What the Hell Happened to Kurt Russell?

Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell has had an extremely long career.  So long that a lot of audiences probably don’t remember his career as a child actor.  Russell started making TV appearances in the late 1950s through the 60s.  In the 70s, he became the top star at Disney.  In the 80s, Russell and director John Carpenter created iconic anti-heroes.  Russell continued to work in various dramas throughout his career.  And yet, over the course of his long career, he never quite reached A-list status.

What the hell happened?

Let me state up front that Russell had the kind of career most actors would kill for.  He has worked steadily for decades without ever being pigeon-holed to a certain genre.  Even in his 60s, the guy is still working in some pretty high-profile movies.  So this article isn’t about a career implosion like some others in the series.  The question here is why Russell wasn’t bigger.  Why didn’t he achieve the same level of stardom as some of his co-stars?

russell - child actor

Kurt Russell – Child Actor

Russell’s father, Bing Russell, was a character actor who appeared on several TV shows in the 50’s.  He introduced his son to acting as a child.  They frequently worked on the same projects.  Bing had a guest role on the Western, Sugarfoot which lead to a recurring role for Kurt.

Wait!  Sugarfoot was real?

As a fan of Arrested Development, I know Sugarfoot from an episode in which Jason Bateman tried to win favor by pretending to remember the show’s theme song.  I always assumed that Sugarfoot was a funny-sounding name made up for the show.  But no, it’s real.  Russell played the role of “Boy” on the pilot episode.  In case you ever need to sing the theme song to impress Dick Van Patten, here it is:

Kurt Russell - Dennis the Menace - 1962

Kurt Russell – Dennis the Menace – 1962

In 1962, Russell appeared as one of the neighbor kids in an episode of the popular sitcom, Dennis the Menace.

Kurt Russell - It Happened at the World's Fair - 1963

Kurt Russell – It Happened at the World’s Fair – 1963

Russell made his movie debut with an uncredited role opposite Elvis Presley in the 1963 movie, It Happened at the World’s Fair.  As we’ll see later, Presley is a significant figure in Russell’s career.  Here’s a clip of a young Russell kicking the King in the shin:

russell - man from uncle

Kurt Russell – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – 1964

In 1964, Russell made guest appearances on several popular TV shows.  Here he is with Robert Vaughn on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Russell - The Fugitive

Kurt Russell – The Fugitive – 1964 – 1966

Russell also played Lt. Phillip Gerard’s son on the adventure series, The Fugitive.

Russell - Guns of Diablo

Kurt Russell – Guns of Diablo – 1965

Russell appeared in several Westerns including Gunsmoke and The Virginian.  He starred in the short-lived Western series, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters.  The final episode of the show was then expanded and adapted into a movie called The Guns of Diablo (pictured above with Charles Bronson).

russell - gilligan's island

Kurt Russell – Gilligan’s Island – 1965

In 1965, Russell guest starred on Gilligan’s Island.  He played “Jungle Boy”.

russell - daniel boone

Kurt Russell – Daniel Boone – 1965 – 1969

Russell also appeared in five episodes of the Walt Disney hit show, Daniel Boone.

russell - lost in space

Kurt Russell – Lost in Space – 1966

Russell appeared in so many TV shows in the mid-60s that I am cherry-picking here.  Otherwise, this article would go on for days.  Here he is in a 1966 episode of Lost in Space.

Next: The Disney Decade


Posted on August 3, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 199 Comments.

  1. I’ve always liked Russell. I forget where I read this, but someone once compared him to Sterling Hayden in that he was in a lot of memorable stuff, even though he himself never, as you put it, ‘hit one out of the park.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was surprised how many movies he did which were fairly big, well-known movies. It really seems like he should have been bigger. But he’s one of those guys where you remember the movie and forget he was in it.


  2. I guess I’m like a lot of the American public. I always enjoyed Russell, but he made enough movies I had no interest in that I had to think twice before going to see something he was in. I appreciate his versatility quite a bit, but as Tarantino pointed out, when he wasn’t being a badass or giving a really emotional performance, he just always seemed “solid.” Not a reason to go to the movies, but not a reason not to go either.

    As a big Haunted Mansion fan, this appearance stands out for me:

    I can guess that you didn’t sit through Dark Blue. Otherwise, you’d have mentioned how awful it is. The dialogue was so bad that it was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, and Russell did not redeem it.

    The Thing, on the other hand, is one of the greatest horror movies ever made.


    • Even when Russell is the star, you never think of it as a “Kurt Russell movie.” No one ever said, “Hey, let’s go see that new Kurt Russell movie.” Ever.

      Looking back, I’m really impressed by all the things he could do. But in any one movie, he is merely “solid” as you said. He does the job without really standing out.

      I have not seen Dark Blue. A friend of mine really wanted me to go see it with him and told me it was getting great reviews. So I was actually a little surprised to read otherwise researching this article. I should have known better. This same friend told me I would be able to follow Godfather 3 having never seen the first two films. In other words, he tended to lie to get me to go to the movies with him. Anyway, by the time I was available, Deep Blue was no longer out. Sounds like I dodged a bullet.

      Thanks for the Disneyland video. I love it!


      • Kurt Russell: What happened to him?


        As for Kurt Russell, he just got “played out.” When certain actors reach a certain point in life, they’re either endurable despite their weight gain, or they’re repulsive. Kurt kind of became repulsive. He tried to be “cool” in Death, but it was borderline pathetic. And films like that Elvis Impersonators with that other washed up actor Kevin Costner. Costner is another actor who lost his looks early in the game (after JFK, he became unwatchable to me).


        ‘Dark Blue’ struck me as probably his best performance.

        He never took movies or Hollywood seriously enough to go ‘legit’ as a ‘complicated Oscar nominated actor’, or the ‘A list action superstar’ like Tom Cruise or etc. Someone who just lives for more fame, more money, more awards and nominations, bigger opening weekends, anything to get more.

        After ‘Silkwood’ he was certainly set to go ‘full retard’ in the business. He just chose to have fun as an actor, make some money, and also have a life outside of ‘the right parties, the right people’ and etc.

        I saw him discussing that stuff in an interview once, also some people who know him. He had been a star since he was a child with Disney, and it was just a job, not something he craved like a needy child (like the bulk of people in entertainment do). It was kind of a ‘Biography’ type of program but I don’t think it was actually the Biography Channel.


  3. This is different than any other WTHH. Fascinating overview and enjoyable witticisms of course. But a very different career trajectory. I found myself saying ‘yep…yep’ a lot while reading this. Too MUCH range? Is this part of the famous “paradox of acting”? And as you said, he works… he continues to work… I would say that in the 60s he was THE A list movie actor, certainly among preteen and maybe teen audience. Brady Bunch and Partridge family owned TV. After that, how to categorize? wow, no one could have written this better.
    In this vein, may I suggest, another possible WTHH along these lines? James Spader.
    Keep ’em coming Lebeau!


    • Back in the day, I had a separate series for actors who seemed like they would hit the A-list but never did. Since WTHH was more popular than the other series, I eventually combined the two. Had I kept them separate, Russell would have been in the other series.

      To some extent, I think every career is unique. What strikes me about Russell’s career is how consistent he was. Across multiple decades and genres, he was dependable for low and mid-budget pictures. If you could make a movie that only needed to gross $60 million, Russell was your guy. Otherwise, you were likely to take it on the chin.

      During his child actor stage, he was the biggest star at Disney. But that’s kind of damning with faint praise. Following Walt’s death, the Disney company was in a bad way. They made safe movies that no one especially liked. They didn’t spend a lot of money so it didn’t matter that they didn’t make a lot of money. They relied on the brand name to pull in family audiences and then repurposed their movies on TV.

      I wouldn’t say that made Russell A-list. An A-list actor wields a lot of power in Hollywood. Russell was basically Disney property for 10 years. And when the contract was up, he was hung out to dry.


  4. I’ve never heard of this guy but from reading this article I get that he was in a lot of movies. I can’t stand most action movies so I guess that’s why I completely missed him. I have seen Sky High but he played the forgettable dad. I rewatched that Seagal trailer and I vaguely remember seeing that before but… it had Seagal.

    But I got a lot out of this article! He had some good movies that I may watch. But I also learned what to avoid: specifically 3000 Miles to Graceland. I couldn’t even finish watching the song! Perhaps he’s known as an actor who will always be good at acting, but never the actual main draw.

    But everyone else seemed more interesting than him. He’s a steady actor who’s been working since the 50’s and he still hasn’t hit the A-list? As far as branching out, it would have been wiser if he stuck to one genre for a while, and then went into another genre instead of randomly picking genres. Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, etc… have all done that.

    Has he had any sort of drama in his life that would bring publicity? Some actors have had some sort of publicity, whether good or bad, that would bring the public to watch their movies. Or at least Lindsay Lohan does. He certainly has many connections in Hollywood and I think Goldie Hawn as an Oscar. Very puzzling.


    • Never heard of Kurt Russell! Wow. That’s surprising.

      3000 Miles to Graceland is pretty bad. I went in with low expectations and actually kind of enjoyed it. Russell and Cox have a lot of chemistry. But the story is a mess. And it tries so hard to be Tarantino. Only Tarantino can pull off Tarantino. Costner embarrasses himself trying to be a hard ass bad guy.

      The early films with Carpenter are all worth checking out. The Thing is a great, gory horror movie. The old school effects are even better now that we are all so used to CGI. Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China are fun mostly for their eccentricities. I can recommend Breakdown which is kind of ridiculous but still manages to build suspense effectively.

      Range is a good thing for an actor to have. But a movie star is more of a brand than an actor. Audiences want to know what to expect from their movie stars. Russell never really developed a brand. He would have made a great supporting actor as he kind of fades into the background. But he had leading man good looks.

      Much like his career, his personal life was steady. He never married Hawn, but they are easily one of Hollywood’s most stable couples.


      • I’ve seen trailers with him. But I only saw the action movie ones. In general I just can’t stand action movies. I’ve seen Goldie Hawn’s and Kate Hudson’s movies but he seems to have much more range than they do. I will watch Tombstone and Captain Ron. I’ll also check out the Carpenter movies.

        I’m surprised by Tombstone. Perhaps after Tombstone he could have branched out doing directing and seen more success. He seemed to work a lot with Costner who has made my least favorite movie in world. One one hand, when he directs movies he ends up with Dances with Wolves. Other times he ends up with Robin Hood, Waterworld, The Postman, and Wyatt Earp. Completely terrible movies but he has talent. But I’ll still miss 3000 Miles to Graceland just because I’d rather not watch another terrible Costner movie that is known to be terrible. I saw The Postman four times too many to want to watch another movie with Costner. And he’s not entertaining in terrible movies either. He takes it too seriously to make terrible movies fun like Cage. I have not seen his latest movies but I’m watching the Hatfields and McCoy miniseries this week on Netflix just because of the history of the two and since he’s pretty good at historical movies.


        • It’s a shame Russell was sworn to secrecy about directing Tombstone. It was one of his more successful films and could have lead to more directing work had he been credited with directing it. Although Kilmer really steals the show. I’m not a big fan of Westerns, but I know people who love it.


    • Who the hell living in the US has never heard of Kurt Russell?? Come are you living under a rock ???! Just sayin’


  5. In the late 80’s and early 90’s Kurt Russell was considered an A-list actor. When he starred it things like ‘Tango and Cash’ which put him on level billing with Sylvester Stallone. Even thou that film was a massive hit, Russell was still considered A-list at that time. As the 90’s wore on he’s star power faded.


    • It depends what you mean by A-list. Russell had second billing in Tango and Cash. His name was above the title, which counts for something. But Stallone was the draw. If Stallone had backed out and been replaced by say Jim Belushi, the movie’s budget would have been slashed because neither Russell nor Belushi were A-list draws. Russell was the king of the B-list for a long time. And during the late 80s and early 90s, he flirted with the A-list. But I would argue he never quite crossed over.

      For example, Russell only appeared in one movie that broke $100 million dollars. That movie was Vanilla Sky in which he was clearly a supporting actor. The movie barely crossed $100 million because Tom Cruise was the star. And given Cruise’s track record, $100 million was actually a disappointing gross for that film. Russell’s next highest gross was Backdraft with $77 million. He was the lead, but he had a lot of help with a star-studded ensemble and an A-list director.

