Kurt Russell has been making action movies for decades and his experience and comfort in the genre shines through when you talk to him about “Deepwater Horizon.”
In the 65-year-old’s latest — a sprawling effects show set aboard the eponymous rig, which exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, killing 11 and spurring an enormous ecological disaster — his character, rig manager Jimmy Harrell, is blown clean out of the shower, through the glass door and hurled into a wall.
And yet, when asked about the experience of filming that sequence, Russell calmly relates to amNewYork that he insisted on taking the head bangs himself as opposed to relying on a stunt double, over the course of multiple takes, and adds that the physicality of the project wasn’t “anything special.”
Spoken like a true legend.
Read on for his thoughts on the project, opening Friday, including what it was like to finally, albeit briefly, work with his stepdaughter Kate Hudson (she plays Mark Wahlberg’s wife in the movie, which is directed by Peter Berg) on a big production, and more.
So what was it like to finally have a scene with Kate?
It was a fleeting moment, but it was an afternoon that, probably of all the things in the experience of doing “Deepwater Horizon,” I think I remember that. I walk away with that more than anything and so it was obviously very important. And it whetted my appetite and I’d certainly like to work with Kate in some real stuff.
To be able to play the manager of an oil rig, you must need some understanding of the technology. How into the weeds did you go in your research?
You’ve got a lot of people at your disposal to give you all kinds of information, and you do learn a lot. I find all of that is great to have as knowledge. You might employ some specific things, a little bit, but it’s really more about how you carry yourself and has the writer found the true aspect of the character you’re playing. That’s what researching it does for you. You find out if it’s true or not. And in this case, for me, I think it was.
When the rig explodes, your character is in the shower. He’s beaten up quite badly. What’s it like to film a scene like that?
We’re doing a lot of takes of it, and timing was really important. As I get, first of all, thrown back, I take a big head bang, which I kind of did myself and I said, “Just do that here,” because I think he needs to be dazed and we need to see that. That’s like a pre-hit to the big explosion. Doing that, yeah, when you’re going to do seven, eight takes on that, you’ve got to do that just right, without getting a headache.
How do you determine whether you take on a stunt versus your double?
I always just look at what the character’s doing and saying. ... And within that, if they have to have something happen to them, I do what I’m comfortable with and do it the best I can. And that’s it. I don’t look at the physicality of this as anything special, it really wasn’t. You’re playing it, but really by that time you know who the person is, so you’re suffering along with a person you know.
How did you respond to the script and what do you think audiences ought to take away from seeing a narrative take on this story?
One of the things that stuck out to me, I was finishing up “The Hateful Eight” when this script came along. ... I said, “I know this story. This is the oil rig that is spewing all the oil out into the Gulf a couple years ago.” But I was very surprised to then find out that 11 people had died and this horrible catastrophe to human beings had occurred. And the explosion was so horrific you could see it from outer space. And I thought, “That’s strange. How did that happen? How did that not get reported?”
So that’s what made this interesting for you?
There was a human catastrophe that happened here and for me, it was like saying, “If you’re like me, I bet you didn’t know about that.” And I think that’s worth thinking about. Is that where we are now, that potential, potential ecological disaster is really the thing that’s more important than human lives? I found that to be an interesting reason to have a movie be made.
Having starred in so many popular movies for such a long time, but without one that clearly stands out above the others, what do people talk to you about on the street?
It’s really all over the map. It is “Tombstone” to “Escape from New York” to “Captain Ron.” In the boat world, “Captain Ron.” It can be from “Breakdown” [to] lately, it’s really fun to see something like “Bone Tomahawk” start to grab hold. I’m going to do the 30th anniversary of “Big Trouble Little China,” a Graumann’s Chinese thing, that has its own world and life. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve done many movies that, for some reason, have a special home with a certain crowd. I guess it was my own personal taste and interest that took me down that path.