It's not everyday you get the opportunity to interview a Hollywood legend. I remember watching Kurt Russell in movies like Overboard, Tango & Cash, and Tombstone as a child. I remember watching him in reruns of “Walt Disney's Wonder World of Color” with my family when I was really little. I was brought up on movies with Kurt Russell, so being able to ask him questions about his craft is pretty wild as part of my trip to Los Angeles and the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 red carpet experience.
Fair warning, if you haven’t seen the film yet, this post will include spoilers!
Seriously, this may ruin it for you if you have not yet watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so STOP READING NOW if you don’t want to have anything ruined for you.
Okay, continue reading on for the Kurt Russell interview on his role as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
On getting involved with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kurt: I was doing this publicity stunt for Tarantino’s movie The Hateful Eight and one day all of a sudden, ‘Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom,' my phone started to go off. Which is very rare for me. I don’t have a lotta telephone action. They were all the same thing. ‘This is great!' ‘This is exciting!' ‘Are you gonna do this?' And then the people in the interview started to ask me, ‘Are you gonna do this Guardians of the Galaxy? Are you gonna play Peter Quill’s father?'
I literally had no idea what they were talking about ‘cause I hadn’t seen the movie. And I just said, ‘I don't know.' And it was like, ‘Wow, whatever this is, they’re excited about it.'
And the next day, I got the official word, and I said, ‘Well guys, I need to read it, and I need to see the movie.' And when I saw the movie, right away I kinda fell in love with it, and it just got better and better. But more than anything else I was watching Chris [Pratt] and I get that energy, I get that style.
And I realized from movies that I had done in the past, I would bring the right baggage here. And as I read the screenplay, it was even more so.
So because I was gonna do the movie, because of the reaction that I got, I was concerned that the audience would go in thinking, ‘Oh great, this is just right. We’re so happy that he’s gonna have adventures with his dad, and it’s Kurt Russell and he’s working—and I hate this movie. And Kurt Russell’s responsible for killing this for me.' And I said, ‘I just wanna make sure we hit the right notes here, James [Gunn].'
I felt very comfortable with James. I thought his hand was really solidly on it. He really knew what he was doing. As soon as Chris and I saw each other, we just kinda smiled, gave each other a hug and said, this is clearly right. So that was kind of the early stages and the first processes of it.
On his feelings of the conflict with Peter Quill and Ego
Kurt: The one thing that I would like to have seen is about 15 seconds more of playing catch.
However, your reaction is proof that you shouldn’t do that. Because if you go to far with that relationship, there’s gonna be something very wrong with this. You know, it is a son killing his father. So you gotta be very careful with that. When you watch the movie, that doesn’t look like a problem. It’s perfect. You hate him, you wanted to get him. It’s like put him out. Put him out.
But when you’re doing it, you don’t know these things. You can only assume them and try to play the scenes that are there correctly to make that final moment what it should be. You have to go all the way from being kinda cool and loving and fun to just, ‘Who fuck do you think you are?' I think we’ve all said that to our kids. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?' I could hear myself, you know? I was literally, ‘You go to your room!'
So, it was all in that zone, and it kinda had to have some of that tone to it so you could sort of enjoy as a parent, I think, some of that reprimand. You tell somebody live a thousand years as a battery, he means it, you know.
On being involved with something like Guardians of the Galaxy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has such a devoted fan base
Kurt: Well first of all, I’ve never done a Marvel movie. I’ve done lots of Disney movies. The fact that they came together, I think kinda says they understand each other, and they’ve obviously been doing this. I don’t know what the reaction will be. You can have fans, but they might not be people who review movies and stuff. You never know what that’s gonna be. So, you just do what you’re gonna do. There’s a different energy to these movies.
I think the trick is—and what I’ve tried to do all my life is—I was just an actor who didn’t wanna do the same thing. For some reason that just repulsed me. It made me not wanna do it. And then in Hollywood, a lotta times if you have something that’s successful, the next 30 scripts you read are gonna be in that zone. So I disappointed a lotta people by saying, ‘I get it. I get why you want me to do it. But, if you’ll notice, I just did that. I don’t wanna do that now. I passed that math test. I wanna go on to this English test now.'
And in saying that, and in doing that, you create a confusion, and a whiplash sort of career where they can’t pigeonhole you, but they’re not necessarily happy about that. Even critics and reviewers are not necessarily happy about that. I guess a tendency is, if you see something, like it, and then wanna see more of it. That also applies to whole movies where you see a movie you like, so let’s do it again.
Let’s do Overboard again. Let’s do Big Trouble In Little China over. Let’s do it again. Let’s do Escape From New York again. Let’s do Tombstone again. They’ve only done 45 I think, or 46 of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday things.
So my job was to skip around genres. Skip around characters. Find stories that I liked, that I wanted see. Characters that I wanted to play. And try to challenge myself with giving the director as many options as possible with takes so that he could, or she could, put the movie together and have a lot of options to choose from.
When you do that, you’re putting a lot of trust in the director. The other way of doing it, is you sort of give him one thing—Miracle was a movie where I had to get in character and then you stay there. And I think there’s room for both, and I’ve done that. I just skipped around genres. And I really enjoy that. That’s what keeps me going, it keeps me fired up.
