I have to give a Galaxy-sized thank you to Disney & Marvel Studios for hosting me during the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Event.
I don’t like spoilers. I don’t want you to find them here – I really don’t. But there’s literally NO way to present this interview with Kurt Russell as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 without spoiling pretty much the entire movie. Maybe there IS a way, I just haven’t found it yet.
Kurt Russell is, well, he’s freaking Kurt Russell, y’all. Like, if you don’t know who he is, I’m not even sure why you’re here right now other than to get spoilers, in which case you’re ruining your own life and I cannot help you.
I’m serious. Don’t read this until you’ve seen the movie. I’ve seen it twice, and the second time was just as good, if not better, but the first time set the bar because I knew absolutely nothing going in. Don’t do that to yourself.
He had never seen Guardians of the Galaxy when social media became abuzz with the news that he might play Peter Quill’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.
I was doing this publicity stunt for Tarantino’s movie, “The Hateful Eight”, and one day all of a sudden my phone started to go off, which is very rare for me. I don’t have a lotta telephone action. I don’t do media stuff on it, and these messages were all the same thing. And then the people in the interview started to ask me, ‘Are you gonna play Peter Quill’s father in the next Guardians of the Galaxy?’
I literally had no idea what they were talking about ‘cause I hadn’t seen the movie. I said, no. And it was like, ‘Wow, whatever this is, they’re excited about it.’ The next day, I kinda got the official word and I said ‘Well guys, I need to read the script and I need to see the [first] movie.’ When I saw the movie, right away I kinda fell in love with it and it just got better and better.
Watching Chris Pratt play his role as Peter Quill in the original film is what catapulted Kurt into taking the role.
I was kinda watching Chris and saying, yeah, I get that, I get that energy. I get that style. I realized from movies that I had done in the past, I would bring the right baggage here. As I read the screenplay it was even more so, and I wanted to do it.
Kurt wanted to make sure that the character was right, he didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the movie for anyone.
Because of the reaction that I got from people when they found out I was going to do the movie, I was concerned that the audience would go in thinking,
‘Oh great, this is just right, we’re so happy that he’s gonna have adventures with his dad, and it’s Kurt Russell, and he’s working…and I hate this movie, and Kurt Russell’s responsible for killing this for me.’
I said to James Gunn, I just wanna make sure we hit the right notes here.
The one thing he would have liked to have seen is 15 seconds more of Peter and Ego playing ball together, but he thinks James got it right in keeping it the way it is. We agreed with him on the ball playing scene, so imagine a group of moms being like “awwwwwww”! (SPOILER ALERT)
Your reaction is proof that you shouldn’t do that (expand the ball scene). Because if you go too far with that relationship, there’s gonna be something very wrong with this. You know, it is a son, killing his father. So you gotta be very careful with that.
Even Kurt Russell, a seasoned actor, says that you just have to play what’s on the page and trust that it will all work out in the end. He pulled from his experience as a parent to play some parts of Ego.
When you’re doing it, you don’t know certain things. You can only assume them and try to play the scenes that are there correctly to make that final moment what it should be. You have to go all the way from being kinda cool and loving and fun to just, you know, who f#*k do you think you are? I think we’ve all said that to our kids, W’ho the hell do you think you are?’ I could hear myself, you know. I was literally, you know, ‘You go to your room!’ So, it was all in that zone and it kinda had to have some of that tone to it so you could sort of enjoy some of that reprimand as a parent, You tell somebody live a thousand years as a battery, he means it, you know.
Kurt Russell’s goal as an actor has always been to challenge himself. He didn’t want to be pigeonholed into one genre, and he had some interesting things to say about human nature.
I was just an actor who didn’t wanna do the same thing. For some reason, that just repulsed me. In Hollywood a lot of times if you have something that’s successful, the next thirty scripts you read are gonna be in that zone. I disappointed a lot of people by saying,
‘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.’
In saying that, and in doing that, you create a confusion and a whiplash sort of career where they can’t pigeonhole you, but they’re not necessarily happy about that. Even critics and reviewers are not necessarily happy about that. We have a tendency as human beings too, see something, like it, and then wanna see more of it. That also applies to whole movies where you see a movie you like so you want to see it again.
‘Let’s do ‘Overboard’ again, let’s do ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ over. Let’s do ‘Escape From New York’ again. Let’s do ;Tombstone’ again.’
