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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

(continued from page 6)

Russell's chalked up some 44 films in his acting career, not to mention television roles and a few early-in-his-career stage performances. By Hollywood industry standards he's a veteran performer who, in spite of working when he wants and taking time off when he wants—maybe to watch his son play hockey for a season, maybe to sail for a few weeks, maybe to go to Katmandu with Goldie—he maintains a reputation as a consistent, dependable performer with consistent, dependable box office draw.

And, if the guy's willing to skewer the very idea of a stage actor's curtain call following a performance ("Having to act and behave as if you're humble is insane. Insane. These guys, actors, bask in what they consider their glory, their due, and that makes me just want to throw up…Linda Blair—style throw up.") or insist that for him, Goldie and the kids acting is simply work ("We're working people. We make a lot of money, but we're working-class mentality: 'Go to work. Do the work. You can't just take the money and walk away. Take responsibility for it, good, bad or indifferent.'"), you have to give the guy credit for speaking his truth, even if it might make his agent, a studio or his publicist cringe. Oh, wait a minute, he doesn't have a publicist.

"Look," explains Russell, "I know every piece of this industry. Sound, music, direction, writing, producing, acting…I've done it. I would have had to go in there and shut my eyes and ears to not learn it all after 45 years, and there are times when I've just kind of felt, 'I've had it.' But you know, then you get another opportunity that's really fun where you get to work with really good people. To me, that's the fun part of this business, it's always the great people. That's why you take on a new film."

Well, that and perhaps the toy buying abilities that come with that new film's paycheck. Russell's a guy who has places to go, people to see, and isn't inclined to wait on others to make things happen, least of all the Transportation Safety Administration. When Russell's got a yen to get on the road, he simply heads up in the air. In recent years, the multi-instrument-rated pilot has most often been heading north to Canada, where his 19-year-old son Wyatt plays professional junior league hockey.

Russell's musings on flying are consistent with a lot of Russell's musings on the world in general; the actor's world is predominantly black and white without a whole lot of room for anything else. The single biggest area of gray that Russell may even consider are the winter skies that often hang over the home that he and Hawn bought in British Columbia when Wyatt began playing hockey in Canada some four years ago.

Short of that, the black and white of flying—the preflight check, the intimate knowledge of one's plane, the rules and regulations and the very fact that you either gain altitude and manage to stay up in the sky or you don't—seems to fit right in with Russell's take on life and his acting career: you're on board or you're not, you're prepared for the flight or you're not, and if you aren't hip to the occasional turbulence that brings bumps, thrills or a drop in altitude, stay on the tarmac.

Russell is currently flying a Socata TBM 700, but is getting, well, a little altitude attitude. "I find myself flying distances now for work and for business; you're at 28,000 feet and flying in the clouds and basically flying from Point A to Point B [and] I get up there [Vancouver] in a little less than three hours. Not," Russell smiles, "a lot of romance there.",

Russell mentions two or three other planes he's considering trading his single prop jet in for—most of them smaller, lighter planes—but then all of a sudden mentions that he's beginning to seriously consider a Waco.

Not a whacko, a Waco.

Russell hops up to show off the "planes for sale" pages with the ads he's circled for Waco biplanes and excitedly begins to reel off the planes he's traded in for different models over the eighteen years he's been flying. When it's pointed out that he trades airplanes the way little boys trade baseball cards and slightly bigger boys trade sports cars, he grins for a moment before becoming thoughtful. "Yeah, but the way it works, you see, is that if I want another plane, I guess I've got to do another movie."

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