I wanna find something that I think, ‘Oh, I’m a people watcher. I’m an inveterate people watcher. I’ll do that in this room, you know. I’ll see somebody. Oh, yeah, that’s a good one.
And then years later you’ll read something and you go, ‘Oh, that reminds me of that, you know, that woman was in the third row, she had the…What was that? What was she doin’?' You know. I gotta use that.
On what character he'd like to dive into next
Kurt: I concerned myself a few times, and am right now actually a little bit with creating some things. But I’m more of a hired gun, and I really enjoy that. So I just sorta wait until I read something. Wait for the phone to ring, and if it’s not ringin’ then I’m goin’ to the vineyard.
On how much of him is like Ego
Kurt: I got a healthy ego. I do. I think that’s important in our industry and our business and as a human being to have control of your ego. But I think you should have a healthy one. If you don’t have a healthy one, you’re gonna have other problems. Ego is…I love names and characters. You can go back through my litany of characters and you’re gonna find at least 12 great names. I think that’s important. And if they don’t have a great name, I give ‘em a great name.
I was very disappointed with when I read this, the character’s name was J’son. And I said, yeah, well 15 Marvel people will know who this is. That’s a weak-ass name. And then later on being to find out that actually his name is Ego the Living Planet. And I went, ‘That’s more like it!' So how much of myself is there? I don’t know. Listen, if you’re gonna play God let’s go big. You know, so I think this movie has a lot to say about that.
I mean it’s such an obvious thing when you first meet him, and the first thing out of his mouth is, ‘My name is Ego.' He’s very proud of that, and you gotta understand that he’s made everything in his life. And so he’s chosen to be that. He chose to come to earth and look like Kurt Russell. That’s a choice. And his son is not, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. If he doesn’t know who his father is he’s gonna create this guy he's like, ‘Hey, David Hasselhoff.'
And it has that right note of comedy, and yet correctness to it. And I thought that was a great—I love all the layers of that stuff. And I don’t like to shy away from what’s fun about the joke—when you consider all levels of the joke—you’re gonna be in there somewhere. And that’s one of my things that I’ll pat myself on the back for that more than a lot of other actors.
You’ll see a lot of actors and you can tell, ‘I don’t think that guy has much self-humor, doesn’t find much about himself funny.' I can name a lot of ‘em. I like actors. I like what they can do. I love working with ‘em, but self-humor is a funny thing, and I think that’s probably where Chris Pratt and I probably share a lot.
On working on a blue or green screen and the loss of spontaneity
Kurt: Those are big spaces. What wasn’t there was like a room like this with 12 glasses in it. ‘Gee, I wish I’d known those were gonna be there, I woulda knocked those outta the way when we were fighting. It would be great to go through those. Or I cut myself.' A million things you can come up with. That big wide like, ‘Hey!!' or, ‘Oh Jesus. Right. I didn’t know it was gonna be there.' With this movie, mostly it’s backdrop. Wee had enough there to kinda, you know, give us what was goin’ on. So it was nice to see the movie because you can see the pictures when you’re working. But it’s nice to see the finished project when I saw that.
On the opening scene and the process for becoming younger
Kurt: That guy right there, his name is Dennis Liddiard. He’s been my makeup man for 28 years. We’ve done a lot of movies together where our goal was to, without the audience knowing it, help me arrive at what I need to do to set the tone for the character, the look for the character, the feel for the character. And I think we’ve achieved it many times. Very subtly. So much so that nobody knows what he did.
On this one, I’m really proud to point him out because we assumed, all of us, that for that we were just gonna do heavy CGI special effects like they normally do. And Dennis, before we start goin’, Dennis, said to James Gunn, and the cinematographer, and whoever else was there, ‘Hey guys. I know his face really, really well. And I can really do a lot here to bring him down. If I de-age him some, does that help you?'
And they said, ‘As much as you can help. Yes. That helps very much.'
When he was done, and when I got the right hair goin’, very important, and when he got the wardrobe going, and then the actor has the opportunity to see that, and begin to feel that, and, in the case of yourself say, ‘Yeah that’s a younger me.'
It’s time for me to go to work and slip into all of that and take advantage of all of that, and go be younger. Go play younger. You lighten your voice, you move a little quicker, you go to work with that. I think the reason this one worked, everybody has said, ‘This looks so…this is amazing. This really looks real. Is it because there’s so much CGI there?' There’s not much CGI here. And I ran into the woman last night who’s the head of that department. She came up all excited and she said, ‘What did you think about what we did to you?' And I said, ‘I thought it was great, but I heard it wasn’t very much.'
She said, ‘No it wasn’t.' And I said, ‘Yeah, he’s got some tricks up his sleeve, and he pulled ‘em all out.' And in fact did it very fast. Because it hadn’t been asked of him. So there’s hope for all of us. You guys know a lot more about that than we do. But you have somebody who knows your face and you gotta have a face that you can work with. That’s true, you know. But he knows my face and, so they did some CGI and stuff there, but mostly that’s that guy right there.
I’ve been invited to an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles. As always, all opinions are my own.