      Then you have Stargate which crossed $70 million. That’s decent for a modestly budgeted sci-fi flick. But when Russell tried to follow it up with Soldier, it flopped. An A-list actor would have delivered a big opening weekend for a movie like Soldier. Russell couldn’t deliver. He was consistent with B-budgets. But he never could carry A-pictures.


      • As for why “Tango & Cash” didn’t perform better at the box office (I think it just barely broke even at the box office), I think part of it had to do w/ it being released in December, which is a considerably odd time to be releasing an action romp. Then again, “Licence to Kill” (the second and last James Bond film to star Timothy Dalton) in part failed at the American box office because it got lost in the shuffle among other summer movies from 1989.

        Also, by 1989, Sylvester Stallone was for whatever the reasons post-“Rambo II”/”Rocky IV” and on through “Cliffhanger” (which arguably helped reinvigorate his career), steadily declining as a US box office draw. Kurt Russell as I’m naturally assuming just by the very nature of his WTHHT entry, wasn’t exactly considered a consistent box office draw at the time, much less throughout his career. I heard that Russell lost the lead role to Kevin Costner in “Bull Durham” (“The Untouchables” from the year prior helped make Costner an A-list star) because the studio didn’t really think that Russell would really be able to draw audiences.

        “Tango & Cash” (I sort of think that it was Stallone trying to do his version of “Lethal Weapon” in regards to the whole “mismatched cops have to work together against a common enemy” theme) also had the misfortune of coming out almost a year and a half after “Die Hard”. It could be suggested that the brainless, testosterone-fueled, “muscle-men” type action movies (in contrast to Bruce Willis’ everyman action-hero) that Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger mastered during the ’80s was becoming out of vogue.


    • Actors / Actresses whose promising careers stalled?

      Originally Posted by Sam Stone
      I don’t know, I think Russell was in the top tier there for a few years. Movies like Executive Decision, Tango and Cash, Tombstone, Backdraft, Escape from New York… Not all of them were good, but they were all marketed with his starring role being a major selling point. For a while there, he could carry movies.

      Yeah, he’s kind of in the middle on this issue… every time he made a good movie as an adult, the reviewers would be all over it with “Hey, he’s really broken out of the Disney mold now,” and people would be, like, “well, what about The Thing?”, then “What about Big Trouble in Little China?”, and on and on…


  6. Sci-fi nonsense is actually my favourite genre. 🙂 And I do like the Stargate movie. You may think it’s just another SF action movie, but it has a bit going for it. You see, Russel is USAF colonel Jack O’Neil. Recently, his son acidentally shot himself with Jack’s gun. Jack is planning to commit suicide when he’s called up for, essentially, a suicide mission.

    Over the course of the mission, he meets a native boy, Skaara. He becomes Jack’s replacement son, as these things often go. Jack rescues Skaara and rest, losing his deathwish in the process and going home healed. For a SF action movie, that’s a decent sort of character arc.

    Of course these days, I think of the Richard Dean Anderson version. Big fan of the show too. However, sadly, it has ended. SG1 got ten seasons and two DVD wrap-up movies, Atlantis got five seasons, and Universe got two. Plus assorted spin-off media.

    The movie also got a line of follow-up novels, completely independent from the TV series.

    Emmerich has from time to time talked about doing a sequel to the original movie, but nothing has ever happened on that front. I’m going to say that Stargate was his best, and I would be happy to see a sequel.


    • There’s nothing wrong with sci-fi nonsense. But Stargate didn’t do much for me. I think most Stargate fans prefer the TV shows to the movie, don’t they?


  7. Russell is probably one of the most impressive actors for longevity.

    His biggest problem was it seemed like he would do an embarrassing movie right after one of his hits. He really needed to hire a better agent/manager.

    Its a shame The Thing wasn’t a hit- but I guess you won’t have a big popcorn movie if everyone is reaching for a barf bag…


    • Now this is one write-up I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, Lebeau, I’m glad you finally got around to Kurt Russell.

      I’ve long been a fan of Russell’s, and a part of his appeal has been that he was always mixing it up, doing dramas, sci-fi, action, comedy, thrillers, westerns, etc. I agree probably the main reason why he just missed being on the A-list is that he didn’t let himself become a brand by constantly doing one type of movie.

      Breakdown is one of my favorites of his, it’s a taught, tense thriller, it was a modest hit when it came out but it has sort of been forgotten over the years and I consider it very underrated. J.T. Walsh, one of my favorite character actors, also is excellent in this, one of his final roles. I just looked on Netflix and noticed they have it, if anyone hasn’t seen it I highly recommend it.

      It’s hard for me to pick a favorite of his, The Thing is one of the best horror movies ever made (in my opinion), and Tombstone is just a damn good western. I also really like Unlawful Entry, and even movies like Escape From New York, Stargate, Grindhouse and Tango & Cash are great guilty pleasures.

      It’s true, he never did have any major blockbusters to his career, but he had plenty of mid-range hits during his peak years. Denzel Washington currently has that type of career going for him, no blockbusters but plenty of mid-range hits. Maybe not the fairest comparison between them since Russell would have a misfire or two in between the hits whereas Denzel doesn’t seem to know how to make a misfire or underperformer at the box office. But Russell definitely had an impressive, consistent career.


      • I was out there doing my own thing for the last couple of months. So I figured it was time to get back to the will of the people with the poll results.

        I couldn’t agree with you more about Breakdown. I actually watched it for the first time on Netflix while researching this article. The premise is more than a little silly. But the execution is extremely good. It reminded my of early Spielberg along the lines of Duel. And come on! How awesome is JT Walsh. He was killing it around that time with Breakdown and Pleasantville.

        The Thing is just great. It’s nearly perfect. There is not a second of wasted film. And I love the old school effects more now than I did then. A lot of his other films like Unlawful Entry are good entertainment even if they aren’t exactly classics. I am amazed how many sleepers and cult hits Russell has had.

        It’s hard to come up with a direct comparison to Russell. Washington is amazingly consistent, so I agree that’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison. Plus, Washington’s an Oscar winner. Russell was nominated for a Golden Globe and that’s it. I sort of think of Washington as a cult figure. Like Bruce Campbell made good. But that’s not a fair comparison for the opposite reason.


        • Good call on Breakdown being reminiscent of Spielberg’s early thriller Duel, spot on. Johnathan Mostow wrote and directed the film, it’s a shame he didn’t become a bigger name afterwards, Breakdown, his first film, showed real promise. The film is also, unfortunately, the modestly-budgeted type of film that Hollywood has no interest in making anymore. The 90’s were the end of an era in a way, nowadays studios only want to gamble huge amounts of money chasing after even more huge amounts of money (look at Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger, a film that cost $250 Million to make; add in marketing money, and that film needed to earn $600M worldwide…. just to break even. It made Depp’s recent comment that he never expects any of his films to be a blockbuster outright ridiculous; how do you star in a $250M production and NOT expect it to be a blockbuster? But I digress).


        • Totally agree with you on Breakdown, mid-range movies and Depp’s comments about The Lone Ranger.

          I miss mid-budget movies. They used to be the bread and butter of studios. And you would often get pleasant surprises like Breakdown. The mid-budget films were where sleeper hits came from. Those were always my favorite movies. Old man sigh.


        • jeffthewildman

          Re: The disappearance of mid-range movies. That was one of the primary points of my “Why Must Blockbusters Be Dumb” article:: that the mid-range studio movie has all but died out or been relegated to TV or the Indie world. When even established directors such as Spielberg or Spike Lee or Ridley Scott are having trouble getting those movies made, it’s troubling.


  8. What a post! A really impressive carreer. I never thought I made anything apart from “Escape from New York”. Seems pretty like Stanley Tucci, he starred in many successful movies though many don’t even remember he was in it.


  9. Hey lebeau how are you? I heard you are writing about Kurt Russell and all I can say is that Kurt Russell was a great actor but during the 2000s he was miscast in terrible films like vanilla sky, and sky high. I thought he would do better films like the expendables. I mean that franchise was written for guys like him who were big during the 1980s and 1990s. he would have been better to play the role of church before Bruce Willis got the part. Kurt needs a good action film to come back to that is theatrical and not straight to video crap. he needs the expendables 3 which I hope they do get him since they got Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford. Bruce Willis is out because he has gotten to be greedy and egotistical and lazy since his last die hard didn’t do well. he did well with Escape from NY, La, Big trouble in little china, Tango and Cash, Tequila Sunrise, Captain Ron, Stargate, The Thing, Soldier, Overboard, Breakdown, Backdraft, Executive Decision, Dark Blue and Death Proof. they are all good cult films that he did and wish he did more good films. he’s what you should do is start a petition for Kurt Russell being in Expendables 3 and tell your viewers about it.


    • Hey Andy! How ya been?

      If Russell doesn’t make the cut for Expendables 3, there’s always Expendables 4. I agree that Russell is a really good actor. It’s a shame he was never more popular. I think he was under-rated.


    • My understanding is that Russell has no interest in the Expendables. He doesn’t see himself that way. Which I respect. He seems to be making a return wtih The Art of the Steal and some other things in the pipeline. He’s one of my favorite actors, and underrated. He’ll keep doing what he’s best at, starring in mid budget films, and popping up here and there in films like Fast & Furious 7.


      • Understand that I have never seen a single Fast and Furious or Expendables movie. But with that in mind, if I had to pick a franchise to be a part of, it would be The Fast and the Furious hands down. That series has been going strong for years and only seems to be gaining momentum as time goes on. I won’t be surprised if Expendables 3 is the end of the party.


  10. I think Kurt Russell himself (as evidence from an interview he did w/ Graham Norton) is kind of aware of the overall history of his career (at least as an adult actor), in that for the most of it, Kurt starred in films that were at first, only really mildly successful at best but over time, gained cult followings (for instance, “Big Trouble in Little China”):


    • I wonder if in retrospect, Kurt’s status as John Carpenter’s favorite leading man actually did more to hurt his career as a potential box office star (in other words, giving people the perception, that he was a “B-movie cult actor” a la Bruce Campbell) than help? What I mean is that, John Carpenter’s films to the best of my knowledge normally did better overseas than in the United States.


    • 15 Laziest Movie Sequels Of All Time:

      1. Escape From L.A. (1996)

      John Carpenter’s cult B-movie Escape from New York is one of the director’s best works, a thinly-disguised Western that offered both action and satire, as well as introducing audiences to Kurt Russell’s iconic Snake Plissken. A minor commercial hit in 1981, it was a full 15 years before the sequel arrived, but unfortunately, it wasn’t a patch on the original.

      The basic plot of Escape from New York saw the island of Manhattan as a maximum-security prison, with Snake sent in to rescue the President whose plane had crashed in the danger zone. The sequel – as you can probably guess from the title – sees the character sent into the island of Los Angeles to acquire a MacGuffin that has the power to shut down the world’s electronic technology. It seems strange that the sequel had spent over a decade in development when you consider it has almost exactly the same plot, albeit with a few changes.

      Whereas the first movie cost just $6m, Escape from L.A. was given a $50m budget, a move that backfired spectacularly when it tanked at the box office and earned just $25.4m. Rehashing the first movie and offering little in the way of originality, the sequel pales in comparison to its narratively-similar and all-round better predecessor.


      • Video: Escape from L.A. (1996)

        The sequel to one of the John Carpenter’s best films.


        • The shot-for-shot symmetry of Escape From New York and Escape From L.A.:

          By Philip Cosores@Philip_Cosores
          Sep 18, 2015 10:01 AM

          Separated by 15 years, John Carpenter’s two films following antihero Snake Plissken’s missions into the futuristic hellscapes of New York and Los Angeles are technically sequential. But anyone that’s seen the movies knows that Escape From L.A. follows more than just the story arc of the original Escape From New York, and even recreates many of the original shots.

          Now, a new side-by-side comparison video from director Pablo Fernández Eyre shows the lengths to which Carpenter went to duplicate the first film with the second. Interestingly, the films stick relatively close with their real-life timelines, with the original released in 1981 and set to take place in 1997, while the sequel was released in 1996 and said to take place in 2013. The shot-for-shot symmetry begins with the opening title sequence and follows the numerous moments of duplication, right down to the silly hat worn by Steve Buscemi. Of course, both have a healthy share of original material, like the sequel’s very California scene in which Snake goes surfing.

