Kurt Russell Shares About Playing Ego and Taking Unconventional Roles in Hollywood
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is now playing in theaters everywhere. I hope you got out and saw the movie this weekend. If you didn’t you may want to skip this interview with Kurt Russel and check out my interviews with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Pom, Karen, & Elizabeth instead. I would hate to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet so if you do choose to continue to read, it’s at your own risk.
Last year on the set of Guardians we had the opportunity to speak with Kurt Russell about his role in the film. He shared so much with us but nothing about his part in the movie expect that he was going to be playing Star-Lord’s father. Once I saw the film at the red carpet premiere I have to say I was very surprised. Ego was nothing I was expecting him to be and that’s putting it lightly.
We jumped right in asking Kurt how he got attached to the project. He’d shared this with us on the set but the ladies who hadn’t visited set was interested in learning how he became attached to the film.
I was doing this publicity 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. I don’t do social media stuff on it so it was literally like…they were all the same thing. Oh wait, 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, no. And it was like, wow, whatever this is they’re excited about it. And the next day I kinda 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 kinda watching Chris and saying, yeah, I get that energy. I get that, kinda 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. And I wanted to do it.
He paused for a bit during his response to ask if we’d seen the film before since he didn’t want to spoil anything for us. He went into greater details about getting involved in the film.
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.
And I said it has to have the right amount of comedy. I started talking about it and I felt very comfortable with James. I thought his hand was really solidly on it. He really knew what he was doing. And then, of course, working with Chris, primarily, that was just right. 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.
We asked followed up by asking if he was happy with the finished product and the final film when he saw it at the premiere.
Yeah, it was important… For instance, the one thing that I would like to have seen is about fifteen seconds more of them 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
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. And 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? 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.
Marvel fans are unlike any other in the world. We asked Kurt to talk about his experience with the fans compared to other projects he was involved with.
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 ‘cause the movie as far… 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. I do think that Disney, having done them, 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. I just didn’t 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 thirty 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.
He went on to talk about how he understands that critics and fans alike may not have loved his decisions to pass on certain scripts and projects but he wanted to challenge himself.
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, you kinda take that and you’re putting a lot of trust in the director. The other way of doing it is you sort of give him one thing, which is not to say you don’t do that. 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’ve just skipped around genres. And I really enjoy that. That’s what keeps me going, it keeps me fired up.
He finished by telling us that he watches people and study their behavior and body language, and later uses it sometimes to help him with inspiration for characters. So if you’ve ever been around the actor in the past he could have used you for inspiration. We moved on next asking if there was a character he had done in the past he would like to dive back into again.
Not really. I, I’ve 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 thevineyard, you know.
We switched things up a bit and started to talk about how much of himself is in the character Ego. I hoped he said none because Ego is a maniac. I actually didn’t like Ego as all as the film progressed.
I’ve 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 twelve 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. Jay-son. And I said, yeah, well fifteen Marvel people will know who this is. That’s a weak-ass name. And then later on being to find out that well 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 literally 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, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. If he doesn’t know who his father is he’s gonna create this guy who’s like David Hasselhoff.
We had time for one last question and I decided to ask Kurt about the opening scene in the movie where he’s much younger. Before I could even finish my question he finished it for me. He literally took the words right out of my mouth.
That guy right there is my- his name is Dennis Liddiard. He’s been my makeup man for twenty-eight 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 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.
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 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 f- and you gotta have a face that you can work with. That’s true, you know. And, but he knows my face and he- so they did some CGI and stuff there, but mostly that’s that guy right there.
About Guardians of the Galaxy:
Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock, with Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. Kevin Feige is producing, and Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Nikolas Korda and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is now playing in theaters everywhere.