Kurt Russell is known for his iconic roles in countless movies, whether he played a badarse (The Thing, Tombstone, Escape From NY) or a goofball (Big Trouble in Little China, Overboard and so on). He’s one of the very rare stars who can be cool and funny simultaneously — and Russell thinks Chris Pratt is like that too, which is why they’re the perfect father-son duo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Kurt Russell as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. All Images: Disney
But Russell hadn’t even seen the first movie before he was rumoured to be playing Peter “Star-Lord” Quill’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In fact, he first heard of the blockbuster Marvel film at the same time he heard the rumour. “I was doing publicity for Hateful Eight and, suddenly, people started saying, ‘Is it true? Are you going to play Peter Quill’s father?'” Russell said on the Atlanta set of Vol. 2 last year. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I just wasn’t aware of it.”
He was, however, writer-director James Gunn’s first choice to play the father of Chris Pratt’s hero. When Russell finally watched the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, he immediately felt a connection with the star.
“Within about three minutes of watching Chris, as soon as he kicked one of those lemmings, I went, ‘OK. That’s cool.'” Russell said. “That’s my kinda guy. I know where that kind of goof comes from.”
That kind of goof came from those aforementioned characters Russell played like Snake Plissken and Jack Burton. These roles are now iconic, but at the time the movies were released, Russell admits many people didn’t quite get his performances.
“It’s fun to be living now in a time when a younger generation understands what I was doing,” he said. “The older guys, my age, they didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. They really didn’t. You can go back and read about it. It was like, ‘What is that?’ I think it’s funny.”
In terms of balancing cool and comedy, Peter Quill could be the son of Big Trouble in Little China‘s Jack Burton. For Russell, the kinship is extremely satisfying:
So to be at this point in my life and be able to not only… have a generation that accepts you for what you were doing before anybody else was… to be able to take that and grow that, it’s nice. Because it has a lot to do with my personality and the way I look at life and stuff. And so, it’s a nicer time for me than it was 30 years ago… and yeah, it’s a bit of an opportunity to take advantage of the way I created some guys in the past that you guys, the people your age are more in tune with. You understood it.
There are as many connections between Russell’s character, Ego the Living Planet (yes, an actual planet who can take a human form, because comics) and Star-Lord as there are between Russell and Pratt’s performances.
“[Ego] has a great, adventurous spirit that he shares with his son,” Russell said. “I think when it comes to parents that are missing, we have a tendency to put them on a pedestal, and Peter is living in that world. But to finally have the opportunity to meet that person, and then begin to compare who they had in mind and what they’re really getting is a lot of what we’re doing.”
The bonds between the characters and the actors meant Russell enjoyed working with Pratt immensely. “We really work a lot together and we did many different scenes together,” Russell said. “And that gives you the opportunity to play them many different ways. And because they both know their universe so well, it was fun for me to be able to sort of come in and go, ‘OK, well, here’s where I’m going on this one,’ and then be able to just turn it around on another take.”
Given that he’s joining an incredibly anticipated sequel, the immensely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the fact Russell is playing a literal planet, his nonchalance seems almost shocking. But for him, a planet is just another role for the actor, albeit one that’s likely to be as iconic as his others.
“When you’re the actor who’s being invited to play in that sandbox, yeah, I’m your guy,” Russell said. “[It’s an] opportunity to play a character that you hopefully can find things to make it fun and entertaining and interesting and memorable.”
Chances are, Russell doesn’t need to worry about Ego’s appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy being any of those things. After all, like son, like father.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens April 25.