There are only two reasons he did this film - one of those was Wolfgang Peterson
Kurt Russell is a Hollywood icon; you name the movies he's been in and your eyes light up. His next film is the epic Poseidon, starring opposite some other well known actors like Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, and director Wolfgang Peterson.
In the film, he plays the former mayor of New York, on the ship with his daughter (played by Emmy) and her boyfriend (Mike Vogel). He's part of the group who tries to escape the ship after it's capsized from a giant rogue wave.
Shooting a film on this scale is no big deal for Kurt, but it was one tiny thing that made him really excited every day - the relationships he formed while filming. He said he had a great time hanging out on set.
One other thing, as he read over the script, he spoke with Wolfgang about the fact that he couldn't wait to die. And he knew exactly how he wanted it to happen. He had trained and studied for months on the best way to drown.
He talked to Movieweb about his heroics; here's what we discussed:
We heard you tried to take out Josh with your flashlight?
Kurt Russell: Yeah, I did. It was one of those things when we were under water. I didn't even know I'd hit him. We came up and Josh was bleeding really profusely. I mean he was really bleeding. I was like, 'What happened to you?' 'I think you hit me with the flashlight.' I was like, 'Probably, I don't know.'
What were your war stories?
Kurt Russell: Mine were from the sets themselves; I got an old kind of H-influenza, and I got a throat infection that the doctor didn't find the first time he looked for it so it just got worse and worse and worse, and then I really got sick. And because we just sort of kept going, and I got pneumonia, but I was fortunate in that I had ten days off so I could get healthy to come back. I was also fortunate in that all the underwater stuff that I had to do, I was in good shape for it; I was healthy for that. But for the first two and a half months of the movie, it was just one thing after another; I'd just get sick. As far as being banged up physically it wasn't that difficult of a show for me. I didn't have that much stuff to do other than the normal kind of stuff, but it was the underwater stuff that was psychologically difficult to do because once you went in there was no way out. You also didn't have goggles on so it was very difficult to see because of the lighting. And you were dependant on someone to swim in and give you air, underwater, and then they were going to have to lead you out. Psychologically, that's difficult to put your trust in someone because by the time you reach the end, you're out of air. And especially for me in the drowning scene, I had to, I read about this from, actually, The Perfect Storm. There's a chapter in The Perfect Storm on drowning, and types of drowning. And uh, because I wanted to sort of, I talked to Wolfgang and said, 'I'd like to do this sort of what I consider in The Bridge Over the River Kwai type of thing, you don't know if he dies and then hits this button or if he in his final dying; I'd like to sort of put in right in the middle there, but it's going to take time.' And Wolfgang said, 'Yeah, I'd like to do that; that'd be great.' And so the difficulty there is that the time that that takes to do - to swim into the room, look for the stuff, start to - you have to pass out sort of first. You have to pass out before you drown, in that type of scenario, in that kind of a drowning. And when you pass out then you suck air and then you begin to drown, which takes you into a different kind of state chemically. And then finally you're kind of euphoric, but dead. I was reading about this and I said, I want to do this right. Wolfgang liked the idea of doing it this way, and he said it would take some time, but anyway the point is that I had to say to the guy that was coming in to give me air, I said, 'Look. I'm going to have to get to this point where I'm just floating, after I've done this, and we need enough time to know that I'm in fact for sure dead.' But I said, 'I don't know what it's going to be like,' so I said, 'this is going to depend on you.' I said 'When it looks really wrong to you, then you have to come in and give me air because I'm not going to do anything here, I'm not going to stop this process until it might be too late for me to stop it; I might pass out. If I pass out and start sucking air in it's too late, I've drowned.' So I said, 'I don't want to get that far, obviously, but I would like to be right on that edge' and so this guy was, I thought he was very sharp. And he said 'I understand you.' I said, 'So can we go up to this this way?' And he said 'I'll be there, I'll be there.' And we did it a couple of times and one of the times I got the air, and by the time I got the air it was weird because I didn't really know where I was, I felt his arm on me and he was hitting that regulator so I was getting air. For a period of time, I don't know how long, it was kind of weird. The next thing I knew he was pulling me up, and then I was kind of aware of where we were. And I came up and Wolfgang walked in and was going 'Oh my G-d.' So I said, 'Well, I guess we got it.' I was glad to be done with it, but it was one of those things. There are certain reasons you do movies. One of them for me was - there were really two main things - Wolfgang Petersen, I thought was an interesting man and I'd like to work with him, and he was putting us in the sort of - he called it his third of a trilogy of water movies. And he explained to me how he felt this was the third in line and this is what he wanted to do. And I said great, 'I'd like to be a part of that; the other thing was I wanted to drown. I wanted to drown right.
You didn't care or see this as a remake of a 70s classic?
Kurt Russell: No, I think that to be honest with you, there are lots of movies that I wouldn't want to be a part of doing any sort of second version of or remake of or whatever. This is quite different than the first, obviously. And when you see the movie you see why it's different. I don't look at The Poseidon Adventure to me is an untouchable movie. It's not Casablanca. But it is in a genre, it's a classic picture in a genre to sort of pretend that these movies are in a zone that are fantastic. It's not; it was the first of its kind and this is Wolfgang Petersen's version, so if you can do Mutiny on the Bounty three times, you can do Poseidon.
Besides drowning, how does Robert Ramsey stack up to some of the other iconic heroes that you've played?
Kurt Russell: Not very good, I mean I don't think he's a particularly - I think that outside of drowning, I don't really care. I think he's looking for his daughter and he's a man who's got a past. I think you find out little bits about this guy. His attitude during the celebration of New Year's - you can tell his wife and he was a big deal. Obviously when the guy says 'You didn't even make the whole load on New York,' whatever it was, 'when you were mayor. You were the big man and you quit,' or whatever. I don't know what it was from; there's a bit of a mystery there. And so that's what that is, it's a bit of a mystery. And then he drowns.
Is there any sequel you'd like to see made of your films?
Kurt Russell: No, I only did one sequel. We did Escape From L.A.; we did it seventeen years after we did the original. I wanted to do it because I wanted to have the fun of later on looking at me do this part, where you put these movies back to back and you're just looking at pretty much the same character, but I'm seventeen years older but Snake's not. I get a kick out of that. That was John Carpenter and so that was a lot of fun. But no, I'm not much on sequels; I'm not much on remakes for the most part. I don't really like or dislike them. I think that if you read a good script or if there's a director you want to work with in this case, that was the thing for me. I really wanted to work with Wolfgang.
Was Goldie supportive of you doing this movie?
Kurt Russell: She never read it; she doesn't know what it's about, that will be a surprise for her. I don't think she knows that I drown in this.
Your character in Stargate went on to be in the longest running Sci Fi show in TV. Do you ever think that a TV series is something you'd like to do in the future?
Kurt Russell: No, I did three television series; they're hard work. They are very frustrating in many different ways. They're a great place to go to work and make money as an actor. I say that not frivolously; it's not easy to make a living as an actor. People hear me say that and they look at that, they put it into a zone of he just works for money. Yeah I do. What do you do? Do you do this for free? Would you do this for free, five years of listening to this sh*t for free? You have to work. It's not easy making money as an actor. It's just not an easy thing to do. There's so many that want to do it and so few opportunities to do it that it's not as easy as it would seem.
What are you doing next?
Kurt Russell: No idea, no idea.
Forget what Kurt is doing next; check him out in what he's doing now - Poseidon. The film hits theaters and IMAX screens on May 12th; it's rated PG-13.