To a younger generation, Kurt Russell is known as the Icy-Hot dude in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, while for my mom and her friends, the 57-year-old actor is always going to be the former Disney child star who grew up to be Goldie Hawn’s common-law hubbie. To just about everyone else, though, Russell’s a joke—the Cash to Sylvester Stallone’s Tango. Russell fans, however, (they do exist) know that he’s among Hollywood’s most underrated comic actors, a self-effacing B action hero with off-screen politics than can be politely called libertarian.
“Kurt Russell is to the right of Attila the Hun. He actually doesn’t think we should have to pay for roads.” That’s what director John Carpenter says in a recent interview about the lead actor with whom he made some of his best films—including The Thing (1982) and Escape from New York (1981), playing as part of a Carpenter retrospective at BAMCinematik tonight and Thursday, respectively. (Sorry everybody, 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China, the ultimate Carpenter-Russell production, screened last night).
Not to bore you with Kate Hudson’s stepfather’s resume, but Russell’s cult comedies—Used Cars (1980) Overboard (1987) and Captain Ron (1992)—are worth Netflixing, as are Silkwood (1983) and Swing Shift (1984), which, critics be damned, show off his dramatic chops. Visit these movies now and you’ll be ahead of the revisionist curve.
“It seems like in every one of the movies that we make together, that people get it later,” Carpenter says to Russell in their commentary on the Big Trouble in Little China DVD. “You’ve noticed that, have you?” Russell replies. —Benjamin Strong