          While Carpenter’s feat in duplicating his previous work is commendable in the sheer attention to detail, it might have also been a factor as to why the original film is beloved as a cult classic and the follow-up is not held in the same high esteem.


        • I only kind of like “Escape From L.A.”. I liked seeing Snake again, but I just prefer “Escape From New York”. Man, I really love what John Carpenter does with the instrumentals; it always takes me to a cool place in my mind.


        • John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A. is underrated, as satire and as pulp

          Escape From L.A. (1996)

          Something went haywire with Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking during the 1990s, as studios tried to replicate the big spending and star-driven events of the ’80s, but with little of the sense of wonder or fun. The result was a succession of oppressively lead-footed actioners, nostalgia pieces, and family pictures, like Casper, Godzilla, Congo, The Flintstones, Eraser, Volcano, etc., etc.. That’s important context for John Carpenter’s under-appreciated Escape From L.A. As a sequel to one of Carpenter’s best films, Escape From L.A. is a mild letdown. It repeats the basic plot of the original, with a lighter tone, cheaper-looking (yet actually more expensive) special effects, and a now-dated grunge soundtrack. But compared to the forgettable piles of nothing coming out of Hollywood at the time, the movie is… well, Escape From New York.

          Kurt Russell (who also co-wrote the script with Carpenter and producer Debra Hill) returns as the grunting, ultra-capable soldier of fortune Snake Plissken. After an opening sequence that explains how the Los Angeles of the future has become an island prison, occupied by America’s “undesirables,” Plissken is called in to find and retrieve a doomsday weapon stolen by the ultra-religious President’s rebellious daughter. If he succeeds, he gets a full pardon, and the antidote for a deadly virus that the government’s injected into him. If he fails, he dies—and maybe the world ends.

          The story’s mainly a slim thread that Carpenter uses to hang a series of over-the-top set-pieces, populated by colorful characters. The cast is practically a who’s-who of “people who were in cool movies in the ’90s.” Steve Buscemi plays a fast-talking hustler, Bruce Campbell is a freaky plastic surgeon, Peter Fonda pops up as a mellow survivalist surfer, Pam Grier’s a transgender mob boss, and so on. Carpenter has a lot of fun with the contrast between Russell’s surly, Clint Eastwood-esque Snake and the parade of kooks he encounters. And the movie finds twisted pleasure in watching Plissken play basketball for his life in the Coliseum, or get into a surf-chase down a flooded L.A. river, or hang-glide from the burning Hollywood sign to a trashed Disneyland.

          What really stands out about Escape From L.A. today is its prescience. The film’s real villain is a right-wing demagogue (played by Cliff Robertson) who wants to expel and wall-off the people he finds insufficiently American. Carpenter’s satirical angle isn’t as sharp as his They Live, but he is actually trying to say something: about freedom, leadership, and celebrity culture. And as the years go by, Escape From L.A. looks better and better—in part because the crummy effects now come off more as “vintage,” but even moreso because so few bigger-budget action-adventure movies from this era are as lively, impassioned, or angry. Carpenter basically spent $50 million to flip off his industry’s vain nitwits and his country’s hypocritical moralists. He delivered a ragged, righteous, hilarious howl against complacency.





  11. He’s right that it depends on your definition of an A-lister. I adhere to a relatively strict definition. It’s all about being a box office draw, ability to “open” a movie or to get a project greenlit. Russell has shown he can get work. He’s a respected actor and has been for decades. But over decades, he hasn’t shown that he is a box office draw. He’s basically been the top of the B-list since the 80s.

    Also, I don’t believe it is possible to be a permanent A-lister. But we’ve had that discussion here before.


  12. I was looking for a discussion like this about Kurt Russell. I`m a big fan of his – Used Cars, anyone? – and while I don’t disagree with a lot of commenters here, I just think not playing the Hollywood game as devotedly as he could have is the real culprit in any “career” deficiencies. I might add that it’s probably more than a little off to speak about career deficiencies. It’s quite a body of work and features some great films, some of which he headlined (The Thing), and to make that good a transition from a child actor is both rare, if not singular, and speaks well of him in aspects beyond his acting skills and celebrity career management.

    Is Clint Eastwood’s career that much better? TV, Spaghetti westerns and then a box office smash with Dirty Harry. He milked that one to death, or maybe it’s more likely that he obliged producers in milking it to death, and it seemed like clear sailing for him after that. Can’t see Russell ever doing that, which probably has negative career consequences but might also speak well of his character.

    To be clear, I don’t blame Eastwood or movie producers for milking a good thing either. Movies are such big projects and such big financial risks. I just think the same inner fortitude that carried Kurt Russell through from major child star to successful adulthood probably means that he’s not going to have the same desperate concern for adulation and success that gives producers comfort. To them he may seem less devoted or committed than they would like, so when they really have a lot of money on the line maybe they want someone else first.

    Those are my thoughts, and I really have enjoyed reading others’ and finding this post. KR is a subject I’ve reflected on quite a bit the past few years, not obsessively or anything, I just have a good deal of admiration for him, from what I know of him.



    • Thanks for commenting, JMRJ. I have to admit I was never really a Kurt Russell fan. As Daffy commented earlier, he was never really a reason for me to see or avoid a movie. I never really formed a strong opinion.

      When I write these articles, I usually come away with a changed opinion of the subject. Typically, I either gain or lose respect for whoever I am covering. In the case of Russell, I definitely gained respect. You don’t think about it very often, but he really has an impressive filmography. I think the reason most people don’t realize that is that most of his better films were not very popular when they were released in theaters. They have found their audiences over time on video.

      You’re probably right that Russell didn’t “play the game” as much as he could have. He was hanging out with Carpenter who is definitely a maverick director. I imagine that after a decade of indentured servitude to Disney, Russell probably liked having freedom to make his own career choices without being locked into certain types of roles.


    • You can take shots at milking Dirty Harry- but remember he was also making The Beguiled, High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Play Misty for Me, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Dirty Harry helped pay for these-


      • I certainly wasn’t meaning to denigrate the great Clint Eastwood. It was more along the lines of just saying that even unquestioned A-listers have some subpar work. Like I said, the main difference seems to me to be that Eastwood is probably more devoted to keepiing his position as a star than KR is. To me at least, the most interesting thing I was trying to suggest was that the same self-possessed trait that probably turns off mainstream Hollywood – to some extent, I mean they’ve certainly given him a lot of work over the years – might also be the reason he was singularly successful in making the transition from child star to adult star.

        I mean let’s put it this way: there’s a feeling that he wouldn’t be devastated if a film doesn’t do well, just like he’s not devastated at not being a superstar. That makes the guys putting up tens of millions for a film less than completely enthusiastic. Not unenthusiastic, just less than feverish.

        I don’t know. I just think KR and his film career are interesting subjects.


  13. None of you guys understand; Kurt Russell is the older brother I never had. His career parallels my life and shows competency at all times. Someone to be proud of, and to root for. Not a flash in the pan. Not some nut job, but a guy who worked hard and earned his status by merit, not luck. I suspect he knows more about the movie business due to his 50 years of experience then most of his contemporaries and I suspect he made his role choices based on something other than money.

    He may not be the star but he is always in the upper echelon, year after year. Overboard is stupid, but I watch it with my wife over and over. Tombstone, “I’m your Huckleberry” I practically have the script memorized. “I’m Jack Burton” Solider Pliskin and the computer kid are all happy memories. Death Proof a comeback? I bet he laughed all the way through that movie, it looked like fun. Dark Blue, “I’m a killer, from a family of killers…” I liked that movie, maybe because I can’t see past Kurt Russell, or maybe because he brings something to the screen that is hard to see the first time around.

    Besides, any guy lucky enough to hook up with Goldie must be something special. He is a role model at a time when true role models are few and far between. That’s why he is so well respected.

    Brad Deal

    Love your blogs…


    • Hey Brad, glad you’re enjoying the site.

      I think you’ve done a great job summing up Russell’s appeal. While he may not have been an A-list box office draw, he definitely has had an amazing career. And it’s still going.


  14. There may be a bit more to the term “appeal” than meets the eye (unplanned double entendre) for you, Lebeau? I’m really starting to believe that it’s not just female actors out there who lose out on roles, just because they come from the rare stock who refuse extra work done on their wrinkles and their middle age spreads (being as diplomatic as I can here)! Funny that one of cases in point also happened to develop under Disney’s wings: Richard Dreyfuss (a highly respected fave). Didn’t he and Russell both do “Hello Down There”? I digress… I just wish appearance didn’t dictate box office. And that “gross” ONLY meant $$$.


  15. I must prefer working actors more than movie stars, because a majority of the performers on this list are my favorites (with the exception of Diane Lane, but she may be written about someday). I don’t think Kurt Russell was a star attraction either, but always dependable.
    Some of my favorite films he starred/supported in: “Used Cars”, “Escape From New York”, “Silkwood”, “Big Trouble in Little China”, “Tequilla Sunrise”, “Tango and Cash ” (love the one liners), “Captain Ron”, “Unlawful Entry”, “Breakdown”, “Miracle”, and “Death Proof” (too chatty for me at first, but liked it after subsequent viewings).


  16. Let’s bid Kurt a happy 63rd today!!!!!


  17. I like Kurt Russell and think his body of work as an actor is better than it’s being given credit for.

    I saw Tequila Sunrise and realized that he actually did the best job in that movie because Mel Gibson was miscast.

    I find his career somewhat comparable to Jeff Bridges in that they both starred in a long list of films and are famous but the films they make aren’t hugely popular.

    The difference being is that Jeff Bridges has had more success as a dramatic actor and has gotten Academy award nominations.

    It would be interesting to see if there was a list of films that Kurt Russell turned down that went on to become big hits.

    If for example he starred in a couple of huge hits in 1989 and 1990 instead of making The Winter People and Tango & Cash that would have put him on the A list.

    I would have also tried to do a few more quality dramatic roles because he was really good in Silkwood and Miracle.

    Doing more of that could have got him more attention from award shows.


    • 17 Career Comebacks We’d Love To See:

      Kurt Russell
      Best known for: “Escape from New York”
      Last seen in: “The Art of the Steal”
      Comeback plan: Russell has been chasing a return to relevance for a good eight years. Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” didn’t work out in the long run, but a role in Tarantino’s upcoming thriller “The Hateful Eight” just might. Throw in next year’s “Fast & Furious 7” and Russell may have a comeback very similar to Jeff Bridges’ in the works. At least, that appears to be his plan.
      – Gregory Ellwood


  18. Anyone seen The Art of the Steal? Tempted to pick it up this weekend, although more for the inclusion of Matt Dillon in the cast. Looks interesting, good supporting players all around, but the trailer isn’t promising. We’ve all seen bad movies with excellent trailers, and good movies with lackluster trailers… this one seems oddly yawn worthy for a film of its type.


  19. Kurt Russell has done some amazing movies so far over his career. From his first appearance in ‘Denis the Menace’ and his lucky break in ‘It Happened At The Worlds Fair’ with the King Elvis Presley; to his last movie (as of this post) “The Battered Bastards Of Baseball”. But of all his great movies that for me stands out most has to be ‘The Thing’ and ‘Escape From New York’ A classic actor that is for sure!


  20. hes appearing in hateful eight so i think he will be ok he was dumb to turn down django


    • As a rule, I say if Tarantino calls you pick up the phone. But Russell’s been around longer than most. He’s in the bonus round of his career. He can work or not. It’s up to him. I’m sure when he works it’s for personal satisfaction.


      • I read it was scheduling conflict with Kurt Russell. Well, Tarantino & Russell (who seems to get along with most of the people he works with, from what I can tell) worked together before, and I thought “Death Proof” was pretty good (I needed a second viewing to adjust to all the chatter:-).


