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By Felix Vasquez Jr. | March 28, 2007

“People come up to me and say, ”You played Snake Plissken.” I didn’t play Snake Plissken, I created him!”

Kurt Russell is one of those actors who is at that level of Bruce Campbell. Hell, he’s likely equal to his level of sheer cult power, because s**t, it’s Kurt Russell.

There has been plenty of wonderful Kurt Russell moments this year so far. I mean, playing Stuntman Mike (replacing Mickey Rourke) in what looks to be one hell of a f*****g bad a*s role in “Death Proof,” and Kurt Russell’s sheer anger at the prospect that he played Snake Plissken.

You tell those a******s, Kurt. You’re not to be brushed aside so easily. You can’t blame Russell for protecting his legacy. You can’t blame Russell’s bravado in a time where film studios seem to be in such a hurry to extinguish much of what was established and set it all aside for the new. Many of the folks that laid the groundwork for film are being rendered almost irrelevant, and some folks like Russell simply won’t let it happen. So yes, Russell is goddamn entitled to be a bit egocentric.

So, in honor of the upcoming “Grindhouse,” and just because I’m a pure fan of lists, here are my favorite moments from Kurt Russell.

Russell is a Snake

To quote Russell on the upcoming “Escape” remake: “F**k that! I am Snake Plissken! It’s like Sean Connery always watching someone else do their version of Bond. I think one of the things, for instance, about Escape From New York that appealed to me was that it wasn’t a special effects extravaganza. It’s a quiet, dark world and it revolved around watching the behavior of this one guy. He’s a fascinating character. In fact, he’s the most complex character I’ve ever played.” John Carpenter replied with: “The check for “Escape” is in the mail… right? They’re paying me… right? I’d better call my agent.”

I remember watching “Escape from New York” for the first time about three years ago. Yes, I’ll freely admit, I’d never seen the film before, nor did I really seek it out. “Escape From New York” is a big budget blockbuster sans the big budget. It’s a film in a world that’s not based on special effects, but more on theatrics. It’s a world where New York is a sheer wasteland run by gang members and dictatorial politicians who live by the almighty dollar. Not too far off from the New York now, I know, but hell, “Escape from New York” was an utterly fantastic sci-fi Western, and Russell was excellent as Snake Plissken, the quasi-Eastwood who rivaled even Mad Max in attitude. This would, by many, be Russell’s top in his career.

Russell does Wyatt Earp

Some people are bound to say that Val Kilmer just stole the show away from everyone else in “Tombstone” as the sick and dying Doc Holiday. But at the same time, there was the bigger budget “Wyatt Earp” coming into theaters, and critics expected the opposite effect. “Tombstone” wasn’t screened by critics, while “Wyatt Earp” was being touted as a huge hit. As we all know, “Tombstone” ended up being the better of the two, simply because of the fantastic performances and the all around excellent story told through the eyes of Russell. Russell was sympathetic and rather irritating as Earp, a man anxious for peace who is drawn back into his violent past after his brother is assassinated. Russell’s performance was excellent, and you could sense Earp’s desperation to keep his hands free of blood throughout. Russell Concurs: “I did Wyatt Earp “” there’s only been 50 of those. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll put my Wyatt Earp up against anybody’s.”

Russell and his big ugly Thing
Russell, among a large cast of established male actors, simply took the cake as the bordering on psychotic MacReady, a man who was deemed a general psychopath once the thing took on the station. Hell, even MacReady questions his own sanity during many points, but once the severed head begins crawling away with spider legs, you suddenly realize MacReady wasn’t so bad after all. Insanity was simply needed to take on the thing in John Carpenter’s fantastic remake of the classic alien flick. After consistent viewings “John Carpenter’s The Thing” is still a damn good horror flick ripe with tension and sheer terror, and Russell is that man pushed to the brink of heroism not because he wants to, but because he has to. Self-preservation was on the menu. It’s too bad MacReady probably didn’t live to see if the alien had survived or not. Being the bastard I am, I like to think MacReady was the alien right at the tail end of “The Thing.” It’s very possible. Much of Russell’s best work was with Carpenter, but you didn’t need me to tell you that.

Russell does Elvis… yet again
Russell is simply one of the more ideal choices for Elvis Presley. Even though it’s not exactly the best fit for the king, it just is a match made through Russell’s career. Which would explain Russell’s rather uncredited cameo in “Forrest Gump.” In the Americana fairy tale, Gump explains how, in his life as a kid, he wore leg braces, and his mom would take in travelers to rent rooms, to which she rented a room out to a young man named Elvis. Russell is featured in a rather entertaining voice cameo as a young Elvis Presley who learns his moves thanks to the young Forrest. It was an entertaining voice cameo, and it’s easy to miss.

Russell on fire
Many people have gone on to admit that “Backdraft” was about as realistic a depiction of firefighters, as “Star Trek” is with race relations, but that’s the fun of it. In the face of fact and fiction, fiction is often time much more entertaining. Kurt Russell is rather bad a*s as firefighter “Bull” McCaffrey whose obsession with fire and a local arsonist is beginning to consume his every waking thought. Ron Howard’s film is a pure guy’s flick with pretty excellent peaks at the fires depicted as monstrosities, while Russell takes one for the team in the still sad climax. It’s tough not to like Russell in much of what he does.

Russell’s Miracle
Russell proved without a doubt that his talents as an actor are clear in “Miracle,” a rather underrated sports film about the miraculous win of the US Hockey team in the 1980 Olympics. Russell not only resembled the real life Herb Brooks, but his depiction as the man was excellent. Russell gave a criminally underrated performance as this man who felt the need to gather his team and triumph over the unbeatable Russian team at the time of the Cold War. Russell did away with much of his looks and embodied the gruff and gritty Brooks who worked his team hard to victory. “Miracle” is highly suggested for Russell’s center stage performance alone.

What’s your favorite Kurt Russell moment?

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