It is a blessing and a curse to trade within the shadow of one’s father. The desire to learn and imitate is as potent as the desire to chart one’s own course and make a success of life in an independent manner. It is worth saying, too, that an intrinsic element of the human condition seems to be our inability to rid ourselves of interest in family legacies, from the fictional, like the Roys in Succession, to the real-life dynasties of the Windsors, the Kennedys, the Coppolas and, in this instance, the Russells.
Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are the golden couple of Hollywood, and their actor son, Wyatt, has been attracting the kind of notices his father enjoyed at a similar age. The Rake has always loved stories that reveal the potential a father can inspire in his son’s life, through character, principles and values. That theme illumnates the conversation here between Kurt, 72, and 37-year-old Wyatt. The prospect of Wyatt emulating his father’s acting career was never a fait accompli, but unpredictability is life’s prerogative. What we know for certain is that Kurt and Wyatt’s dynamic is, and has always been, one of support, care and love.
Both of you grew up with fathers as actors but in different generations. What were the distinctions as well as the similarities in having fathers in the industry?
Kurt: The first time I went on set of a film, my dad was working on a western. Obviously the gun was the coolest thing there, and I got a wooden gun from the prop guy. Fairly shortly after that I saw these guys having a blast and thought, If they are having fun doing this and they are getting paid to do it, I’m over here — I can do that.
Wyatt: So you felt you wanted to be an actor from when you went on set, and that made you want to act?
Kurt: No, I wanted the money, I wanted those things.
Wyatt: Our relationships with our fathers are very different. I had access in a different way that you did, and I looked at it through a different lens. What I took away from being on set with you wasn’t so much, This is so much fun, and this is so great and you make money, I took away that you have to work really hard to make it work, and it was very stressful. I remember coming home with you after the day was over, and you put me to sleep on that — it was like a Days Inn, you put me to sleep on the fold-out couch and you went and sat at this round table in the kitchen and would write and smoke till late in the morning, then go to bed. This is something I have now done in my own way, but it was nice to see.
Kurt: There are so many stories. I remember when you were a little boy, we were doing a scene where we were getting electrified. You were looking around, like, ‘Woah, what is happening?’, and you were taken out. Our lives were similar in this regard: your father and you, and my father and me, were never concentrating on the acting world, we were concentrating on our other worlds, which in the case of me and my father was baseball, and you and your father was ice hockey.
Wyatt: By far and away the similarities in acting ability of anybody in our families came from sports. The core reality of who you are and what you bring to a movie was shaped long before anyone ever stepped foot on a movie set.
Kurt: Don’t you think [our experience with sports] was a little like learning about the world in a gladiatorial sense? I mean, it was cut and dry: you either survived or you failed. There is no competition in our [acting] industry, it is collaboration. It’s not 20,000 people screaming at you to succeed, where if you fail you know about it immediately. You learn about life that way.
Wyatt: We never talked about acting. With big Pa, Bing [Russell], sports was way more endlessly fascinating to talk about, because you talk about things that haven’t happened, and you don’t know the outcome.
Kurt: The circus at home was always greater than the circus at work. [More at Source]
Hockey is a major part of your life and passion, how did it start?
When I was 3 years old my dad took me to a skating rink outdoors in Toronto to kill time and I fell in love with it.
Was it your childhood dream to be a pro-hockey player?
Any first-time experiences that you can remember or share with us?
So many to choose from. I would say the first time I played hockey, or not even played hockey but the first time I put on skates is my first memory. I was 3 ½ years old. I skated from bench to bench on double-bladed gray size 10 skates, and I didn’t want to take them off. My dad left the skate shop kid 40 bucks and took them. Milestone memories would be winning the world championship in Quebec when I was 13 and then winning the British Columbia regional championship when I was playing junior hockey. Also playing my first professional game in Germany and playing my last game of hockey ever. That was the last time I ever put on pads and I never played again, so those would be my pivotal memories.
How did you feel about transitioning from hockey to acting?
