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INT: Kurt Russell

04.06.2007by: JimmyO

Okay, how many people in Hollywood can you say has had a 47-year career? It’s no surprise that to many, the name Kurt Russell might not be the first name you think of. But ask a genre fan and you’ll hear all about Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, R.J. MacReady and don’t forget Cooper in THE FOX AND THE HOUND… okay, maybe not that last one. But THE THING, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and now Stuntman Mike in GRINDHOUSE. Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to give Mr. Russell another one of those roles that he can add to his list of ass-kicking characters. Kurt is the kind of guy that has learned to stay out of the limelight and do his job. He is also one of the most underrated actors when it comes to mainstream, but it doesn’t seem to bother him.

When Kurt walked joined us at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk to the eager journalists waiting to hear all about GRINDHOUSE, he came in smiling and making everyone feel comfortable. He truly is just a down-to-earth guy who happens to love what he does and isn’t too concerned with the frivolity of Hollywood . That makes him a perfect piece of the GRINDHOUSE puzzle where he shines as the dude with the killer car. His performance is alive and reminiscent of Burt Reynolds slash good ole’ boy psycho, he is on fire with old-school class. He also has a great respect for Mr. Tarantino and the movies he creates… and the fact that Quentin can remember every line of dialogue from THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. This is Kurt Russell. The man, the myth, the man who kicked ass in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA [sue me, I dug that movie].

Kurt Russell

Congratulations, great job!

Thanks, it was a lot of fun.

Fantastic job… You played such a great character, Stuntman Mike.

Yeah, there’s a character I’m going to have a great memory of, I think.

Going to be another Snake Plissken?

Dark and memorable.

Is it the dark side of Snake Plissken or is it the cowardly side?

Just the bad, bad, bad, bad psycho, and a lot of fun to do with Quentin and a lot of fun to do, a lot of fun to play. Every once in awhile you get these opportunities and you sure relish that and have a great time.

How did Quentin talk to you about it? Did he call you up and say, “Hey, I got a movie for you.”?

KR: Well, I was in Tahiti actually. I was on vacation. I had worked with Freddy Rodriguez, both on ‘Poseidon’ and ‘Dreamer’. The release of ‘Poseidon’ was in the future. I forget how I got this message from Freddy. I called him back and we played a little bit of phone tag. And when I finally got a hold of him, he said, “Listen, I’m doing this movie with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino is doing his own movie and they’re going to put them together for a double feature under the name ‘Grindhouse.’” And I said, “That sounds like fun... that sounds interesting.” And he’s like, “Yeah, I think Quentin is going to come to you with this.

I know that Mickey Rourke is maybe happening, maybe not happening.” And then I found out later also that other people – like Ving Rhames was also a name that saw it. I kind of got the gist of what the character might sort of in the vein of. And then somewhere along the line, Quentin called and I called him back. We played phone tag but in our phone messages I began to strike up a relationship. And then all of a sudden he just said, “I want you to do this.” And I want you to add this to your rogue’s gallery of characters. I think you’ve played some phenomenal characters and I want you to do this one.

And I remember sending a message to him saying I suppose it’s about we worked together. I knew what he meant. I spent an hour with him and I knew he knew a lot of things I’d done. And I knew that he was very specifically interested in some of the things I’d done with John Carpenter. And I knew Rodriguez was because Rodriguez came down on the set of ‘Escape from L.A.’ when he was just getting going. So I got the drift, you know the gist, of what was going on. And then I read the script and my only concern was, as is happened sometimes in the past, there’s a director you want to work with, but then you read the part and you’re like I don’t want to play that guy with this director.

Or that’s not the movie I want to do with this director. It’s like getting a script from Sam Peckinpah and he wants you to play the gay smithy. And you go, that could be fun but I don’t want do that with him. Whatever movie I’m going to do with whatever director you kind of have a feeling that if you are going to work for somebody who does something great you want to do something you feel like you could be great in – for that director. And so I kept reading this, and I kept turning the page. I was like, this is perfect. So I just called him and I said just tell me where and when, and what you want me to do.

We hear there is going to be so much more for the DVD and the international stuff.

He’s got a lot of guts. He really, really, really knows what he is doing.

He’s like a genius.

You can drop the ‘like’, he’s a genius. I don’t know if I’ve ever said that before. He knows everything about everything I’ve ever done. He knows every line from every movie.

From ‘The Thing’... every character?

No, no, no, no, - ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’! Yes.

‘Gilligan’s Island’?

Gilligan’s Island. Oh, that’s child’s play. Everybody knows that, don’t they? It’s shocking. Obviously, and it’s not just me. It’s crazy what he knows, but it is also plays over to how much fun it is to do it on the day because if you’re in cahoots man, it’s pretty special.

