Kurt Russell starring as Stuntman Mike in Quentin Tarantino's half of the double feature
The man is Snake Plissken, people - Kurt Russell will forever be remembered for his portrayal of the rebel warrior from Escape From New York and the follow-up Escape from L.A.. Over the years, Kurt has taken on boats, burning buildings, alien attackers, and pretty much saves the world every time.
As Stuntman Mike in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, Kurt goes up against four women who just want to kick his ass! Death Proof is part of the double feature of Grindhouse; the other half is from Robert Rodriguez, called Planet Terror.
Stuntman Mike is an odd fellow; he stalks women and then gets enjoyment out of killing and torturing them with his car. But when he runs into the girl team of Sydney Poitier, Rosario Dawson, and Zoe Bell, the game gets a whole lot more interesting.
Check out our chat with Mr. Kurt Russell talking about Grindhouse and the remake of Escape from New York:
The scar's all gone?
Kurt Russell: Oh yeah; amazing.
How fast did you take that off?
Kurt Russell: We did that every day, and you're right, it took a while to get off; it took about 10 minutes to get off. It took about a half hour to put it on, and 10 to get off.
What was your first reaction to the script?
Kurt Russell: No, I have seen the whole thing, and I assumed when we were going to do this, that's what we were going to see; I saw what I thought I was going to see. Quentin described it very well, very completely, and it was very easy for me. I read it, thought it was funny as hell, and I thought it was entertaining as hell; I thought it was a great idea to bring this generation, and to bring back for that generation, my generation, that grew up on the double feature, the double feature, the real double feature - the styles, the two very different movies, different types of movies. On a personal level, I loved the idea of being able to play Stuntman Mike for Quentin Tarantino, who had written it as he had.
Do you think he was really a pussy at heart?
Kurt Russell: No, no, no, no, no; that was a find. As you read, you keep going and keep trying to make a character come alive, and I didn't know how I was going to play this character. This was one of those few characters that I've played - at the beginning, I really didn't have a strong idea of what I was going to do. It reminded me about when I did Escape From New York; I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn't have that instant sense of what I wanted to do. It was a lot of work trying to find something, and this character was the same thing. I went through a period with Quentin where I was like, 'Some of this is going to be real ugly, but don't let it scare you; I just have to do this to try and find some stuff.' He said, 'Absolutely. I like that, absolutely.' And then I'm sure, I proceeded to terrorize him, 'Oh my g-d, I hope he doesn't do that.' It was a process, and finally when we got to that part of the movie - actually, finishing the movie, I got to a place where we just had so much fun making the thing. It was to the point that I could be doing a scene on the porch with Vanessa Ferlito - it's just a straight scene, and after doing a character for so long, you feel like you own it and you are that person. So if you're bored, he's bored, and if you want to do John Wayne, you go be John Wayne; and everyone says, 'Woah, what's he doing?' And instead of having a director who says 'cut,' there's that, 'Let's do another one.' You have a director who says 'keep it rolling, keep it rolling,' and 'Go back to this part of the speech and do John Wayne.' That's it, ok and then when you get to a certain point, he yells, 'Ok, do Brando.' And he's out there playing in the sandbox with you, it's crazy; and we looked at each other at the end of the day and said, 'Who knows, maybe it's right?' And he says, 'Who knows?' By the time you get to the end of the movie, when you say to him, 'You've created this guy.' The end of this thing where he gets beat up, you go, 'Yeah, I gotta play something here.' He says, 'What are you thinking?' 'Well, I want to go off that word.' 'What's that?' 'Coward.' I've never seen these guys carried out the way, it's just a whole lot more painful than you can imagine. He's taking 1000 hits, squibs, real gun shots; I was like, I've heard about this, but this is way worse than that. And he said, 'That's what we're doing; let's do that.' And so we got all the way to the end, and the end, he becomes this screaming hallow monkey. I just came up with this sound there, and he came up to me and said 'cut' and we re-did that scene a couple more times. He came up and said, 'Maybe too much.' And of course, I went and saw the movie and he came up to me again and said, 'You saw the take I used.' And I said, 'Yeah, that one (belly laughs); I knew, I knew that was the one.' He said, 'That's where he's at at that point.' It just goes to show you how much fun you can have with somebody, and neither one of us knew; you never do. But I think seeing the movie, it's one of the real fun things to watch in this night of Grindhouse.
What did you think when you heard about the crazy reaction you got when Quentin announced you were going to be in his movie at Comic Con?