  21. kurt only got the part cause costner turned it down another role would have helped oh well man of steel did wonders for him


  22. you use to have mickey rourke in there what happened


  23. bridges in his prime had more success then russell last picture show tron and starman bridges was an a list at one point and since iron man he had success in leading roles hes a list alright kurt russell never had the career bridges did most of russell success are from cult classics like things escape from new york.movies finding second life they flop hes never had leading role where movie was hit in its in tail releases but hes still a fine actor i just think bridges had more success then him and had amazing body of work bridges had box office sucess in leading roles like true grit.but kurt is going to be in hateful eight so he has a good movie to look forward too that will revive his career


  24. The Cinefiles:

    Is Kurt Russell king of the cult films? I love Kurt as an actor….but he never really starred in the top movies of the day. I would say that Tombstone was his biggest hit…and I read that he basically took over directing when the director walked off the set. Most of Russell’s films were not financial successes. That being said, I love almost every one of his collaborations with John Carpenter…a match made in heaven. Cannot wait to see him again in The Hateful 8. What say you Cinefiles?


  25. The line “Nice guys finish last” perfectly applies to Kurt. The problem is that he is neither a star nor an actor. He has done a wide variety of roles & refused to be slotted. Perhaps he is not cut throat enough to become a star. He chose to star with Kevin Costner in “3000MTG” even though Costner played dirty with him during the shoot of “tombstone”.

    Also, I think Kurt Russell is more interested in the movie as a whole instead of just his role. That explains why he chose to play supporting roles in many films – Tango & Cash, Vanilla sky, Best of times, Tequilla sunrise etc.,

    Also, he does not have the tendency to hog the limelight, which is necessary for a star. He takes time off between movies to indulge in his hobbies & spend time with his family.

    However, he has a great body of work which will stand scrutiny at any level. He was also unlucky in that in films where he performed incredibly well, they did not get a proper release. An example is ‘Dark Blue’ which was completed in 2001, but released only in 2003. He was outstanding in ‘Miracle’ but not even nominated for an academy award. His films probably needed to be released in the year end just before the Oscars to get noticed.

    He does not court the press quite often & give interviews & prefers to maintain a low profile. He does not get drunk at parties or slap his wife/girlfriend in public to garner attention.

    Maybe that is his undoing!

    I certainly do not adhere to this A list or B list kind of ranking in films. It is either a good film or a bad film – period. And most of Kurt Russell’s films are of the top notch variety.

    Many people overlook the fact that he is one of the few child stars to make it big as a leading man. And still counting.

    Carry on Kurt. Continue to educate & entertain as U have always done.


    • Lots of good points here. Thanks for posting! I’m embarrassed to admit I never thought about the fact that Russell agreed to make 3000 Miles to Graceland with Costner after Costner’s Tombstone shenanigans. I have written about Tombstone Vs. Wyatt Earp several times but never thought about the fact that they later worked together.

      Russell definitely avoided labels. He’s hard to put into a box which is really cool. It’s a detriment to being a movie star, but that doesn’t appear to have ever been a consideration. By all accounts, he’s a nice guy. And he seems to be getting his due today after decades of being under-appreciated. So good for him.


    • He’s forged a body of work on his own terms, and I think that’s awesome, as well as maintaining a life outside of film, which is probably even more impressive. I think if he courted more fame and nominations/awards, he would have been up to the task, but that just isn’t his style. I don’t think he is a case of a nice guy finishing last, just a performer who wasn’t playing the game the others are playing, so he doesn’t qualify for a rated finish.


  26. Russell in Top 10 Child Actors Turned Successful Adult Actors


  27. Memories! Fox and the Hound… that’s one of the first movies I can remember. My mom bought me a record with the Fox and Hound’s pictures on it & it also came with a picture book, I played that thing a million times. Then she bought the video and I must have watched it a million times.

    Reading this, it’s kind of like… Kurt Russell was in that!? I totally forgot he was in Stargate. It’s probably a testament to his skill as an actor that he blends in so seamlessly. It’s interesting how Kurt Russell went from being an action star to a dad figure seemingly overnight with 1999’s Vanilla Sky. Like you I kind of have a soft spot for Vanilla Sky. I re-watched it about a month ago and I’d forgotten how many colloquialisms came from that move for people of my generation. “F***-buddy,” “Livin the life,” some other things we used to mimic when I was in high school and college that I had forgotten came from that movie.

    Back to Russell. It’s hard to pin-point where he went wrong but it was probably that Goldie Hawn – Tango and Cash era of the late 80s is where he plateaued out. I think he’s pretty lucky to have survived that – look at what happened to Stallone. Russell on the other hand managed to keep going at an even keel through the 90s, a little downturn there in the late 90s though, but then accepted his new status as the 2000s came along and made it work for him.

    In terms of his versatility, longevity and stability in the business he’s been extraordinarily successful. Very few actors can pull off the transition from child actor to adult actor, ESPECIALLY with a stint in Disney awfulness (Miley Cyrus?), and be more or less equally good in comedy, action and drama, although action seemed to be his stronger suit. Come to think of it, how many others have pulled that kind of trick off? Ron Howard, but he transitioned to directing. Mark Wahlberg maybe, but he has yet to be as good as Russell was.

    Russell’s upcoming projects look promising.

    One thing I like about this is that you go a little deeper into cinema history here. Most of your entries seem to be people who were big in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s who fell from grace. You have to go back to the 60s for Kurt. Maybe when you run out of Gen X actors to profile you could turn to that older era. Seems like a lot of fertile territory. People like George Peppard, Robert Wagner,


    • Here’s the thing. The further back I go, The less documentation is left around. Even in the 80’s it can be tough to get info about what critics thought at the time or what the box office was like. In the 70’s things get really murky.


      • Ah I see, didn’t think of that. Which is funny since I’m a history instructor by day so that’s my specialty. You’re right, it would be a lot more work to say the least. Probably too much for a blog.

        Getting the critics info from back then would require going to actual libraries or at least database & archives access which you’d have to pay for. You’d have to choose particular newspapers and magazines to represent consensus. You could access New York Times archives pretty easily, though, at least getting a sense of what people like Rex Reed or Bosley Crowther thought, although he loved Cleopatra and hated The Great Escape and Lawrence of Arabia…. hmmm…

        Box office same problem. You’d have to look in newspaper or magazine archives like Variety for accurate info.

        However, Wikipedia and IMDB has a lot of that info, just not 100% verifiable and might not be there for the smaller projects.


        • That’s exactly it.

          I have been surprised by how many inaccuracies I have found on Wikipedia and IMDB. Wikipedia in particular is wildly inaccurate at times. Most articles will just look at the current RT score for critical consensus. RT is a great resource, but it can completely misrepresent critical consensus for older movies. And easy example is Blade Runner which currently has a 90% approval rating. But when it was released, critics were unenthusiastic. Also, RT includes a lot of critics who lack credentials. So sometimes you will get a movie – say a cult movie – with a pretty high RT score. But if you look at the reviews that were actually published, they weren’t positive. You also run into articles where they will say something like “reviews were positive” for a movie with a 54% score. 54% does not reflect positive reviews. That’s mixed. Or the article will read “reviews were mixed” for a movie with a 35% score. 35% isn’t mixed, that’s negative. That’s like 1 positive review in 3 and you can usually bet that 1 review wasn’t from a respected critic. Sometimes they were out and out bought.

          Wikipedia is even less reliable on box office because box office is a difficult topic. Sometimes, even if you had a studio’s spreadsheets in front of you it can be hard to determine whether or not a movie turned a profit. Wikipedia contributors use domestic and worldwide grosses interchangeably which is wildly inaccurate. I’ll never forget the article on the animated Transformers movie which claimed the movie did “respectable box” office and compared it to Top Gun. TOP GUN!!

          My standards for research have only increased over the years since I started writing this series. I try to find multiple sources for everything. Release dates, box office totals, you name it. Stories about who was up for a part at one point are the worst. Those are about 50% made up. What makes matters worse is a lot of times the actors themselves don’t remember or weren’t aware that they were even being considered. For example, as far as the internet is concerned, Michael Keaton turned down Splash and Ghostbusters. But Keaton denies he was ever up for Ghostbusters and says he might have been up for John Candy’s role in Splash, not the lead. Or I keep hearing that Val Kilmer turned down Keanu Reeve’s role in The Matrix. He admits he turned down Lawrence Fishburne’s role. But somehow that has become an internet rumor that he turned down both parts.

          All of that stuff takes some effort to sort through when I’m dealing with the 80’s-present. But the farther back I go, the less is available overall and the more digging I have to do to find it. Also, since I was born in 1970, I really can’t rely on my own recollection of the decade. That’s partially true of the 80’s as well. But since info is more readily available I can correct my own faulty memories of the 80’s more easily than the disco era.

          Of course sometimes it can be very rewarding. I love the 70’s and it can be fun to go back and dig around.


  28. …or Faye Dunaway. Now there’s a 70s actress who was hot, was in some of the best movies of from the late 60s to 1980, won an Oscar for her performance in one of the top 5 iconic movies of the 70s decade…

    ….and then was in only 1 halfway decent movie per decade for the next 30 years, went into made-for-TV purgatory.


  29. forrestbracket

    kurt russell has lead role in hateful eight i think it lead to bigger things


  30. forrestbracket

    lebeau heres a quote to how kurt describes his career If it hadn’t been for video cassette, I may not have had a career at all.I am wondering if this is true a lot of his films like thing big trouble little china escape new York flopped initial release. Those movie however became discovered gems and gained cult status. I think maybe thats why kurt has missed a list status. I think he has sam l jackson /chris walken fna base people know them love their work but they cant draw a crowd with their name alone. Hes one of those actors who have cult status


    • He’s 100% right. Most of his movies found life on video.


      • He’s right. I enjoyed “Big Trouble in Little China” back in the 1980’s, and had no idea it bombed. But now that I have it on DVD, I really enjoy the commentary track with John Carpenter and himself. They’re like two guys just having a conversation, and along the way explain his Jack Burton character in the film (that’s he’s no hero, just a comedic blowhard). In matter of fact, I may like it more than “Escape From New York”, just because I think it’s more fun.
        Even though it didn’t turn a profit, I really like “Tango and Cash”; I really dig the one liners especially.


  31. forrestbracket

    by bigger things I mean more lead role in high profile movies. Look at keaton since success in birdman he has alot of big projects coming up. He hasn’t been this in demand since the 90s.


    • Birdman helped Keaton. But it’s not like he’s anywhere near the A-list. He’s starring in two low budget movies over the next two years and he did voice work in Minions. That sounds a lot like what he was doing before Birdman.

      Russel’s profile will edge up a notch thanks to Hateful Eight. But much like Keaton, it’s not going to dramatically change his career at this point.


      • I wonder if Kurt Russell himself would’ve made a good Batman/Bruce Wayne? Russell (as I’m sure is evident by his own WTHHT retrospective) is a pretty versatile actor, than he gets credit for. Russell can do silly, tongue-in-cheek stuff (e.g. “Big Trouble in Little China”), he can be serious (e.g. “Miracle”), and he can be a dark, anti-hero like Batman (e.g. “Escape from New York”).

        When I brought this up on IMDb, some people replied in saying that Russell’s whole persona so to speak seems to be more “blue collar”. Therefore, he would’ve probably been better served playing somebody like Commissioner Gordon.


        • I like the idea of Russell as Gordon. But when he was younger, sure, he could have played Batman. Jack Nicholson told Keaton to let the costume do the work. That’s really all there is to it. Any handsome Hollywood actor can put on the cowl and scowl their way through a Batman movie. What matters is the script and the direction. The actor doesn’t matter much.


  32. forrestbracket

    You have a point. Spotlight and the founder are low budget indies at best could get him oscar noms. He had a chance for a big budget film in kong island but turned it down. I think at best he will be offered leads in gritty films that more likely to give him critical recongtion then make him a box office powerhouse. At a certain age its tough to be a list , But thanks to Birdman he will get more roles like that and less like herbie and white noise movies he did before birdman


    • Here’s the thing about Keaton, he turns down a ton of work. Birdman didn’t change that.


      • I hope for Keaton’s sake, his recent career resurgence turns out a lot better than his “Batman” co-star, Kim Basinger after she won the Oscar for “LA Confidential”.


        • I don’t know, I thought Kim Basinger was solid in “L.A. Confidential (I dig some James Ellroy material anyway), but I think it was more the quality of the film that got her the Oscar than the role itself. Heck, I thought she was better in “Cellular” which had a setup like a play.


        • I think it will because there are a lot more roles for older men than there are for older women. Also, Basinger has a lot more baggage to deal with which I think has continually pulled her away from her career.


