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Feature: Wyatt Russell for Esquire Magazine

[ Written on April 17 2021 by Mouza ]

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]

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