They’re similar. They’re both team sports where everyone is trying to work together to achieve a common goal. I like that part of it. You’re all working towards that goal and on the good teams and in the good movies it feels important. The greater goal which was winning a championship, the greater good was more important than what you were doing singularly. They have a lot of commonality that way. You want to play with the best people on the best teams, you want to do movies with the best people and the best crews. The act of auditioning was similar and better because in my opinion there’s no real competition in acting. Everyone’s kind of working together more so than hockey where there was an actual tactile competition. Other people literally wanted you to lose. Very rarely when you’re doing a movie does anybody want you to fail. [More at source]
It’s 2004. Wyatt Russell mans the net at a hockey rink—the kind that offers skating lessons and has a sports bar on the second floor—somewhere in British Columbia. Wyatt’s about to get his ass whooped. He’s 17 years old, which means he’ll live another 17 years before he picks up a hunk of a star-spangled shield and call himself Captain America. Here, in Canada? Wyatt’s gunning for the NHL. Big crowds, star goalie. Nothing else. He’s good, too. Best numbers in the Pacific Junior Hockey League. Not today. The puck slips past him. Bad goal. Another one. And another one. Wyatt Russell’s blowing the damn game.
Russell turns to the crowd and throws his hands in the air. In hockey sign language: Look, I’ve done everything I can do. What do you want me to do? Ow! He fakes a leg injury. His knee. Or something. Pulls himself from the game. Team is better for it. Russell’s crew rallies and wins, which makes him think that no one noticed his very bad, no-good game. Sweet. His goalie coach walks up to him after the game, says he wants to meet at the McDonald’s on the corner. 10 minutes later, Wyatt’s at McDonald’s, grease and a screaming McFlurry machine.
“You took yourself out of the game,” the coach says. “If that’s the way you want to live your life? If that’s the person that you want to become—the person who throws your hand up and says, ‘What do you want me to do?’ And you’re not going to push through that moment?
Wyatt starts crying. Wyatt Russell is crying at a McDonald’s. There’s no crying at McDonald’s, unless you’re stuck in the ball pit.
“I can’t work with you. It won’t work. This won’t work.”
Wyatt never throws his hands in the air again. The coach stays.
“He cut to the core of me. From that moment on, I changed as a person,” Russell says over Zoom this week. “I said to myself, When you come upon hard times and you will—you’re a human being that doesn’t give a fuck what anybody says… You’re doing it for yourself. You’re going to run through that brick wall because that’s what you’re going to do. That was what he taught me through tough love. And that’s become the person that I am today. I think it’s the reason why I’m even able to do this part, to be honest.” [more at source]
“People assume all the time: Your husband got the van, and he’s dragging you along,” says Hagner. Russell chimes in: “It’s the opposite—though I wouldn’t call it dragging me along, either.” She grew up between Houston and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, backpacking with her father, including a traverse through the Rockies and four weeks on the Appalachian Trail. He spent a youth mostly outdoors at the Colorado ranch belonging to his parents (Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn). In 2018, the couple, both actors, purchased a Mercedes Sprinter van retrofitted with a Scandi-style blond-wood interior and equipped with all the trimmings—stovetop, dining banquette, modular seating, and sleeping areas—for #vanlife. “Vacations were always a little difficult because we have to plan last-minute because of our jobs,” explains Russell, who currently stars in the Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Now they head off for monthlong treks at the drop of a hat, spending days behind the wheel and nights beneath the stars in Shasta National Forest or Glacier National Park. “It’s funny because it can look so romantic sometimes,” Hagner says, “but more often than not you’re in a timed shower in a rest stop, laughing because you didn’t get enough quarters and the water stops while your hair’s still covered in soap.” The arrival of a baby, though—little Buddy Prine Russell was born shortly after this shoot—necessitates bigger quarters. “I mean, as soon as we can get our new van constructed, we’re going to be on the road with him,” says Hagner. “That’ll be a whole new set of adventures.” [Source]