        • With Kim Basinger and why were career went downhill post-Oscar win, I think that:
          1) She waited too long to capitalize off of the momentum of her win (by not having another film released for another three years) and released too poorly received movies (“Bless the Child” and “I Dreamed of Africa”). This probably gave off the perception that maybe she “never had it” or was passed her peak as a headliner in major motion pictures. Hell, even “Cellular”, which is (to the best of my knowledge) the last majorly released movie w/ Kim Basinger as the first billed star is arguably, kind of a demeaning role as she spends most of the movie held hostages in a basement waiting for Chris Evans (AKA Captain America) to save her. Kim should’ve stopped playing crying, victimized damsels-in-distress after she did “Batman”.

          2) Kim arguably, never really had the greatest range for an actress. It perhaps makes it hard for her to reinvent herself as a character actress once it became apparent that her leading lady days were over. I guess my main point is that unless your say, Meryl Streep or Helen Merrin, women over the age of 60 don’t seem to be offered a lot of predominate roles in major motion pictures these days. This is what LeBeau said about Heather Graham which I think also holds true for Kim Basinger:

          Eventually, I think she crossed a point where it was perceived that Graham had little more to offer than her looks. And as she approached middle age, the value of her looks wasn’t what it once was.

          Now don’t get me wrong. Graham is still stunningly beautiful. I get why she was cast in that Lifetime adaptation of Flowers in the Attic for example. But being an incredibly beautiful middle aged woman won’t get you lead roles in movies. Those go to incredibly beautiful 20 year olds for the most part.

          3) As much as I hate to say this,Kim Basinger (despite being one of the world’s most beautiful women) is kind of flake (Lebeau obviously, needs to touch opinion her history w/ social anxiety). This may have reflected her poor judgement at the height of her career. I also think that it’s safe to suggest that the fall out from her split from Alec Baldwin (culminating in the infamous voice mail towards their daughter, Ireland) wrecked havoc w/ the Kim needing or trying to keep her career focused and on track.

          4) Kim likely has a horrible PR team behind her. Again, this goes back to her not going faster w/ capitalizing off of her Oscar win. And then she proceeds to release a bunch of movies that nobody save for really die hard fans or indy movie observers have heard of. And the major movies that she actually did appear in, it seems like on the surface, (especially during the promotions) she isn’t a prominent character. Maybe Kim prefers doing smaller movies after having her blockbuster fill w/ “Batman”. I’ve read (and recently posted here) that Kim often turns down role if it meant having to be too far away from her daughter.



          At the end of the day, I also think that Kim Basinger’s career simply ran its course. Let’s face facts, she doesn’t really have the best or most remarkable filmography (apart of movies like “9 1/2 Weeks”, “Batman”, and “LA Confidential”) for an actor/actress who was at one time, considered A-list let alone an Oscar winner.

          She pretty much suffered a similar fate as did Sharon Stone. She got pigeonholed as a sex symbol/femme fatale-type actress, but once she eventually got too old for those kinds of roles, she either never really tried or was talented/versatile enough to branch out to other kinds of un-glamorous roles.

          Kim’s domestic problems stemming from her failed marriage to Alec Baldwin, her lifetime of anxiety issues, and the feeling that she was pretty much blackballed after the “Boxing Helena” case were the icings on the cake so to speak.


  33. forrestbracket

    Yes I know that he tends to be picky with scripts.Plus he dosent like to work much which explains why he turned down lost, I always thought he didnt know how to capitalize on success of batman . He must have had lots offers to choose from but he choose wrong ones. I read in an interviews that he didnt want to be typecast ed as batman so he picked roles that steer away from that like pacfic heights, He wanted to be actor not movie star, Keaton before birdman had exactly the career he wanted he never cared for limelight unlike his birdman character.


    • That’s pretty much it. He was never comfortable being the movie star guy. If that’s what he wanted, he would have taken the truckloads of money they offered him for Batman Forever.


      • In a way, Michael Keaton is sort of a forerunner to fellow WTHHT subject, Tobey Maguire. Both peaked when they played comic book superheroes (although Maguire unlike Keaton, actually got to do a third Spider-Man movie) but they seemed to in the process, encounter what could be considered a case of “arrested development” career-wise. Ultimately, both Keaton and Maguire seemed to go into semi-retirement only to occasionally reemerge to remind people that they’re still around.


        • I suspect that’s going to become more and more common with actors collecting big fat paydays for franchises without ever becoming A-list movie stars outside of that franchise. Chris Evans has pretty much announced that he plans to follow in the footsteps of Maguire and Keaton once his term as Captain America is over.


    • I said in Michael Keaton’s WTHHT entry that I think that part of the reason why his career stagnated around this time was that he strayed too far from what people grew to expect of him. Before “Batman”,you could argue that Michael Keaton was best at playing the quirky everyman. I just think that after “Batman”. he kind of became lost in that he wasn’t sure if he should still do comedies or does he have to be a serious actor from then on.

      I also don’t think that Keaton fully released the potential of having the Batman role. What I mean is that he probably in hindsight, embrace his role as action adventure hero, make a ton of money, become a top actor and then you can pick what you want. In other words, you should try to balance more commercial fare with the films that genuinely interested you (which could more than often work against you if said films are more than often flops).

      Christopher Reeve arguably made the same mistake at the height of his Superman notoriety (i.e. seeing himself as more of an “actor” than a “movie star”). I guess what I’m trying to say is that it perhaps doesn’t make a lot of business sense.


      • It’s true, I don’t recall too many offbeat roles that Michael Keaton played after 1989, other than “Multiplicity”. In the 1980’s, he played many offbeat characters (I did like his serious characters like “Clean and Sober” and “Touch and Go” though).


  34. forrestbracket

    He cares more about quality then quantity. I however enjoyed batman forever it was silly fun. I know he turned down lost because he didnt want to be committed to series . Doing that role would have given him 2nd career in shows like 30 rock did for baldwin and 2 and a half men did for sheen. He still probably getting better offers but he wont take him. His next movies look good .His career will be same as it was before birdman.


    • Look at it this way. If you didn’t have to work, would you? Every time Beetlejuice or Batman plays on TV, Keaton gets a little cash. His kids are grown. He doesn’t live extravagantly. He can do what he likes which largely involves reading, spending time with his family and watching baseball from what I understand. If you could live that life and occasionally get involved in something that interests you, how great would that be? Sign me up!


      • Oh yeah, totally. Michael Keaton doesn’t strike me as a guy who has many (or any) regrets in his career. Speaking of baseball, he did the film “Game 6”, which obviously interested him as a project and not a vehicle for financial or public acclaim. Actually, I think it has parallels with “Birdman”, as it’s something of a character study.


        • I recall Michael Keaton be interviewed by Charlie Rose on CBS News (prior to the Oscars this past year) and Rose asked him point blank if he at all regrets turning down a third Batman film. Michael said no because had he done a third Batman movie, then he quite possibly wouldn’t have been able to do “Birdman” (considering that his character could serve as an allegory for his own real life career arc).


        • Michael Keaton ‘Birdman reflects the Batman Forever situation’:

          The actor talks to Digital Spy about Birdman and it’s possible parallels with his own career.


  35. forrestbracket

    Probably not lol. I didnt know he gets syndication right for beetle juice or batman. Its like fox Seinfeld and sheen get syndication rights when spin city 2 and a half men and seinfeld are on tv. I say he is smart he dosent spend alot like nic cage hes good with money so why not enjoy your life with a business that pays alot, I am sure if keaton wants to work more the offers will come.I think all birdman did was bring brief attention to him again .


  36. forrestbracket

    lol All the top scripts come to his office only later to be found in trash lol. But that means if he dose accept script it will be amazing. the trailer for spotlight looks good. I omly hope costner as you know lol one my favorite actors growing up( my all time favorite hanks) i hope he is lucky enough to catch a birdman like comeback. He had his chance with kill bill and django but turned them down


  37. forrestbracket

    game 6 yes similar premise to birdman. I do see spotlight getting oscar bnuzz maybe giving him oscar to make up snub for last year


  38. forrestbracket

    the role of gordon is good for any middle age actor. kurt could do it. I feel with oldman after that he starred being in bigger movies i remember him being in kind of slump before batman. I think hanks costner or matt dillion would been good for role.Back to Kurt russell is one of the few child stars that didnt fall into the trappings of hollywood fame wiht drugs. Plus he ventured into adult roles and is still currently working is respected by his peers. I would say that is accomplishment enough. He appeared in the box office hit furious seven despite it sucking and he has huge lead in hateful eight i think he will do just fine being 64 there arent alot of lead written for guys that age but it dosent mean he wont get interesitng work.


    • I’m all about Gary Oldman; the first film I ever remember him in was “Sid & Nancy”, and man, he became Sid Vicious (like Gary Busey became Buddy Holly and Kurt Russell became Elvis). Even in his odder fare, such as “Criminal Law” and Romeo is Bleeding”, he still brings it. I wasn’t surprised at all that he was an excellent James Gordon, since I think he could play just about anybody (such as London playwright Joe Orton in “Prick Up Your Ears”; looked a lot like the guy too).


  39. forrestbracket

    Leabu i noticed how kurt career is similar to dennis quaid. there hit and miss box office wise. alot of their movies flopped in original release date. are cult classics now big easy did ok enemy mine right stuff flopped in box office but cult favorites now


    • Reconsidering Dennis Quaid:

      Why doesn’t Dennis Quaid have Jeff Bridges’ career? Think about it: They’re both better-looking younger brothers from acting families and gifted musicians who broke out in ’70s coming-of-age films. In Quaid’s case, it was Breaking Away; for Bridges, it was The Last Picture Show, opposite Dennis’ sibling Randy Quaid.

      But while Bridges has matured into an Oscar-winning box-office force (True Grit, Tron: Legacy), Quaid has been relegated to low-rent teensploitation fare like the ill-conceived Footloose reboot and Beneath the Darkness, the horror flick currently getting a quiet burial in theaters and on VOD.

      What went wrong? Quaid never connected with that one gigantic blockbuster that could’ve cemented his star status—even hits like Something to Talk About and The Parent Trap succeeded in spite, not because of him. He also couldn’t seem to decide whether he wanted to be a leading man, turning on the charisma as a sexy Cajun detective in The Big Easy, or a character actor, burrowing inside himself as Julianne Moore’s closeted gay husband in Far From Heaven.

      Yet he gave compelling performances in these films and more, as everybody from rock-and-roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire! to astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff. Still, he didn’t have the right stuff to become a movie megastar, as his turbulent personal life—including a messy divorce from Innerspace costar Meg Ryan—overshadowed his professional accomplishments.

      He also fell victim to typecasting, getting pigeonholed as jocks (Everybody’s All-American, Any Given Sunday, The Rookie) and authority figures (the President in American Dreamz, a General in G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra, Bill Clinton in HBO’s The Special Relationship). Beneath the Darkness finds him stuck in both modes, as an ex-high-school football star who’s become a pillar of his community—and a murder suspect in the eyes of some local teens.

      So what can Quaid do to dig himself out of this rut? Rip a few pages out of the Jeff Bridges playbook and flaunt his musical skills (he hasn’t sung one of his own tunes on film since The Big Easy), saddle up for a Western (he scored a bull’s-eye as a shockingly gaunt Doc Holliday in Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp) and rejuvenate an ’80s sci-fi near-miss. Innerspace 2, anyone?


      • I rewatched 1986’s “Modern Girls” the other day ( the film is pretty silly, but I think it’s fun, and I like the songs performed by Depeche Mode and Icehouse from the soundtrack), and I noticed Dennis Quaid had a song in the film too called “Game I Can’t Win”.


  40. forrestbracket

    something to talk about was not a hit . 50 mill on 30 mill budget sounds ok i partically agree with quaid hollywood probally didnt know where to place him rather he was serious dramatic actor action star comic actor or in scfi flicks . he tried avoiding typecast picked different roles it didnt always work out wilder naplim example. jeff bridges dont compare him to dennis hes better actor he always had better career appeared inmore hits even had more oscar noms then dennis


  41. forrestbracket

    to the article said he never had a huge blockbuster hit. Dragonheart made tons of money he was lead he never capitalized onit.


