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Kurt Russell: The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Interview

Thank you to Disney and Marvel Studios for hosting me during the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Event.

Louise Bishop |

It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to meet a living legend like Kurt Russell. He was such a great guy. As in so great he stood the entire interview so that he could see everyone in the room! Since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has been out for a few days, this interview does contain spoilers. Just in case you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ve made any spoilers invisible. Just highlight any passages that are invisible and you’ll be able to read them.

How did you get involved with Guardians of the Galaxy?

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. I do [social] media stuff on it. 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 because 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 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- 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. And I wanted to do it but I also…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, “You know, it has to have the right amount of comedy and it has to have the…” Anyway, [we] 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.

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Did he think they hit that balance he was concerned about with the initial script?

Yeah, it was important. For instance, the one thing that I would like to have seen is about fifteen seconds more of catch. [Everyone goes “awwwwww”.] However, your reaction is proof that you shouldn’t do that, because if you go to far with that relationship they’re not- 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- you know, 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. And, you know, you have to go all the way from being kinda cool and loving and fun to just, “Who f–k do you think you are?” You know, 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. And, you know, you tell somebody to live a thousand years as a battery-he means it, you know.

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How does it feel to join the Marvel family and what reaction is he anticipating?

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 know? 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 lot of 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.” 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. They have a-we have, I guess, a tendency as human beings to 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. We haven’t- you know, 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…forty-five I think, or forty-six of [the] Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday thing. 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 know, 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, you know, 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.


©Marvel Studios 2017

Does he relate to the character of Ego?

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 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. And I said, yeah, well fifteen Marvel people will know who this is. That’s a weak-a– name. And then later on 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. 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…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, “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 kinda stuff. And I don’t like to shy away from what’s fun about the joke. All levels of the joke. And 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.

©Marvel Studios 2017

What was it like working for the first time on a primarily green screen set?

Those are big spaces. What wasn’t there was like a room like this with twelve glasses in it. And 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… With this movie, mostly it’s backdrop. We had enough there to kinda give us what was going on. So it was nice to see the movie because you can’t see the pictures when you’re working. But it’s nice to see the finished project.

©Marvel Studios 2017

What was the process like for creating the younger version of Ego?

That guy right there is my [makeup artist]. 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 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 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 [CGI].” She said, “No it wasn’t.” And I said, “Yeah, he’s got some tricks up his sleeve and he pulled ‘em all out.”

Make sure you follow along with all of my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 event coverage right here!

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.

As The Bunny Hops®