You were working during their heyday but did you go a lot of these double features, “Zombie” and “Drag Strip Girls”.

Hey man, I interviewed for one of them! [Laughter] You know, I used to sit there with Ronnie Howard. Ronnie Howard called me up a couple weeks ago to say, “I can’t want to see this.” And, I’m like, why do you say that? And he’s like, “I was afraid I of getting type-cast directing those types of movies.” [Laughter] I was talking to him, and I’m like, you remember we met on some of those. It was a group of guys and we used to run into each on interviews and once in awhile it would be for one of these.

I don’t if it was Ronnie, or if it like was Don Johnson or Treat Williams, or whoever it was, but I remember saying one time, if you get this part are you actually going to do it? [Laughter] I remember him saying “I don’t know, man, the thing where he’s eating the rats. I don’t know.” I never did get one of them so I never [had to make that decision], but I did go to them.

Were you at the laughing and talking about the actors when he’d have the trailer education to show the cast to get them ready for this?

Yeah, and you know he had some of those movies that I had done and he had some of those trailers and it was spectacular. But what was brilliant about it was the ones he chose were just right. Because there was another world going on at that time and I was doing Disney movies. I was staring in Disney movies. But what was amazing about his overall try to get the overall concept of the time and the feeling was that while there was this guy saying ‘they will be violated in every possible way’ [a dark and demented voice] there was this other guy with other movies right after that saying ‘wait till you see Kurt Russell! [A goofy, over-the-top voice] This time he gets kicked over a goal post.” It was crazy world. You look at it now and you go what were these people doing, right?

You’ve never gone through what that character, Stuntman Mike, does when he talking to those four young girls at the bar and he’s telling them about his history and he looks at them and he tells them, ‘you don’t know what I’m talking about’ and they all look at him blankly.

I remember one time it was 1982 and ‘Escape from New York’ had been out, and I had been staring in movies since I was 10 [or] 12, I’d done TV series, I’d done all kinds of Disney movies. And this was 1982 and I’d just done ‘The Thing’. And I go in to meet Mike Nichols [who directed Russell in ‘Silkwood’] and his first question is, “what would I know you from?” And I look at him, and I realized and I said to him, “NOTHING!” That is why he hired me, because I was dead honest. I looked at him and I go what would he ever see that I’ve done? My point is that’s my look at life. I assume that nobody has seen the work I’ve done. I never talk to anyone ever about anything I’ve ever done ever.

You’re one of those rare actors who’s had a career that lasted 40 or 50 years --

47 years ...

Wow, 47 years! How do you do it? Is there a secret?

I don’t know. Obviously… no, I don’t know, I just go along. I love people. I love trying to do people. I love tying to make characters and stories. I love stories.

For my generation you are like a cousin that they see every 6 months. You’re like family.

I think there are times when I had the opportunity to do something to create an image that is indelible and I always avoid that. I always tried to avoid. I knew that it would be a problem for me later on and I wouldn’t be able to play different parts. I knew I was right about that and it cost me a lot. I’ve never been a part of the community on a lot of things. I know that cost me a lot. I also know at the end of the day they were never going to know who I was. They still don’t know who I am. They still have an opinion of who they think I am. But whenever I go to work with people, it’s inevitable that the actors come up to me about 3 weeks later and go, ‘you know you are so much different than what I thought you’d be. No matter what role I’m playing or whatever, they have some impression of me but it’s different than what I am.

What’s a bigger kick for you? Something like this, which plays off your All-American iconography Snake Plissken type, or the coach with the funny haircut and funny suit in ‘Miracle’?

I always wanted to do both. And in order to do both, you’ve got to give up some things. You can’t just do one all the time or even a lot of the time. You can’t do that. And sometimes it’s hard to walk away from something that you think is really good –it’s going to be a big hit. You look at it and you go, this is going to be really good. And you go to yourself, yeah but if I do that … [but] this was back in the day when I was dealing with a career over that last 30 years. Six years ago I stopped dealing with this, that’s why I do what I want to do. Do a little of this here, do a little of that there. It might be a staring role, it might be just 3 lines, it might be whatever. I don’t care. I now just have a good time working with someone or working some character or working for some reason that I think it’d be fun. I’m grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had in the past and I’m grateful for whatever opportunities I get in the future.

Aren’t you and [long-time girlfriend] Goldie [Hawn] doing on something?

