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The Untold Truth Of Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell has never taken himself too seriously, but despite his laid-back attitude, he's built a thriving acting career. In fact, maybe it was his carefree outlook that actually helped him succeed. He's never been a method actor, he had no ambitions of becoming an A-list celebrity, and for the most part, he says that acting doesn't feel like work. But clearly, he does care about his craft, and his talent has led to roles in films like Silkwood, Escape from New York, Elvis, The Hateful Eight, and more.

But Russell didn't originally set out to become an actor. So how did he get started down this path in the first place? And now that he's been working in Hollywood for decades, does he still have any big goals that he's yet to accomplish? Russell's career has had some interesting twists and turns over the years, so let's explore a few lesser-known facts that you may not know about the actor.

Kurt Russell doesn't like watching TV

Russell's father, Bing, was an actor, and he was probably best known for his role in the long-running TV series Bonanza. Therefore, it's easy to assume that Russell was a movie buff growing up or that he followed his own favorite TV shows closely. But in reality, Bing didn't want his children spending too much time watching TV.

"My dad, even though he was an actor, he didn't really condone watching TV. It wasn't a pastime that he thought was a good one," Russell told GQ. But even today, he's not a huge fan of watching TV for hours on end. Most shows just don't grab him. He continued, "As I got older and I began to sort of watch other shows, I quickly discovered that I didn't much like much of it. I just didn't think it was very good. I just didn't like it."

As a child, Russell and his sisters were generally only allowed to watch TV when there was a baseball game on or for special broadcasts. (Today, he recalls watching the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.) As a result, Russell didn't actually have much exposure to acting aside from his father's performances. So when he began going on auditions, he had to wing it and use his imagination.

He was an accomplished baseball player

Kurt Russell's first love wasn't acting — it was baseball. His father had been a minor league baseball player in Georgia, and Russell was also passionate about the sport. Eventually, Russell worked his way up to the minor leagues, playing for teams like the Portland Mavericks. Even after he built up a solid acting career, he hoped to play for the major leagues, but an injury derailed his baseball career for good. He'd already been pushing himself too hard on the field, and one night when he went out to celebrate after a game, he hurt his arm playing air hockey. As it turned out, the damage was worse than he had expected — he'd torn his rotator cuff, and he could no longer play baseball.

"I found out it was over from a doctor who had a terrible bedside manner," Russell said in an interview with Men's Health. "He examined me and said, 'Aren't you an actor, too?' I said, 'Yeah, yeah.' And he said, 'Well, you're an actor all the time now.' That was it. He just walked out of the room. I sat there for like ten minutes, not knowing what to do. I was like, 'Is that it?' ... I was just devastated." From that day on, Russell had to focus on acting.

He started acting to meet his heroes

If Kurt Russell had big dreams of playing professional baseball, why did he begin acting in the first place? Was he just trying to follow in his father's footsteps? Not quite. He actually went to his very first audition because he was hoping to meet two of his baseball heroes. He decided to try out for a part in the family comedy Safe at Home, which is about a young boy who tries to impress his friends by bragging that his father knows Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. When they call his bluff, he decides to head off to the Yankees' spring training camp to meet the players.

Russell showed up to the audition solely because he figured it could be a way to meet these two baseball legends. He didn't end up getting the part, and he didn't run into Mantle or Maris, either. But after this experience, he decided to go out for other roles, and he eventually landed his very first part — a guest spot on the TV show Dennis the Menace.

Kurt Russell hated publicity

Russell was never one to chase fame. He readily admits to enjoying the large paychecks that come with acting jobs, but he isn't the type to seek out attention when he's not on set. He prefers leaving work at work, and once he's done shooting for the day, he's ready to go home and relax with his family. Even when he was still a child actor, he simply wanted to act — he had no interest in dealing with paparazzi. When a reporter or publicist would show up on set, he would drop what he was doing and head out of sight.

"When I was a 12-year-old kid, I'd see the publicity guy come on set, I'd run up to the rafters," Russell admitted in an interview with GQ. "All the electricians up there knew when I was coming up. They go 'get up here!' And I'd go hide." While he'll happily sit down for long-winded interviews today, Russell was definitely shy around the press as a kid.

He gave advice to Walt Disney

Kurt Russell found steady work as a teenager when he began acting in Disney movies. He appeared in films like The Strongest Man in the World and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and while these movies didn't turn out to be Disney classics, Russell was definitely a hit with audiences. He received endless fan mail, and even Walt Disney himself wanted to hear Russell's opinion on upcoming films.

According to Russell, Disney often sought him out for feedback because he knew that Russell had no reason not to be honest with him. He let Russell watch an early cut of Mary Poppins, and when Russell admitted that he thought the film was "okay" and that he probably wouldn't recommend it to his friends, Disney decided to make some major changes — including adding the animated penguins. 

"I was a perfect audience for him in that regard. Now, is there any credit to be taken there? None, absolutely none," Russell told GQ. "What I got to witness was a genius at work, okay? What I knew, in those instances ... I knew my opinion mattered."

Kurt Russell 'ghost directed' Tombstone

Kurt Russell played Wyatt Earp in the popular 1993 Western film Tombstone, but unbeknownst to audiences at the time, he'd been responsible for more than his own role. Early on, the original director, Kevin Jarre, was fired, and George Cosmatos was brought in instead. However, Cosmatos wanted Russell at the helm, so he stepped up to the plate.

"I said, 'I'll do it, but I don't want to put my name on it. I don't want to be the guy,'" Russell explained in an interview with True West Magazine. He then went on to add, "I'd go to George's room, give him the shot list for the next day, that was the deal. ... And it was the hardest work of my life." 