  42. Here is quote by quaid making reference that he was huge rising star in 80s but never reached a list status. I was a guy back in the Eighties who was one movie away from a huge career, which at that time didn’t happen. In the Nineties, I worked a lot, but it was kind of, ‘get out there and dig and find things.’ Then I guess The Rookie and Far From Heaven were referred to as my comeback. I look around and a lot of the people I started in the business with, I have no clue where they are right now. So much of it has to do with luck and I have been extremely lucky, but a large part of it is also just hanging in there.


    • That sounds about right, though I thought Dennis Quaid was a pretty big name in the late 1980’s.


      • In the late 80’s? No. He was getting lead roles in movies like DOA, Innerspace and Great Balls of Fire. If any one of them had hit, he would have ascended to the A-list like he said. But that never happened. He was perpetually B-list.


        • Yeah, my memory is probably influenced by all those ads I viewed on HBO featuring films starring Dennis Quaid in the late 1980’s. I sure learn by now not to trust my 1980’s brain, but I keep on going there. Well, at least I knew there was something off about “Mannequin”; go me!


  43. Quaid was big in80s but not as big as murphy ,cruise or even stallone. Had enemy mine or those movies been hits he would been closer to a list never happened. After critical acclaim of big easy people thought he would be huge. quaid didnt want to be typecast he tried different stuff drama,scfi and murder mystery none were hits. He is working so thats good but he just didnt really live up to his potential career wise. Leabeau i personal think he would good for website because its also for actors who had hype but never lived up to it. Plus lately hits have been harder to come by with him


    • It depends on what you mean by “big”. I wouldn’t say he was big in the eighties. He was a leading many in a lot of movies that didn’t hit. If being a leading man automatically makes an actor “big”, then yes he was big. To me, being “big in the 80s” means you were a big star. Quaid was never a big star.

      Quaid could definitely end up in WTHH some day. Problem is he works too dang much.


  44. Quaid was never big star. He was poormans harrison ford . He never had box office status to make him big. but a lot of rising stars have fan base he was heartthrob he had fan base but never big star . I think poor mans ford is accurate alot of quaid role i can see ford in them part of me thinks ford turned them down first. vantage point day of phoniex and day after tommrow. I even see saw ford in star waRS BEfore he went grey hair he looked just like quaid


  45. iam sure u can agree quaid was at least rising star.


    • He was a rising star who never rose as far as he was supposed to. He stalled out somewhere along the line. Off the top of my head, I’d say Kurt Russell was a bigger star at the time.


  46. Speaking of 80s my buddy i had a debate he thinks charlie sheen and michael j fox 2 big 80s icons where a list. Both were close but never made it in my opinion


    • Charlie Sheen? He was really, really close in 1987. After Platoon and Wall Street, I think you could argue he was A-list. I would probably argue he wasn’t, but it’s debatable.

      Michael J Fox? He had a great year in 1985. Had a few leads after that. But no, I don’t think he was A-list. Not an A-list movie star anyway.


  47. Yes kurt was bigger at the the time kurt had huge hits in leads unlike dennis but kurt was alwaYS IN MOVIES BIGGER THEN him . Like you mentioned people alot of time forget kurt was in them. sheen did have hits before 1987 red dawn and platoon but douglas was bigger star then sheen in walstreet. . Major lesague was advertised more ensemble his career dried up after hot shots. Michael j fox was close but secret of my success and teen wolf were the only leading hits had aside from back to the futre. Doc hollywood and hard did ok i think but maybe those were hits dont know. His career was stalling which explains why he went back to tv did spin city


  48. rising stars are usually popular quaid must had some popularity . Saying huge understatement on my part but at least had fan base , You know leabu kurt works alot more then quaid you have page about him. You can at least make page on charlie sheen not that much work after spin city he barely made movie went straight 2 and a half men then you write about controversy that cause him to be fired from the show his failed show anger management which wouldnt be much work since he never worked as much as quaid especially since his movie stalled in mid 90s .


  49. Quaid in way had hype alot of rising stars today had ryan reyondls hype but none of them reach their true potental. I amnot always good judge on a list at one point i thought kevin bacon christian bale franco gosling where all a list one time or another but werent. That dosent diminsh good acting


    • Actors who should’ve been big stars…

      Dennis Quaid should have been a bigger star…back in the 80’s, he always came across as the B-list Harrison Ford, but the dude was handsome, had charisma to burn, a great, infectious smile and was always watchable even in schlock. He remains gainfully employed to this day, and most people seem to recognize and appreciate him, but he had everything a major star needed, and yet never quite had that one, big hit needed to propel him into the upper echelons of stardom.


      • Since it’s football season, I’d like to mention “Everybody’s All-American” and how theatrically frightening Jessica Lange can be.


  50. Kurt career also reminds me of kevin bacons. After footloose kevin bacon seemed destined for. Not to diminish his great career but similar to kurt he didnt quite reach a list.He appeared in lots of hit but he was never reason they where hits. Even though his career is going very strong he is now a character actor.He had up and downs in terms of hits and misses .He would be interesting article.


  51. I heard different reasons he did following. One reasons is he lost money in bernie madolf scam is he wasnt getting offers he liked. Bacon career issnt bad. He is not desperate attempt to appear in hits. His career ended up like wthh actors kurt russell ,colin farell, and jude law. WHich means his career didnt match the media hype around him. Kevin was expected to be a huge star after footloose but constant flops derailed that. His career was in a slump but the success of jfk made him relize that he can get better part is he is not the leading man. From then he made a transition to character actor in memorable movies getting second sometimes lower billing to bigger stars .Heres his quote on the matter “The only way I was going to be able to work on ‘A’ projects with really ‘A’ directors was if I wasn’t the guy who was starring”, he confided to The New York Times writer Trip Gabriel. “You can’t afford to set up a $40 million movie if you don’t have your star.”[17]. The following is cancelled i dont see him reaching a list soon . HE has part in Black mass so hes not in danger of not getting good parts. Liam neeson became a list at late age but not sure i see bacon doing it. However given his interesting resume hes perfect candidate for the role.


  52. tango and cash was not box office hit. It made 63 mill off 55 mill budget back then it was considered a modest it now its box office taking would be just ok. several websites describe it as modest. A few of kurt box office hit back then would considered modest today. In Kurt case the movies where bigger then him. HiS name wasn’t marketed alot. still great career few child stats that translated into adult roles. His career combination of kevin bacon and dennis quaid Hollywood thought they destined for bigger career it didnt quit happen. However these actors have been working for over 3 decades and continue to work . That’s accomplishment a lot .


  53. Category: Hidden Treasures Created on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 10:21 Written by George Rother

    It’s not very often that a romantic comedy featuring a real life couple actually works, I submit as evidence the following examples- Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger in The Marrying Man, Madonna and Sean Penn in Shanghai Surprise, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in Gigli and even though it’s not a rom-com, I’d have to include Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut on this list. Of course, there’s always an exception to the rules and I can think of no greater exception than the delightful 1987 comedy Overboard starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. I LOVE this movie! It hit theaters around Christmas 1987 and got lost in the shuffle as audiences flocked to see Three Men and a Baby and Throw Momma from the Train instead. I have a list of actors of which I’m particularly fond and both actors rank fairly high on that list. Hawn possesses a special gift for comedy, her charm and appeal have carried many funny movies over the years over the threshold of mediocrity ….. Private Benjamin, Protocol, Wildcats, Housesitter, just to name a few. Russell can do anything, he’s one of those actors who easily fits into any role he plays, he’s equally great in all genres. He can do comedy (Used Cars), drama (Silkwood), action (Escape from New York), horror (The Thing) and sci-fi (Stargate) ….. it doesn’t matter, he always delivers a great performance. Their real life chemistry extends to the big screen as well and that’s a lot of why Overboard works so well. Incidentally, this is actually their second movie together, they also co-starred in the 1984 comedy/drama Swing Shift, that’s where they first got together as a couple.

    Hawn plays spoiled and abrasive heiress Joanna Stayton, a horrible woman who’s the very personification of the term “bitch”. She lives an idle and empty life with her bored husband Grant (Herrmann, The Lost Boys) and has nothing better to do than make the lives of everybody around her miserable. Their yacht has to dock in Elk Cove, Oregon (a typical redneck town) for repairs and Joanna hires local carpenter Dean Profitt (Russell) to build her a new closet. She sees him as a cretin and treats him horribly, refusing to pay him because she’s not satisfied with his work. He made the unpardonable error of building the closet out of oak and everybody knows that closets should always be made of cedar. After an argument, she pushes him overboard and throws his tools in after him. Later that night, Joanna falls overboard while searching for the wedding ring that she left out on the deck earlier in the day. She’s rescued by a garbage scow and ends up in a local hospital suffering from amnesia (always a convenient plot device, yes?). Grant shows up, but denies knowing her and abandons her, leaving the harried hospital staff to listen to her endless complaining and bitching. Dean sees her picture on the local news and comes up with a brilliant plan to get the money she owes him for his labor and tools. He shows up at the hospital claiming that she’s his wife Annie who was hunting for oysters at night when an accident happened. After he proves that she’s his wife (he points out the unique birthmark on her rear end), the doctors are only too happy (and relieved) to release her from the hospital. Dean takes her back to his rundown home where he manages to convince her that she’s his wife and the mother of his four unruly sons. He immediately puts her to work taking care of the house and the children while he sits back and enjoys the show. Naturally, Joanna/Annie and Dean fall in love with each other and he’s torn over whether to come clean with the truth or not.

    The funny part of Overboard is watching this socialite get her hands dirty doing things that only servants should do. Joanna/Annie cooks, cleans, does laundry in a wash tub and takes care of the kids. That last one is a real job all by herself, these kids are rotten! The youngest talks like Pee Wee Herman at all times. The eldest (age 13) is obsessed with pornography. They terrorize their teacher and everybody else with their practical jokes. Dean just laughs off their deeds as he’s not much more than a big kid himself. He involves his boys in the scheme by having them give their “mother” a really hard time, but eventually they start to care about her and see this woman as their real mother. The situations in Overboard are fairly predictable, especially since everybody knows that “movie amnesia” is always temporary. The movie plays a bit like a sitcom, but it works nonetheless and a lot of the credit goes to the two leading actors. However, I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention director Garry Marshall (The Flamingo Kid, Pretty Woman), the guy has a real knack for comedy and making something special from the most hackneyed of premises. I should also point out three great supporting performances- Roddy McDowall (Fright Night) as Joanna’s long-suffering butler, Katherine Helmond (Soap) as Joanna’s equally horrible mother and Mike Hagerty (Wayne’s World) as Dean’s supportive best friend. There’s a lot of positive energy flowing through Overboard as well a great deal of wit and warmth. It’s a sweet little movie and a great choice for a romantic evening in front of the TV. Excuse me for resorting to a cliche, but watch this one with somebody you love.


  54. I think kurt career didnt really bigger heights because producers didnt really know where to place him. He had some action hits but wasnt an action star had some comedy hits but not comedy star same with dramatic. He tried his hand in alot of type genre in order not be typecast. Proved his range but didnt make a draw. As to Leabu older comments he had 100 million dollar hits befre just only vanillia sky made that much in usa he made a bunch that made that much world wide..Stargate executive decision backdradt all made over 100 mill in worldwide. I think like kurts films he has a cult status himself. Actors cna have cult status. Fans discovered his after their release. A list or not hes been working for years . He was in a box ofice hit fast and furious no doubt hateful eight will be a hit. I would say hes doing more then ok. Its rare for a actor who starred out child star not to drop off face off earth. Hes child stars who had adult carer.


  55. Its not necessary a bad thing sometimes actors just dont pick right films that make money. Kurt has had a very successful career not being a list is not indication on actors talent. things turn out that way. I dont think kurt wanted to go for trADitonal leading man roles i think he wanted to challenge himself.


  56. Were Walt Disney’s Last Written Words Really “Kurt Russell”?

    MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: The last thing Walt Disney wrote before dying was “Kurt Russell.”

    As the saying goes, there are only two constants in life, death and taxes. The former is something that society as a whole (and popular culture specifically) has always been fascinated with. Pretty much any hour of the day you can find some programming on television that is either about someone being murdered, someone escaping death or life after death. So it is only natural, then, that the last words of famous people are greatly scrutinized. After all, we have always given greater meaning to the ends of novels and films, so why not something even more important, the end of someone’s actual life? Heck, Orson Welles’ classic film Citizen Kane revolves around the last words of its title subject. Like that film’s mysterious “Rosebud,” the more attention that you give a subject the more likely that false or misleading stories will pop up about the topic. Like whether W.C. Fields’ tombstone really reads, “Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia” (I’ve addressed that one before here). Or today’s legend – was the last thing Walt Disney wrote before he died really “Kurt Russell”?

