Honestly, I was just about down to flipping a coin for which image I was going to use today. There were two movies I could have gone for, and they encapsulate the two phases of Kurt Russell’s career pretty nicely. I eventually chose The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit as my favourite of his Disney era movies. However, I could have gone with Tombstone just as easily as my favourite of his post-Disney era movies. Where do I think of him first? It depends on what day it is and what I’m thinking about otherwise.
He didn’t get his start working for Disney; Walt apparently initially saw him in an Elvis movie. But most of his earliest movies were for the House of Mouse. I’ve seen more of them than any other collection of his work, though I think I’ve still missed a couple. They’re, you know, the kind of movies Disney was making in that era. And then he decided he wanted to grow up, so he made Escape From New York and became thought of as an adult. However, his experience with Disney was positive enough so that he returned and made The Fox and the Hound, Sky High, and Miracle. Not to mention arguably Tombstone, made for Hollywood Pictures, and of course Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which I haven’t seen yet.
Russell says he doesn’t see acting as art, because it’s so easy. I can’t help wondering if part of why he thinks that is that he’s been doing it so long. He himself concedes this possibility, of course. When you’ve been acting since childhood, how much awareness can you have of what it’s like for someone who hasn’t? And, of course, it does come naturally to some people. However, I think you ought to know that and acknowledge that your experiences might not be universal, and instead he says that you shouldn’t act if it’s hard for you, which strikes me as somehow lazy? If people didn’t do things because they were hard, a lot less would get done. I’m avoiding tying the whole premise in to Russell’s libertarianism, because I’d just be making cheap shots.
The place he doesn’t deserve cheap shots is the place he holds in his not-quite-stepkids’ lives. (He’s never married partner Goldie Hawn, but they’ve been together since 1983.) In fact, Kate Hudson considers him more her dad than her biological father, because he’s the one who’s been in her life in a way that Bill Hudson never was. From what I can tell, he doesn’t seem to have distinguished between Goldie’s kids, his kid, and their kid. I find that really admirable.
I think Kurt Russell probably gets dismissed from a lot of discussions of Great Actors without being brought up because he’s made essentially an entire career out of playing genre stuff. Oh, Silkwood, and he’s fine in Silkwood, but Meryl Streep movies really only seem to leave room for one supporting performance to get noticed, and in this case, it was Cher. But mostly, we’re talking about a man whose characters tend to be named things like Snake and Stuntman Mike and Steve Stronghold. And of course Dexter Riley three times, and Wyatt Earp. Who is his historical doppelgänger; have you ever seen a picture of Wyatt Earp? It’s creepy.