Interestingly, the two made a deal. Every night, Russell would put together a shot list for Cosmatos, and he would keep their arrangement a secret until Cosmatos died. Between providing direction and starring in the film, Russell barely slept during shooting. Cosmatos passed away in 2005, and finally, Russell admitted that he'd essentially served as the "ghost director" on Tombstone.

He tries to avoid appearing in similar films

Throughout his career, Kurt Russell has gone to great lengths to avoid being typecast. He's appeared in everything from martial arts films like Big Trouble in Little China and horror movies like The Thing to massive blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He doesn't want to pigeonhole himself, and he actively tries to avoid playing similar roles.

"In Hollywood, a lotta times if you have something that's successful, the next 30 scripts you read are gonna be in that zone," Russell said in an interview with Whisky + Sunshine, adding, "So I disappointed a lotta people by saying, 'I get it. I get why you want me to do it. But, if you'll notice, I just did that. I don't wanna do that now. I passed that math test. I wanna go on to this English test now.'"

However, Russell had chosen to appear in a few sequels. Before he was a star, he played college student Dexter Riley in a trilogy of Disney films where he'd always wind up with some weird superpower, like invisibility, super strength, or computer-level intelligence. Later, he donned an eye patch to play Snake Plissken in Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., both of which were directed by John Carpenter. He also landed a role as Mr. Nobody in Furious 7, and then he reprised it in The Fate of the Furious. And after playing Santa Claus in The Christmas Chronicles, he came back to put on the classic red suit again for The Christmas Chronicles 2.

He doesn't watch his own movies

Russell has an extensive filmography, but it's very rare that he'll end up watching one of his own films. "I try to avoid watching my own movies. There are certain ones you can't avoid stumbling upon on TV. Every once in awhile, I'll watch a little of it. But never from beginning to end," Russell explained in an interview with Men's Health.

Russell says that once he's done shooting a movie, he typically only sees the final product once — at the premiere. After that, he moves on to the next project. He finds it strange when he catches one of his own films years after its release, and he always ends up noticing details that he hadn't seen before. It's a very nostalgic experience. You'll never catch him sitting down to watch one of his own movies on purpose. Once the job is done, it's done, and he's ready for his next big role.

Kurt Russell has his pilot's license

What does Russell do in his time off when he's not working on a movie? He takes to the skies. Russell earned his pilot's license when he was 34. He was inspired by his grandfather, who was a pilot. In his aviation class, he was an inquisitive student, and his constant questions helped him earn a perfect score on their final exam.

"Flying has taught me more about who I really am than anything I've ever done. I take very calculated risks," Russell said in an interview with Airport Journals (via Golf Hotel Whiskey). "I've done too many stunts on too many movies and television shows to be a daredevil. I learned a long time ago that if you want to do something you enjoy, you want to do it again."

Russell has also had some interesting experiences in the air. He was the pilot who reported the Phoenix Lights, a famous UFO sighting that occurred in 1997. He was flying with his son at the time, and they found the incident so strange that they decided to call it in.

He owns a ranch and a vineyard

In addition to flying, Kurt Russell has several other hobbies outside of acting. He and his long-time girlfriend, Goldie Hawn, own a ranch in Aspen, Colorado, and they sell their beef to local restaurants. Russell also owns a vineyard in California, and he's enthusiastic about making his own wine. He sells his alcohol under the label GoGi, and whenever a new blend is due to be released, he's both excited about the process and nervous about the reception. 

"I'm just so happy every time," Russell told GQ. "It's like, wine's been being made forever and ever and ever. And if you love wine and you love really high-end wine, to make it, once you get into it, it's not just a process, it's an art form. It's like the most nerve-wracking day of the year for me." But every once in a while, rumors will fly that Russell is retiring from acting to focus on making wine. However, he intends to balance both of his passions.

He doesn't believe that acting is 'work'

Kurt Russell holds some rather unorthodox opinions about acting. He'll be the first to say that acting isn't "work," and he admires those who hold traditional jobs. In fact, he doesn't feel like he's really worked a day in his life.

"I don't work. I've never worked. I take great pride in the fact that I played baseball, I drove race cars, I drove racing boats, I flew airplanes, and I acted. None of those things are work," Russell explained in an interview with GQ. "Doing what you want to do, that's not work. When you're working, you're doing sometimes things that you don't want to do. ... That's work."

"I don't think acting is art," Russell also said in an interview with The New York Times. It may be a controversial statement, but Russell does think that actors serve an important role. He believes that actors are like modern-day court jesters who can reveal uncomfortable truths about our society through drama and comedy.

Kurt Russell doesn't have any more career goals

Kurt Russell has had a wide-ranging career. One might assume that after putting in all of this work, he might be upset that he hasn't won an Academy Award or even earned a nomination. But when asked about his future career goals, Russell came up short. "It's still fun to act. I don't know why that is. By now, it shouldn't be," he joked in an interview with The New York Times. But he went on to admit, "I'm honestly more interested in the kids' careers than what's going on in mine."

Russell's son, Wyatt, is also an actor who plays John Walker in the MCU mini-series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Kate and Oliver Hudson — the children of his long-time partner, Goldie Hawn — also consider Russell to be their dad, and they've both established themselves as successful actors. His oldest son, Boston, generally chooses to stay out of the spotlight. At this point, it seems that Russell is quite content with his own legacy, and now, he's ready to pass on the torch to the next generation.