They’ve only done forty-six Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday things. My job as an actor was to skip around genres, skip around characters, find stories that I liked, that I wanted see, characters that I wanted to play, and try to challenge myself with giving the director as many options as possible with takes so that he or she could put the movie together and have a lot of options to choose from. When you do that, you’re putting a lot of trust in the director. I’ve just skipped around genres, and I really enjoy that. That’s what keeps me going, keeps me fired up.
Kurt Russell is a people watcher and he admits he may have even been people watching in our little interview room for material to use during a movie in the future. I wish you could have all seen the look on his face when he said the following. He screwed it up a bit and gave a poo-stank face. It was hysterical.
I’m an inveterate people watcher. I’ll do that in this room. I’ll see somebody and think, ‘Oh that’s a good…yeah, that’s a good one. Years later you’ll read something and you go, ‘Oh, that reminds me of that woman that was in the third row, she had the (made the poo-stank face) What was that? What was she doin’? I gotta use that!
When he’s not shooting films, he’s at the vineyard.
I’m a hired gun and I really enjoy that. I just sorta wait until I read something, wait for the phone to ring, and if it’s not ringin’ then I’m goin’ to the vineyard.
He believes it’s good to have a healthy ego, so what I think he was saying, is that confidence is something we should all have.
I got a healthy ego, I do. I think that’s important in our industry and our business and as a human being to have control of your ego. But I think you should have a healthy one. If you don’t have a healthy one you’re gonna have other problems.
There’s something in a name, and Kurt was disappointed when he read the actual name of Ego in the script. If he doesn’t like the name of a character, he gives them a great name, but that wasn’t necessary in this movie.
I was very disappointed with when I read this, the character’s name was J’son, pronounced Jay-son. And I said, ‘Yeah, well, fifteen Marvel people will know who this is, that’s a weak-ass name. And then later on, I find out that well actually his name is “Ego the Living Planet”, and I went ‘That’s more like it!’ So how much of myself is in Ego? I don’t know. Listen, if you’re gonna play a God, let’s go big!
Kurt Russell doesn’t shy away from what’s fun about the joke, and he admits there’s some level of having to make fun of yourself in there.
Ego chose to come to earth and look like Kurt Russell – that’s a choice! And his son’s, well, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. If he doesn’t know who his father is he’s gonna create this guy who’s like, hey, David Hasselhoff. It has that right note of comedy, and yet correctness to it. I love all the layers of that stuff. And I don’t like to shy away from what’s fun about the joke, all levels of the joke. When you consider all levels of the joke, you’re gonna be in there somewhere. And that’s one of my things, I’ll pat myself on the back for that more than a lot of other actors.
Kurt Russell has had the same makeup man for 28 years, and thanks to his expertise and knowledge of Kurt’s face, they didn’t have to do much CGI during the younger-Ego years in the film. Note: This is probably THE best quote I’ve ever heard from an actor. When he started speaking, he pointed out his makeup guy who was in the room with us.
That guy right there. His name is Dennis Liddiard. He’s been my makeup man for twenty-eight years. We’ve done a lot of movies together where our goal was to, without the audience knowing it, help me arrive at what I need to do to set the tone for the character, the look for the character, the feel for the character, and I think we’ve achieved it many times, very subtly, so much so that nobody knows what he did.
On this one, I’m really proud to point him out because we assumed, all of us, that for that portion, we were just going to do heavy CGI special effects like they normally do. Before we start going, Dennis, said to James Gunn and the cinematographer and, whoever else was there,
‘Hey guys. I know his face really, really well, and I can really do a lot here to bring him down. If I de-age him some, does that help you?
And they said ‘As much as you can help, yes, that helps very much.’
When he was done, and when I got the right hair going, hair is very important, and when he got the wardrobe going, the the actor has the opportunity to see that, and begin to feel that and, in the case of yourself, say ‘Yeah that’s a younger me, it’s time for me to go to work and slip into all of that and take advantage of all of that, and go be younger, go play younger. ‘
You lighten your voice, you move a little quicker, you go to work with that. I think the reason this one worked, is because there’s not much CGI here.
Even the woman who is the head of that particular department found Kurt at the premiere and admitted there was very little they had to do to make him look younger.
I ran into the woman last night who’s the head of that department. She came up all excited and she said,
‘What did you think about what we did to you?’ And I said, I thought it was great, but I heard it wasn’t very much. She said,
‘No it wasn’t.’
Kurt’s final thoughts?
You gotta have a face that you can work with, but there’s hope for all of us.
Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock, with Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. Kevin Feige is producing, and Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Nikolas Korda and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” blasts into theaters on May 5, 2017.