W.in the eighties he thought that cowboys had died out with John Wayne, which Kurt Russell taught him better. When he enters the scene in handcuffs in “The Rattlesnake” (1981), he doesn’t need a hat or a lasso to be recognized as the last free man. Being a cowboy is an inner attitude, and Russell plays it in John Carpenter’s gloomy vision of the future with a proud gait, which even the shackles cannot damage, with a bored expression (he doesn’t care about the downfall of civilization) and with a hoarse, hoarse voice that hisses, when he only accepts the assignment to get the president out of the sealed-off Manhattan with a “call me snake”.
Carpenter loved Russell so much that he worked with him a total of five times. For actor Bing Russell’s son, born in Springfield in 1951, this was the chance to get rid of his image as a child film star, which had earned him a ten-year contract with the Walt Disney Company. Carpenter initially cast him for the leading role in the TV movie “Elvis” (1979), gave him the role of antihero Snake Plissken two years later, and made him discover horrors in the ice as a helicopter pilot (“The thing from another world”, 1982) , sent him to the fight against Chinese demons as a truck driver (“Big Trouble in Little China”, 1986) and worked with him in 1996 on the script for the sequel to “Rattlesnakes” “Escape from LA”, for which Russell is once again the end-time cowboy who is now supposed to get a president’s daughter and satellite codes out of sealed off Los Angeles.
Russell set a counterpoint to the classic action hero of the eighties with the character of Snake (whose upper arms Carpenter was apparently so infatuated with that Russell did not wear a sleeved costume in three films). It wasn’t a Van Damme fighting machine with muscles made of steel, but it was also a far cry from the stylish Don Johnson in “Miami Vice”. Rather, he not only borrowed the eye patch from the late John Wayne, but played as cool and taciturn as the heroes of his childhood, a little disgusted by the people who are fooling themselves. He gave the man who wants honesty and his calm – a type that, as an avowed supporter of the Libertarian Party, should not be alien to him. However, Russell always kept his political views out of his profession. In the mid-eighties he tried to change his image again by appearing in comedies. That didn’t quite work out, but at least he met Goldie Hawn while filming “Swing Shift” in 1984. Since then, the two have been one of the most scandal-free couples in Hollywood, even without a marriage license.
In the second part of the Marvel superhero film “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2017), Russell proved that action heroes can age gracefully. With Zeusbart he plays a god who is looking for his son (Chris Pratt). The son is a child of the eighties who grew up with the myth of the action hero father and is still in adolescence in his mid-twenties. The fact that he has to work off his father with the face of a real action hero from that distant decade is a perfect cast coup. Russell once again pulls out all the stops, from flattering dialogues to fighting scenes with full physical exertion, that one wonders why he hasn’t won a major film award in his long career. Today he is seventy years old.
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