Born March 17, 1951
A mid-range star of big-budget action films and the occasional comedy, Kurt Russell is among the few to make the successful transition from child star to successful adult actor. As a youth, Russell aspired to follow the footsteps of his father, Bing Russell, who, in addition to being a big league baseball player, was also an actor (he was perhaps best known for his role as the sheriff on the TV Western Bonanza). That his heroes Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris did the same thing only strengthened Russell's resolve to have both a baseball and acting career.
He first broke into acting on television, starring in the series The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, and made his film debut playing the boy who kicks Elvis in the 1963 Elvis Presley vehicle It Happened at the World's Fair. After signing a ten-year contract with Disney, Russell got his big break as a juvenile actor in 1966, starring opposite Fred MacMurray in Disney's live-action feature Follow Me Boys! His association with the studio lasted through 1975, and produced such comedic family movies as The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), The Barefoot Executive (1971), and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). The last film marked Russell's final collaboration with Disney, aside from his voicing the character of Copper in the studio's The Fox and the Hound (1981). Still an avid baseball enthusiast during those years, Russell nurtured his dreams of becoming a professional ball player until a shoulder injury permanently changed his plans.
After ending his association with Disney, Russell disappeared from features -- he did, however, appear in a few television movies -- until playing the title role in Elvis, John Carpenter's made-for-television biopic. His next role as a sleazy used car salesman in Robert Zemeckis' hilariously caustic Used Cars (1980) allowed him to counter his wholesome, all-American nice guy image, and proved that he was an actor of untapped range. Director Carpenter recognized this and cast Russell as mercenary Snake Plissken in his brooding sci-fi/action film Escape From New York (1981), and then as a scientist in the Antarctic in his chilling 1982 remake of The Thing. Realizing that his characters were larger than life, Russell typically played them with his tongue ever so slightly in his cheek.
In 1983, however, he moved to serious drama, playing opposite Cher and Meryl Streep in Silkwood. The success of that film helped him break into a more mainstream arena, and he was later able to win praise for his dramatic work in such films as Swing Shift (1984), Tequila Sunrise (1988), and Winter People (1989). However, it is with his performances in action films that Russell remains most widely associated. He has appeared in a number of such films, all of disparate quality. Some of Russell's more memorable projects include Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Tango and Cash (1989), Backdraft (1991), Tombstone (1993), and Executive Decision (1996). In 1996, he reprised his Snake Plissken character for Carpenter's Escape From L.A. The following year, he starred opposite Kathleen Quinlan in the revenge thriller Breakdown before returning to the sci-fi/action realm with Soldier in 1998. It would be two years before movie-going audiences would again catch a glimpse of Russell, though with his roles in 2000 Miles to Graceland (again carrying on the Elvis associations that have haunted his career) and Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky, the versatile actor proved that he was still very much on the scene. Is some of Russell's later day roles had stressed the /action angle a bit more than the more /dramatic aspects of the stories, the release of Dark Blue in 2003 combined both with Russell cast as a volitile police officer tracking a killer against the backdrop of the 1992 L.A. riots. Some of Russell's fame comes from his status as half of one of Hollywood's most famous couples. The long-time partner of Goldie Hawn and father of one of her children, he has appeared with Hawn in Swing Shift and Overboard (1987).
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