    Let’s find out!

    The origin of this particular legend comes from a pretty compelling source, Kurt Russell himself. As you may or may not know, Russell was a child actor whose career began in the late 1950s (in 1963, he even starred in a short-lived TV adventure series called The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters). In 1966, he did a Disney film called Follow Me, Boys! alongside Fred MacMurray about a Boy Scout troop.

    That film was the last Disney production that Walt Disney had direct involvement in before he died from lung cancer in 1966. Disney himself reportedly suggested that Russell be signed to a long-term contract with the company. Whether that is true or not, Russell was, in fact, signed to a long-term deal and he ended up making ten films in total for Disney, including the smash hit The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes which spawned two sequels (I am partial to The Barefoot Executive, myself, where Russell plays a young TV programmer who discovers that a pet chimpanzee can correctly predict what people will want to watch on television).

    As the legend goes, right before Disney died, the last thing he wrote was “Kurt Russell,” presumably as Disney was working on movie plans (he kept working as long as he possibly could). The actor confirmed the story on Jimmy Kimmel Live a few years back, noting “It’s true. I don’t know what to make of that. I was taken into his office one time after he died and I was shown that.”

    However, in confirming the legend, Russell actually serves to likely disprove it. The brilliant Disney historian Jim Korkis investigated this story a little while back and discovered that while Russell correctly recalls being brought to Disney’s office after Disney’s death to see something, the key thing to remember is that Disney’s office has remained, in essence, a shrine to the man. It still looks exactly like it did when he left it in 1966 (it has just been transported from California to a Disney theme park in Florida). However, when he left it it was over a month before he actually died. Disney needed surgery performed on his lungs in November of 1966. He went to the Studio to do some work before then entering the hospital for surgery at the beginning of the month. He was released after two weeks to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Palm Springs. While there, Disney collapsed and was brought back to St. Joseph’s Hospital, which is where he spent the rest of his life, dying on December 15, 1966.

    In Disney’s office, there is indeed a piece of paper (I believe they’re all photocopies by now and not the originals) discussing future TV projects and on it, Walt Disney has, indeed, written in red some ideas about a TV movie Disney was working on at the time and he did write “Kurt Russell” down (well, actually, he wrote “Kirt Russell,” but I think you get the idea), likely considering him for a role in the film (or a sequel to the film).

    Years later, Disney’s son-in-law Ron Miller recalled to Korkis that he did show Russell this memo after Disney’s death. The paper with Disney’s notes is still there on his desk to this day.

    So yes, Russell was, in fact, on Disney’s mind the last time that Disney was working at his studio office. There were other papers there (including plans for Disney World, which had yet to be built), so it is hard to say what was the last thing he worked on at the office, but it is certainly possible that the Russell note was the last thing he worked on in his office (well, there is a note below the Russell one, but you know what I mean). However, since all of that work was over a month before he died, it is next to impossible that it was actually the last thing he wrote before he died.

    The legend is…

    STATUS: False


  57. Kurt Russell on the Big Trouble In Little China remake


    • Well, maybe the remake will do better at the Box Office. As Russell & Carpenter talked about in the DVD commentary for the film (one of my favorite tracks of that type), audiences got the wrong idea about the original due to marketing, especially on who the actual hero of the film is supposed to be (surely not the pompous and goofy Jack Burton:-). It took a long time for the original to find its audience. I mean, I was hooked automatically, since it was aired on HBO in the 1980’s, but other people weren’t operating with my mind’s eye (well, I hope they weren’t).


  58. The term I meant for Jessica Lange is hysterical. I mean this in a good way.


  59. The Best New Movie You’ve Never Heard Of

    There’s something seriously wrong with our cinematic distribution system when dreck like The Last Witch Hunter and Jem and the Holograms comes out on more than 5,000 screens combined (and bombs), and gems like Meadowland and Bone Tomahawk receive only token theatrical releases simultaneous with Video on Demand availability. What’s that, you say? You haven’t heard of Meadowland and Bone Tomahawk? For my review of the former, click here. And for the latter, read on.

    I recently did a Screen Actors Guild Foundation Q&A with the great character actor Richard Jenkins (click here to view it), and intrigued by the title, I asked him about Bone Tomahawk. “Oh, I think that’s going to be something,” he told me. And it is something—something wildly original and thrilling. I suppose you could say it’s derivative of Tarantino (or, more accurately, Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Til Dawn), John Carpenter and John Ford, but hey, there are a lot worse directors from which one could crib. It’s a horror Western mashup that hits its target with pinpoint precision.

    Kurt Russell, fusing his work in previous films as disparate as Big Trouble in Little China, Tombstone and Death Proof, stars as Frank Hunt (great name), the sheriff of an Old West town ironically named Bright Hope. After a drifter (David Arquette, well-cast) disappears from his jail cell along with the local deputy (Evan Jonigkeit) and the wife (Banshee‘s Lili Simmons) of a hobbled foreman (Patrick Wilson), Hunt heads out with a posse. Accompanied by the limping husband, his back-up deputy (the aforementioned Jenkins, eerily channeling Gabby Hayes) and an Indian-killing racist dandy (Matthew Fox, the only actor in the cast who seems utterly lost), Hunt tracks down a tribe of cannibalistic troglodytes, and that’s when it really starts to get gory.

    For the first 90 of its 132 minutes, Bone Tomahawk plays like a fairly straight-shooting Western: The Searchers enlivened by Pulp Fiction-al dialogue (Jenkins and Russell’s banter about how to read a book in a bathtub without getting it wet rivals John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s classic “Royale with Cheese” scene). The resurrection of such seemingly abandoned Hollywood cult figures as Sean Young, Michael Pare and James Tolkan only adds to the Tarantino-esque feel.

    But once the hunting party encounters the cave-dwelling killers, first-time director S. Craig Zahler (whose only previous writing credit was 2011’s Asylum Blackout, which I must now see immediately) gives the film a terrifying frisson all its own. Be warned: The violence is graphic, beyond even what we see on a weekly basis on The Walking Dead. (Scalping is just the beginning.) But because Zahler has spent so much time letting us get to know the characters—this is a film with an admirably measured pace, and one that’s not afraid to let silence speak for itself—you actually care about whether they become human meals.

    Zahler is a talent to watch, and to listen to; in addition to writing and directing the film, he also co-wrote its stirring score, including an old-fashioned Western theme song, “Four Doomed Men Rode Out.” The fact that Bone Tomahawk is not readily available for the vast majority of Americans to see on a movie-theater screen—well, that’s a bone that truly sticks in my throat.


  60. Lebeu you think Kevin Bacon will have article in there eventually. Hes good actor but after huge success of Footloose he was thought to be a huge star but it didn’t happen. He however bounced back in 90s with a successful career as character actor.


  61. Kurt Russell eyed to play Chris Pratt’s father in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”


    • His performances that “sucked” really weren’t all that bad. Soldier? That was a fairly good movie and he was really good in it. I still think the biggest hole in his CV is no “heavyweight” hit, like say Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump or Castaway. He’s had endless near-great outings, but even Snake Plisskin doesn’t quite get there.

      If I can I see everything he’s in because he’s always good and he also seems to be a good guy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that’s about right, that Kurt Russell has never been in a transcendent or heavyweight film, just in many very good films. I still think that sounds like a good career to have. Solid, steady, reliable.


  62. GOing back to Quaid him and Kurt have same career both have been around for years but for most part they are hit and miss at the box office.they both had some films that bombed in box office but retained cult classic years later. right stuff, enemy mine inner space and big easy all either did decent business or just flopped but is remembered years later deemed classics. Kurt may have been close to a list then quaid. The problem is for kurt the movie was always bigger then him. The marketing never depended on his star power. Stargate made lots of money but his face is not even on poster.


  63. WatchMojo’s Top 10 Kurt Russell Performances


  64. Kurt had a great career how many child actors transcend to an adult career. I call that a win.


  65. The real reason Kurt isn’t a bigger star: he’s not that nice of a guy and he is not a good actor. In every western he’s ever done, he apes John Wayne. He’s currently on the big screen in “Hateful 8” and, despite it’s comedic overtones, Russell is unintentionally funny against heavyweights like Samuel L. Jackson. Kurt Russell got his early roles because of his good luck and good looks… but he can’t act. His “breakout” roles in “Used Cars”, and the John Carpenter films were truly awful, although he did some good work in that superhero comedy, in “Silkwookd” and the Herb Brooks flick. I also think his “conservative values” and whiny politics may have played a role in not getting better parts. Not that he’s gray listed, but that directors don’t want to work with a prima donna who plays the victim card and who simply shows up and reads lines.


    • I don’t think many people here would argue that Russell was some sort of Olivier or early day DeNiro, but the facts are that he does have an appeal on screen that has kept him working for more than 50 years. Yeah, he’s been in the public eye since before the Super Bowl was a thing.

      I think you’ll also find that whether or not his performances are genius level, he’s appeared in some movies that fans and critics like a lot. If you’re pretending that The Thing, for example, is not an excellent horror film, then you’ll find you’ve lost any credibility.

      Your comment starts to sound like sour grapes or a personal grudge.


      • Agreed. When you say the humor in Hateful 8 was unintentional, you have automatically lost me. I don’t doubt Russell’s politics cost him a job here or there along the way. I’m sure there are people he rubbed the wrong way who would say he wasn’t all that nice. But I have yet to hear of anyone claim that Russell was anything but a pro when working. Most child actors who stay in the business as long as Russell has have developed a work ethic that puts the rest of the industry to shame. He’s not my favorite actor, but Gern Blanston clearly isn’t being objective.


    • Personally, I really like “Used Cars” (the ones that run anyway). I feel Russell’s character had an innocent sleazy charm about him, and Gerrit Graham was a riot (his character really knew how to shoot down those high prices).


  66. Kury Russell \has not got the recognition he deserves simply bcos he does not market himself too much or stay in the news for all the wrong reasons.

    He simply does his job & leaves it to the producers/publicists to do their job.

    He surely deserved an Oscar for “the thing” or “Miracle” but was not even nominated.

    Many non actors like stallone have received Oscar nominations, we can easily guess how unworthy the Oscars have become.

    Also, he looks more like the guy next door rather than a super hero & this may have gone against him.


  67. Kurt Russell smashed a 150-year-old guitar in “The Hateful Eight” & its museum is really mad


  68. After Halloween, John Carpenter chased Elvis’ shadow

    Elvis has a unique place in Carpenter’s career. It was one of two TV movies he made around the pivotal moment of Halloween, the other being Someone’s Watching Me!, a thriller produced for NBC that starred Adrienne Barbeau, who married Carpenter soon after. Elvis marked the first time that Carpenter worked with Kurt Russell, the former child star and minor league baseball player who was cast as Presley. They would go on to make four more films together: Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, and Escape From L.A., all of which star Russell as a variation on the tough-as-nails pulp hero. Besides being his longest film (150 minutes without commercials), Elvis represents Carpenter’s only attempt at straightforward drama, and is often characterized a work-for-hire project that the director took on because he, like so many of his generation, had grown up on Elvis. Even then, it often seems to be on the verge of turning into a horror film.


  69. Retrospective / Review: Escape from New York (1981)


  70. Good Bad Flicks: Soldier (1998)


  71. At least Kurt still manages to get work unlike his woman:

    This beloved 70’s and 80’s star worked in some movies in the 90’s and still has A+ list name recognition and some popular offspring. The reason she stopped working in movies was not retirement so much as no directors ever wanting to work with her if she was cast because she always had final cut in her movies during the 90’s so they all ended up being bombs.

    Goldie Hawn


  72. ‘I said the wrong things to the right people!’: Kurt Russell reflects on breaking Hollywood’s rules as he lands GQ cover at age 65


  73. What’s the point of this? Obviously, nothing happened to Kurt Russell. He is still making movies and is still a popular actor.
    And it wasn’t The Thing that erased his Disney stigma, it was Escape From New York.


