Kevin, but principle doesn't mean that you never compromise. Our feeling is that we have backed the filmmaker, and his name is Sam Raimi, not Kevin Costner."


Raimi, by the way, told the Times he's "very happy with the film," edits included.

Actually, if test screenings prove anything, the editing might have been a good idea. A clipped shower scene featuring Costner's, um, full monty, inspired laughter at a Scottsdale, Arizona, screening. "The audience giggled at Kevin's penis," one exec told New York magazine. "Then, in focus groups, they said, 'Do we really need to see Kevin Costner's penis?' "

Apparently, Kevin Costner thinks we do. "It's worth fighting for. It's worth protecting," he said of the script, not the penis. "I always feel like these scripts and these movies are almost like patients that are in comas. There's no one there to talk for them."

Snider begs to differ. "Kevin has somehow re-imagined the creative intent of the film," Snider told the Times. "It's not Basic Instinct, it's an idealized version of squeaky-clean ballplayers--and we talked about that before we made the movie."

While Costner is claiming a love of the script prompted his comments, he has a history of creating bad blood with directors and studios. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld director Kevin Reynolds quit both films before their release, following verbal brawls with the star. Costner also butted heads with studio execs over the running times of box-office disasters Waterworld and The Postman.

In For Love of the Game, Costner's third baseball flick (following 1989's Field of Dreams and 1988's Bull Durham), the actor plays an aging Detroit Tigers pitcher in the midst of a dream game versus the New York Yankees. The movie hits theaters Friday and pairs Costner with Jerry Maguire's Kelly Preston.

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