July 1982: The Best of Times. The town of Springfield was breathlessly clutching its pearls, toffee apples and popcorn, awaiting the Grand Opening of the KRT, when the classics Escape from New York and newly-released The Thing screened on a double bill and Goldie Hawn cut the ribbon to the ‘Dexter Reilly Diner‘ in the complex. Mr. Russell and Ms. Hawn presided over the greatest cultural event in the history of Western Civilisation.
Dignitaries and fans swung, shifted, and paraded by an enormous trophy cabinet, containing such priceless artefacts as: Kurt’s junior baseball gear; the quarter Elvis gave him to kick him in It Happened at the World’s Fair, Snake’s eyepatch from Escape From New York (& the ‘sequel’); Dexter Reilly’s tennis shoes; His moustache from Tombstone; His tool kit from Overboard; His Brylcreem from Tequila Sunrise; His Guns of Diablo; His boat from Backdraft; His beret from Stargate; and his bottom pic. from the classic Tango and Cash. Curator Lyn Dayman conducted the inaugural tour, exclaiming that Big Trouble in Little China (then in development) would be the greatest film ever made.
One exhibit was of particular interest, and regrettably, it has been added-to substantially over the years: The Not-Without-Kurt Room, featuring posters and stills from films that would simply be unendurable without Kurt’s presence. Omnishambles such as Crypto (2019), where Kurt’s potato farmer, seemingly dropped into the plot (such as it is) – by helicopter – acts everyone under the table, which in this film, is not a high bar. And then there’s Touchback (2011), where Kurt has to play the Coach With The Heart of Gold? Or Bone Tomahawk, which even Kurt couldn’t save?
Charter Members of the KRBW Club* went overboard in their zeal as the Chief Executive of the Complex, Charles Whitman, drove a red used Edsel into the Dark Blue foyer (it had a slight Breakdown) and welcomed the crowd while barefoot. He explained that Elvis Presley would have been a special guest attendee except he was unavailable. The audience went even wilder and Sky High when Mr. Russell appeared and conducted a live interview with MC, director John Carpenter, stating “Call Me Snake.” There was a brief fracas after someone calling himself “The Duke” obtained unlawful entry to the exclusive affair, but this disruptive man was removed by a local police officer, Captain Ron, who made an Executive Decision and bundled him out through the main Stargate onto the sidewalk.
Some decades later, at an anniversary screening, over a couple of tequila sunrises at the Tango & Cash Bar, your correspondent had a few words with the star himself (transcript excerpts below).
TVC: What was Elvis Presley like?
Mr. Russell: Really, I can’t remember. He was a nice guy and I recall his voice…
TVC: Which you riffed on several years later…
KR: Yeah. I kicked him pretty hard in his shin – he was good about it.
TVC: You made 12 features for the Disney Company, all of them watchable, some terrific. How do you think you’d fare at Disney now?
KR: I would not be allowed on the lot. I’m a white, male, heterosexual libertarian.
TVC: Playing Presley in 1979 probably seriously started your adult career, but it is EFNY that really solidified it, wouldn’t you say?
KR: I think that’s fair, but I almost didn’t get the role of Snake. John Carpenter held out for me, thankfully. I had to work for it, too. I had this image of Plissken as a combination of Clint Eastwood – the voice, Bruce Lee – the moves, ‘The Exterminator’ – the war veteran thing, and Darth Vader – a kind of weird hero/villain meld. The eyepatch was annoying after awhile I have to say.
TVC: You put East St. Louis on the map.
KR: I hope we helped it shape up a little.
TVC: The film was fairly widely praised on release but has grown to cult status over time. It was also hugely influential in a cultural sense: William Gibson, for example, credits it as an inspiration for Neuromancer.
KR: It was John’s vision but a great cast helped.
TVC: Yes, in our review we mentioned the “legendary, over-the-top sneering performance by Kurt Russell as the perverse Snake Plissken (‘Call me Snake’ – ‘OK, Snake’ – ‘The name’s Plissken’) and a great cast including Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton and Donald Pleasance as the extremely odious POTUS.”
KR: Ordinarily I’d be annoyed with you for the phrase “over-the-top” but yes, that’s what I was trying to do.
TVC: I know you have commitments tonight but can I quickly mention two other great films of yours, Silkwood and Tombstone? Your role as Karen Silkwood’s boyfriend was a great naturalistic performance: did you draw on any previous experiences in shaping that?
KR: Not really. I got a lot of help from Mike Nichols and the cast, but mainly I got a bit of a kick playing an on-again, off-again boyfriend.
TVC: In Tombstone, like Burt Lancaster, you were stout and steely as Wyatt Earp but let Doc Holliday take the best lines.
KR: It’s not easy to stifle Val Kilmer!
——————————————————————————-[* The Kurt Russell Bath Water Club. As in, they’d drink it.] [Note to Kurt’s fans: this piece is an imagined homage. References to persons living or dead is entirely intended.]