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Kicking back with Kurt

Whether it's been leaving acting for a stint as a second baseman or taking on roles that would one day become iconic, actor Kurt Russell has always been a maverick.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
Kurt Russell, May/June 2006

After 45 years in the public eye, actor Kurt Russell is accustomed to being called many things by many people, but it seems that no term can raise his ire and one corner of his upper lip faster than being called "macho." • It's a complete fabrication, he insists, a convenient pop term coined and used by lazy media to describe a guy who, he swears, is anything but. Sure, he played professional baseball for a couple of years, rides motorcycles, flies planes, jumps from planes and has been known to hop on board his sailboat and show up, 10 days later, 2,000 miles up the coastline. He trains horses, hunts elk and believes that the very term "metrosexual" is an indication of just how wimpy and soft men have become in the last decade or so. • But macho? • "Not just no," Russell growls, "fuck no."

Kurt Russell has a thing for strong, independent women and Mother Nature has decided to accommodate him by dumping more than two inches of rain on Malibu in a matter of hours. The coastal road leading to Russell's home, which he shares with longtime romantic partner Goldie Hawn, is awash in muddy water, rock debris and a litter of highway cones, flood warning signs and the occasional low-slung luxury car that's more often observed in valet parking or in a "reserved" spot on a studio lot than on the shoulder of the Pacific Coast Highway.


Suddenly, the storm subsides and the sun reemerges. In retrospect, the abrupt flip-flop back to typical California weather shouldn't come as a surprise. Seeing as how Russell's a guy who's done a lot of his own stunts over the years and always seems to land on his feet both physically and karmically, the sun not only breaks out as the interview approaches but breaks out with a vengeance; suddenly, it's not just a typical sunny, blue-sky day in Malibu, it's bright, it's hot and it's muggier than hell. Russell's only acknowledgement to Mother Nature's little temper tantrum is to raise his face and stretch his blue jean—clad legs and naked feet into a patch of sun and let 'em bake.

But then Russell, the man who's currently squinting into the sun and calmly enjoying his view of the Pacific Ocean, gets to be far more sanguine about Mother Nature's little show-and-tell than Russell, the actor, gets to be in his upcoming film, Poseidon.

Opening in the United States May 12, Poseidon stars Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfus and Emmy Rossum in the Wolfgang Petersen remake of the 1972 Gene Hackman hit The Poseidon Adventure. Russell, who plays Robert Ramsey, Jennifer Ramsey's [Rossum] overprotective father, likes to joke that Poseidon is the final chapter in Petersen's "water trilogy. First he made Das Boot, then A Perfect Storm, now Poseidon. The guy's got a fascination with water!"

Russell signed up for the movie, he says, because of his respect for what Petersen did with the other two sea-themed films. With industry sources suggesting a $150 million price tag for the production (a number that Warner Bros. refused to confirm) and an opening date smack in the middle of the releases for Mission: Impossible III and The Da Vinci Code, a lot of hopes are being pinned on a new generation of filmgoers wanting to relive a disaster epic featuring a luxury cruise liner being turned upside down by a rogue wave.

Obviously, the filmmakers, cast, crew and studio brass are also counting on those who saw the original The Poseidon Adventure in the theater—and ignored the television movie remake in 2005 that had the cruise ship capsized by terrorists—wanting to see this new, improved version, too. Technology has advanced dramatically in the last 30 years and, by all counts, Petersen outdid himself on choreographing scenes and special effects meant to keep moviegoers on the edge of their seats.

Russell tells a great story—complete with his own personal special effects and vocal sound system—about how Petersen took some of the cast completely off guard when, shooting a particular scene for the first time, they discovered that the director had choreographed a dozen or more cameras to move in time with the scene and cast to the accompaniment of a professional sound system booming out the opening notes of Wagner's The Valkyrie.

Russell laughs while telling the story and slips in and out of a credible German accent as he relays Petersen's delight in the effectiveness of both timing the cameras and startling the cast and crew. He then goes on to talk appreciatively and at length about two of his cast mates, Richard Dreyfus ("I've always loved the guy's acting, he's had an amazing career, and his style is always unwavering.") and Josh Lucas ("He's got a good eye, a good ear. He's not a complainer and he's not someone who blows his own horn. I hope this is his breakout movie."), before describing the sheer physical hardships of filming, for weeks, on sets that were on water, in water and beneath water. The production of the film, done entirely on two Warner Bros. stages, involved shooting the scenes and the cruise ships right side up and in water on one stage, upside down and submerged on the other.

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