Goldie’s been working, a typical Hollywood story, she’s been working a screenplay. She’s had this screenplay that she wrote for a lot of years. She wants to direct it, she wants to star in it, and she wants me to be in the movie. Every day she gets an inch closer to getting it done. I watch the tenacity that she has and I admire it greatly and I just say to myself, there but for the grace of God go I. It’s like a bit of hell. Anybody who gets a movie made, they deserves a hand.

Was it your idea to do John Wayne in this movie?

There is a perfect example of what is fun to work with Quentin. Because you know you what it is you’re going to do. I was just working away. We were just doing stuff. I had done some rehearsing earlier before and I said I’ve got to try some different things to try to find out what I’m going to do in the movie. And he said, yeah I totally understand. And I was just doing everything I could think of. And I sort of honed in on what I guess, and I said to Quentin, probably this, and he said, yeah I think so.

But as the picture went along and as we continued on we’d kept talking about it, this and that. And I feel very free with him, and that’s saying a lot, because sometimes you do something that’s very, very bad and the director includes it you wish you had never ever done it. It might shut you down for like 5 years, you know, I’ll never to do that again. But with Quentin you feel very free and I was just doing the scene and John Wayne popped in my head. I was like, this is crazy, and I just thought, why not, he might have worked for it.

So I just started doing it. And the girls were just looking at me like [I was crazy]. And instead of saying, “Ok, cut. Yeah, there’s that.” And I was praying. He just kept saying, “Keep it rolling, keep it rolling! Go to this part in the speech and do that. Go to this part in his speech and do John Wayne. Now do it [Marlon] Brando.” He just went right with it. We finished the take and we were just howling. We were screaming at each other about how much fun we were having. We just looked at each and we said who knows? Maybe it’s the right thing. Maybe it’s a creepy right thing. Maybe it works. And there it is.

How’s it like being a grandfather? How does it feel?

It feels great. To be honest with you, I don’t think about it. He’s a great little kid. He’s my step-daughter/daughter’s [actress Kate Hudson] little boy and he’s got my name.

How is Kate? Is she doing good?

She just got back from Australia. But anyway, I love him to death. He’s a blast. It’s great.

How’s Wyatt’s [Kurt and Goldie’s son] soccer?

He’s a hockey player. It looks like he’s just about to figure out which college is wants to play at next year. He had an opportunity to play pro hockey but he’s decided he wants to play college hockey. So he’s going to do that for a couple of years and he’s also going to concentrate on music. And what I’m really excited about is that he’s going to go to USC Film School this summer.

A lot of people mention the two moments when you turn and look at the camera and smile, like you don’t know me very well [In Grindhouse].

It’s fun. We were talking about some old Burt Reynolds moments. And we thought that it would be right to maybe one time turn to the camera. Once he gets in the cutting room, it might be there, it might not be. I mean there is so much stuff that’s not there.

Have you see it yet?

Yeah, yeah. I saw the whole night. I love the night. For me I think the night has a tremendous nostalgic flavor but also I think it’s great for the generation that has never been to the double feature. And never seen movies that shamelessly - with no recourse, no worry - and shamelessly deal in a business fashion with exploiting sex, violence, and extreme subject matter. I mean really its extreme subject matter. It’s just stuff, you laugh, you yell at the screen. I don’t know if this generation has ever taken into consideration talking to the screen. You talk to the screen here – “No, no!” You do that. You go, “Oh, no!” You complain.

There are things that are missing from this – sticky floors, people screaming…

You also need ushers with the flashlight saying, “Hey, hey, bud. Get your feet off there!”

They’ve announced that they want to re-make ‘The Thing.’ Your ‘Thing’ with John Carpenter is one of the great remakes. What do you think about that? And is there anything else of your movies, would like somebody else to go in and do what Snake Plissken did?

I don’t know. To tell you the truth it’s been a long time and I’ve seen a lot of [remakes]. They remade ‘The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes’. They took ‘Stargate’ and made it into the most successful series. They took ‘Backdraft’ and made that into two different television shows, and both did good I guess. They’re going to remake ‘The Thing’ and they talk about remaking ‘Escape from New York’… whatever, and good on ya.

How do you feel about it?

I feel like we did what we did and that’s always going to be there. And it will be there to be compared, I’m sure it will be. They have to do that. My thoughts on it were, as a joke, when somebody said that about Gerald Butler playing Snake, it is interesting to create a role that is iconic and have somebody go do that. That’s interesting but at the same time, I sort of had a joke response, which is how I look at life, which was ‘wait until Stuntman Mike hears about this.’ [Laughter] Maybe 30 years from now they’re going to do Stuntman Mike. I’ve got my version and that’s kind of all I think about it.

Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to jimmyo@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.comAITH

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