Kurt Russell Interview – His Thoughts on Joining Marvel as Ego in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2’
Kurt Russell is a Hollywood icon. From Backdraft to Death Proof to The Hateful 8, he has done just about everything. He has no less than 94 credits to his career in acting alone.
When he was first approached with questions about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, he really didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t even seen the first installment which came out in 2014.
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- I don’t have a lot of telephone action. And then the people in the interview started to ask me. ‘Are you gonna play Peter Quill’s father?’ I literally had no idea what they were talking about ‘cause I hadn’t seen the movie. And I just said, no. And it was like, wow, whatever this is they’re excited about it. And the next day kinda got the official word and I said well guys, I need to read it and I need to see the movie. And when I saw the movie right away I kinda fell in love with it and it just got better and better. But more than anything else I was kinda watching Chris (Pratt) and saying, yeah, I get that- I get that energy. I get that style. And, and I realized from movies that I had done in the past, I would bring the right baggage here. And as I read the screenplay, uh, it was even more so.
It was definitely a concerned moment for Russell when he read the script – he didn’t want to “ruin” the franchise by bringing Ego to life.
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. And I said, I just wanna make sure we hit the right notes here, James (Gunn). And I said, ‘it has to have the right amount of comedy’. Anyway, started talking about it and I felt very comfortable with James. I thought his hand was really solidly on it. He really knew what he was doing. And then, of course, working with Chris, primarily, that was just right. As soon as Chris and I saw each other we just kinda smiled, gave each other a hug and said ‘this is clearly right’. So that was kind of the early stages and the first processes of it.
With joining the Marvel family, Kurt Russell has brought a whole new fanbase to himself. He wanted to really bring a new character to the screen, something that would be different from his prior roles in order to challenge himself as an actor.
I guess a tendency is, human beings, too, if you 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 let’s do 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.’ So my job 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 could, or she could, put the movie together and have a lot of options to choose from. When you do that you kinda take that and you’re putting a lot of trust in the director.
In one scene Kurt Russell’s character Ego is shown as a young 20-something (with Peter Quill’s mother). I had assumed this was due to to CGI effects, however the effect is widely due to his makeup artist since 1991, Dennis Liddiard. Liddiard’s magic had a surprising effect on Russell:
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 we were just gonna do heavy CGI special effects like they normally do. And so [we went 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 goin’ – very important. And when he got the wardrobe going, and then 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, everybody has said, this looks so…this is amazing. This really looks real. There’s not much CGI here. And 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. And I said, yeah, he’s got some tricks up his sleeve and he pulled ‘em all out. And in fact did it very fast. Because it hadn’t been asked of him. So there’s hope for all of us. You guys know a lot more about that than we do. But you have somebody who knows your face and you gotta have a face that you can work with. That’s true, you know. And, but he knows my face and he- so they did some CGI and stuff there, but mostly that’s that guy right there.