Kurt Russell: I wasn't there, and they told me that. I'm a pretty sheltered person, and to be honest with you, I've never talked to people about the movies I've done, I've never talked to my kids and family about much of it; some of my kid's friends would ask me about it sometimes. I don't get around, so I don't know what Comic Con is, and I've never been in a room where people have behaved that way, and I always assume no one knows what I've done. He did tell me that, and I said, 'Well, that's good; they don't hate the guy playing the role.' 'Are you kidding, this is going to be just right for what it should be!' I said, 'Great, that's good.' I do think part of it is, if you're going to come out of the elevator in Big Trouble in Little China - John (Carpenter) and I had moments in that like Quentin and I had here. And I go back to those moments, and I go, 'You know, I'm really glad we did what we did.' And I went to John and said, 'I know we have a month to shoot.' I'm on the elevator and I give Kim Cattrall a big kiss; she's wearing this really red lipstick, and I pull back from her, and I have lipstick all over your face. I look back at John, and go 'So...' He said, 'Well, we can't go through the last 20 minutes of the movie...or can we?' 'I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You won't do that, will you?' 'I said, 'Why not?' You know, every time the guy kisses the girl, it immediately goes through our head, and the lipstick isn't there - and we immediately make that adjustment. I said, 'What if we don't have to make that adjustment?' Finally, he said, 'Would a hero-' '-with lipstick.' 'You're right, let's do it.' And so, that's the kind of thing you find, and that's why - people know. That guy is going to do something, that guy will do something that's right for what we think this should be. And I hope always when you go to work, next time they have Stuntman Mike's screaming demise, he wimped out, wussed out, bitched, screaming, and to say, 'That was good, man! That was good.' I hope a lot of people will be saying, 'Don't pull a Stuntman Mike on me here.' And that's a manly way of saying 'don't wuss out on me.' I think that's fun to create characters that someone can have some history like that.
What makes Tarantino unique?
Kurt Russell: His knowledge; it's truly stunning, just stunning. I don't care how much you think you know, you're not even close, you're not even in the ball park.
He knew all of your movies?
Kurt Russell: Man from U.N.C.L.E.; I said, 'Oh yeah, I did one of them.' He said, 'Yeah, that scene with you and Ellia Kiriakin, you did this...(pretends to speed talk like Quentin), and then the next scene (does same speed talk). The high chaperone!' It's insane, it's insane; it's savant, you can't believe it. You have no concept of the depth of his savantism he has with movies. To the point where - I would like for you all to see something, which would be quite fascinating - if you ever do see it, you'll be like, 'yeah.' If he were to walk in this room right now, you would start talking to him, start asking questions, and I went over there, and I had a movie screen over there. If I turned it on an old episode of Then Came Bronson (acts as if his head his turning towards the screen and not focusing on the table). Michael Parks. If I were to put it on and you were sitting there, and you asked him questions, he'd start to answer your, your...(turns his head and focuses fully on the wall). He's out, he can't not watch it; he's weird. He's got something with 24 frames a second; he can't function. I've been in a room where he was to tell me what we were shooting here cause I gotta know where I'm going to go with this guy. He said, 'You're just driving this thing.' And I said, 'But I gotta know.' He comes in, 'You know, you're right, I've thought about it and you're right.' I've got the TV on, it's just on some show, nothing important; he starts to tell me about the part, the thing where we're going to shoot. He says, 'This is the...(turns head and stops talking)' I wanted to see it. But I hit the button [to turn it off], and he went, 'So...' and he came right back; it was like a black-out drunk, never knew what happened. It's phenomenal, phenomenal; his knowledge, he doesn't forget anything he's ever heard. It's off the chart.
Gotta ask, what's you opinion about the Escape From New York remake?
Kurt Russell: Wait'll Stuntman Mike hears about this! (huge belly laugh) He'll be like, 'Woah!' No, look, here's what I'm getting at. I did Disney movies, they're remade those. I did Stargate, they made that into a TV show. I did Backdraft, they made that into two TV shows. They're going to remake The Thing, they're going to remake Escape From New York. There's three or four other movies, I've heard they're going to remake. There's a couple things I think about it, which is that's interesting, why not, sure go ahead. I think Carpenter owned the first one, so he must have given them the right to do it; that's cool, whatever. I do think it's interesting because just talking about one thing - creating an iconic character, which that will never change; that will always be there and you can go see that. People can check that Snake out and that Escape From New York world out. But, I do feel already one thing, that if I were there, and while I'm saying 'good luck' to you all, I will say 'interesting start, interesting to see where you're going to go with that.' I know one thing in creating a character, you know all about him. I know one thing about him - he's quintessentially American. So good luck.
He's an iconic character, but Kurt Russell as Snake is the iconic character.
Kurt Russell: It's Snake, that's the way it'll be; I agree, but no more so than - I think they look at it, the movie makers look at that like, you would say 'Sean Connery owns 007.
I think he does.
Kurt Russell: And that's my opinion, too. But, there's no reason. They've gone on and made a franchise and made a lot of people happy with a lot of movies. As far as I'm concerned, it's nice that all these guys have done what they've done; and I think that this last attempt was extremely cool and nice. I'll just say the same thing I always say about Snake, knowing him so much, knowing what I know about Sean Connery and 007 - I hope none of those guys run into his 007; they're done. That's the same way I feel about Snake. Any character, I know that guy, and my feeling on that is - I'm on in my life doing what I'm doing, and I'm doing Grindhouse. And at the moment, I'm caring about maybe 30 years from now, somebody is going to want to do their Stuntman Mike - that's cool. This is cool, but nothing's sacred in our business.
What haven't you done yet in your career?
Kurt Russell: Somebody asked me today if I would do a cameo in Escape. I would consider it for a sh*t load of money. 'We're going to pay you a lot.' 'How much?'
Grindhouse blasts into theaters April 6th; it's rated R.