    • I think in most cases the “What The Hell Happened?” aspect isn’t meant to be taken literally, and in the end the articles are a rundown of the subject’s career. In Kurt Russell’s case, the question actually was “How come Kurt Russell never became Box Office gold?” (the answer: many times he chose offbeat projects, or material that he was interested in). Personally, I think Kurt Russell has had a great career (as I believe other contributors and posters on this site do), so it’s nothing like that, it was just examination and opinion.


      • Exactly.

        Sometimes the series title is more applicable than others. In Kurt Russell’s case it was less a matter of him disappearing than why wasn’t he bigger? Also, he hasn’t helped by having a late career resurgence since the article was originally written. I wouldn’t write a WTHH article about Russell today.


    • Based on your comments, I’m going to assume you’re new to the series. If you read more of the articles, you’ll see that it is largely a career retrospective. As gluserty pointed out, the question of WTHH can be interpreted different ways. In the case of Russell, we’re looking into why he never made it on to the A-list when for at least a decade he seemed like he was ready to break out as a major movie star.

      I’m puzzled by the last sentence. I read through the entries on The Thing and Escape and there’s no mention of Disney with regards to The Thing. But under Escape I wrote:

      The studio wanted to cast Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones in the lead role. Carpenter rejected Bronson on the basis that he was too old. He wanted to cast an actor who wouldn’t challenge his authority on the set. So he pushed for Russell who was eager to shed his lightweight Disney image.

      I would argue that Russell spent several years trying to reinvent himself after his Disney roles. That process started with Elvis and carried through his collaborations with Carpenter. Escape was definitely a big piece of that, but it started before he played Snake Plissken.


    • Or maybe Used Cars.


  74. kurt career is similar to dennis quaid both had a bunch of cult classics under their belt. They both tried tackled a bunch of different genres never really found their niche. I would say kurt had more lead hits then quaid.


  75. its ironic the studio wanted to cast tommy lee jones in lead role becuase he was never bankable either back then or now he was a charactor actor. kurt problem is all his hits the movie where bigger then him.


    • That’s the key right there, that the big films were bigger than Russell himself. I don’t think that’s an indictment against him, but it was just how it was.


  76. 7 Films That Eerily Predicted Future Roles

    Kurt Russell – It Happened At The World’s Fair/Elvis/3000 Miles To Graceland

    Kurt Russell’s career has had a few weird crossovers with Elvis. He made his film debut with It Happened At The World’s Fair, playing a young boy paid by Elvis to kick him hard in the shin, so he can win sympathy from his love interest.

    Around sixteen years later young Kurt was cast as Elvis in the John Carpenter TV movie of the same name, and his flawless impression of The King soon lead to more movie roles. Then in 1994 he provided the voice for Elvis in Forrest Gump, where it’s “hilariously” revealed Forrest inspired Elvis’ signature hip-swinging dance.

    The final connection is forgotten heist movie 3000 Miles To Graceland, where Russell and Kevin Costner plays thieves who rob a casino during an Elvis convention. The film has several nods to his screen debut, with his character getting kicked in the shin by a young boy, and signing an album copy of It Happened At World’s Fair for some Elvis fans.

    It’s also revealed his character is the illegitimate son of Elvis himself, because why the hell not?


  77. Overboard Remake Planned With Anna Faris In Lead Role

    The ’80s comedy Overboard, starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, is being remade with comic actor Anna Faris in the lead role.


    • Good choice of female lead, although honestly I’ve never seen “Overboard” all the way through. I don’t know, it just never grabbed me, which is weird, because I love the films of 1987, but no, I’d rather watch “Gardens of Stone” than “Overboard”. I question the chance of the remake though; it could be another “Vacation”.


  78. Actors who succeeded after flops?

    Post by A Dilapidated Catamaran! on 8 hours ago
    Kurt Russell had a string of flops through the ’80s, to the point where even he thought he was box office poison. The Thing, The Mean Season, Big Trouble in Little China, The Best of Times, The Winter People, and Tango & Cash all either bombed or severely underperformed at the box office.

    The ’90s were a lot better for him, though he still had some notable flops, in Captain Ron, Escape from L.A., and Soldier.


  79. Why Kurt Russell Is Still a One-of-a-Kind Movie Star

    The most idiosyncratic action hero of the ’80s and ’90s is experiencing a late-career renaissance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the Fast & Furious movies.


    At certain points in his life, Kurt Russell just stops making movies. Few actors possess obvious self-awareness about their own changing place in the industry, but Russell has always been someone who takes a hint. After breaking into Hollywood in 1979 by playing Elvis Presley in the TV movie Elvis, he spent two decades as one of the industry’s most charming leading men. But after the action epic Soldier flopped in 1998, he vanished for three years, returning in 2001 to play middle-aged characters for smaller-budget movies like Miracle, Dark Blue, and Death Proof. Then, in 2007, he disappeared again. Bored of acting, he wanted to open a vineyard.

    We are now in the third Russell renaissance. Starting with Furious 7 (2015), he’s returned to the cocky, ultra-charismatic persona that defined him as a younger actor, taking roles in the kind of big-budget Hollywood schlock he avoided for most of the 2000s, and embracing his status as an elder statesman of action filmmaking. It’s been one of the most fruitful periods of his career, even when he’s popping up in tentpole sequels. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the latest episode of the Marvel Cinematic Universe out Friday, he fittingly plays a comic-book version of a movie star: a celestial alien being.

    His character in Guardians 2 is a “living planet” named Ego; a charismatic, god-like creature with a greying pompadour as bouffant as it was in Russell’s ’80s heyday. But he might as well be a celebrity, waltzing into the carefully balanced Marvel world and throwing it gleefully out of whack. It’s the same role he plays in the Fast & Furious franchise, where his “Mr. Nobody,” an anonymous government agent working for some mysterious organization, serves as a walking deus ex machina, allowing Vin Diesel’s gearheaded band of misfits to travel around the world in various absurd vehicles.

    Unsurprisingly, Russell is terrific in Guardians 2, imbuing the film with the same jolt of energy he gave the Fast & Furious movies. Even more interesting, though, is the clash of eras he represents—to see him interact with the Guardians hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who is Ego’s son, is to see someone from an entirely star-driven era do on-screen battle with someone from the current more brand-focused one. Pratt is an A-list actor, but mostly because of the major titles he’s worked on (The Lego Movie, Marvel films, Jurassic World). It’s as if Kurt Russell is visiting him from a time before global brands even existed in Hollywood, as an ambassador for his own one-of-a-kind, more character-focused screen presence.

    Russell was a journeyman actor starting in the early ’60s (his teenage years). When John Carpenter cast him as the lead of his sci-fi dystopia Escape From New York (1981), the film’s backers considered Russell not tough enough for the role of renegade super-soldier Snake Plissken. He eventually bulked up and suggested Plissken wear an eye patch. And yet Plissken is one of cinema’s most iconic antiheroes not because of his look, but because of how Russell keeps him grounded amid Escape From New York’s futuristic chaos. Russell had been considered to play Han Solo a few years earlier in Star Wars, but lost the part to Harrison Ford—with Snake, he gave a glimpse of the harder-edged performance he could have offered.

    Russell’s greatest collaborations are all with Carpenter, who, like him, eschewed much of the tedious formula of expensive Hollywood action movies. The Thing (1982) is a jarringly violent cross of horror and sci-fi that never risks a wink at the audience, even when spider-limbed aliens are wreaking bloody havoc onscreen. Russell’s bearded MacReady is an ordinary Joe and marquee superhero wrapped into one, letting the movie’s scares play to the back of the theater while he reminds viewers this chaos is happening to real people.

    Unlike so many of his ’80s action counterparts (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood), Russell was happy to play second fiddle (as he did to Meryl Streep in Mike Nichols’s real-life drama Silkwood). Even better, he was glad to be in on the joke, as he is in his third collaboration with Carpenter, Big Trouble in Little China (1986). That throwback piece of adventure filmmaking stars Russell’s square-jawed hero Jack Burton, who thinks he’s the center of the story, but keeps causing more harm rather than saving the day (the real protagonist is his buddy Wang Chi, played by Dennis Dun).

    Often, Russell’s movies wouldn’t hit as squarely at the box office as the more generic offerings of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, who churned out sequels to their biggest hits while also making stand-alone action movies (like Cobra or Commando) that obeyed a very simple “cool hero beats up the bad guys” formula. His collaborations with his eventual wife Goldie Hawn (Swing Shift, Overboard) showed how easily his charismatic persona could translate to comedy. In the ’90s, he focused on more ensemble-heavy pictures like Stargate, Backdraft, and Executive Decision, but quickly tapped out of the leading-man business after Carpenter’s attempt to revive Plissken with Escape From L.A. (1996) bombed with critics and audiences.

    Kurt Russell is never himself, yet he always is.

    Since then, Russell seemed to take only sporadic interest in making movies at all, and he really did go all in on founding a high-end winery. When Quentin Tarantino cast him as the villain of his faux-grindhouse flick Death Proof (2007), it seemed like the start of the kind of career revival Tarantino pioneered with John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Instead, Russell didn’t appear in another major theatrical release until Furious 7. What changed? Distractions aside, it seems that Russell simply waited until he got the itch to act again. It also seems, at least from the wide-ranging, fascinating interview he gave to Bill Simmons’ podcast, that he could bow out again just as quickly.

    Until then, moviegoers are experiencing a joyous revival. As Mr. Nobody, Ego, the hard-bitten “Mr. Jimmy” in Deepwater Horizon, and “The Hangman” John Ruth in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Russell has been consistently extraordinary, commanding the screen with the same easygoing, grounded presence that made him so special in the first place. The best way to describe Russell’s work is that it never seems like he’s trying to be a movie star, even when reading Tarantino dialogue or zapping energy bolts at the Guardians of the Galaxy. Anything he does seems wholly natural, no matter how heightened his trappings.

    It’s the kind of invaluable skill many current movie stars could stand to learn from. Ben Affleck is not a bad actor, but when he’s Bruce Wayne in Batman v. Superman, you can’t help but think that Affleck is playing some version of himself—offering some meta-commentary on his own tabloid life (the same goes for stars like Brad Pitt or even latter-day Tom Cruise). Others, like the various “Chrises” (Pratt, Evans, Pine, Hemsworth) are defined by the iconic roles that made them famous. When Evans speaks out on a real-life issue, people practically treat him as if he is Captain America.

    Russell is never himself, yet he always is—he’s got a persona and a certain indefinable swagger, but even his silliest roles are fully realized creations, from an actual nobody to a literal planet. At some point, he’ll certainly tire of these new, carefully managed mega-sequels and retreat back to his winery. For now, Hollywood’s all the better with him back on board.


    • Nice to see another unabashed Russell fan, like me. Still, how does Used Cars not even get mentioned?


    • I became aware of Kurt Russell’s self-awareness during the DVD commentary of “Big Trouble in Little China” (a film I have constantly referenced on this site), as he mentions “Soldier”, and says to John Carpenter something along the lines that it was during filming he came to the realization that he was getting too old for action pictures (I heard that “Soldier” was a rough shoot all around anyway). Seems to me that Russell knows when to say when, so I think that’s cool.


  80. Stargate (1994) Retrospective / Review


    • One thing that I really took out of that review is that Kurt Russell is best when she’s playing egocentric, loud-mouth characters like in “Big Trouble in Little China” or “Tango & Cash”. When he’s ask to “play it straight” so to speak like in “Stargate” all that’s most interesting about his personality is severely diluted.


  81. Welcome to the Basement: Big Trouble in Little China (1986)


  82. Goldie Hawn makes a choice – which of Kurt Russell’s characters would she marry?!


    • If I was a lady, I’d marry Jack Burton, the truck driver; sure, is he a massive idiot? Well, yeah, but the career is good, and he’s cocky, but his heart is in the right place.


  83. George Romero Wanted Kurt Russell in Resident Evil Movie


    • I’m a Kurt Russell fan, totally, but I also like George Romero (anyone who places there work in the trunk of their car is my kind of person:-). My Favorite George Romero film is “Monkey Shines”; I know, that isn’t the popular choice. I think it’s a love story in a way: the guy gets injured, had crazy monkey, found love, then lost crazy monkey, got physically better, and it all panned out. I Like that!


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