Kurt Russell stars as Stuntman Mike, a crazed stunt driver whose car is a deadly weapon, in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof segment of Grindhouse. Russell's starred in films of almost every genre imaginable over his 40 year career, but Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez' Grindhouse marks his first film of the grindhouse genre.
How did you get involved in Death Proof?
“I got a call from Quentin and I returned it. Freddy Rodriguez had told me that I was probably going to get the call here. We had worked together before on Poseidon and on Dreamer. I was on vacation and he said, 'I think that Quentin is going to ask you to do this movie.' I said, 'Great. What's it about?' He kind of told me the scoop, and then Quentin called me and we sort of missed each other and played a little phone tag. I got the script and read it and said, 'Yeah, I get it. I know what you want me to do.'
I actually didn't know how I was going to play the part until we did a bunch of rehearsals with all the girls and everything. I tried all different kinds of ways and I never really did settle in on anything, as a matter of fact. I kind of settled in on the idea that Stuntman Mike is a crazy psycho who isn't one thing. He's not one character all the way through. He's one person, but he's got issues and he's got issues with pain. I said, 'Why don't we do something different here at the end? Instead of just playing it out, why don't we really go with this word you wrote here: coward?' He said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'I mean, really go for it.' He said, 'That could be fun.' So we went there and went all the way down the road.
It was fun to realize something about that character that's true about all people. There isn't just one way a person behaves. People behave in all different kinds of ways and situations. I thought that was fair game with Mike and with a character that I had never seen. I had never seen those characters played out those ways.”
Do you remember watching grindhouse films years ago?
“...I used to go to the theaters and we'd always see a double feature. That was just sort of the main staple of our movie diet, but I never did end up doing one, that was for sure, in that world. We would go on the interviews and a lot of the actors, we'd sort of run into each other all the time at interviews. There are about 25 or 50 that worked so if you were going on those interviews, you would eventually run into three or four guys that you knew every time.
I remember Ronnie Howard and I were talking about this recently. We used to see each other, 'Hey, Ronnie, how are you doing?' 'Hey, Kurt.' 'So, if you get this are you going to actually do it?' 'I don't know, man. That stingray is eating the rats.' (Laughing) I never had to cross that bridge because I never did do one. But, like I said, I saw a lot of them when I was going to the movies back then. What I loved about them always was that they were quite often just two different movies. They were like Planet Terror and Death Proof. The beginning of Death Proof, the idea is like, 'Why would they put this movie with that one?' But by the end of it you understand why. That was like a very detailed reality to the grind house movies. That's what I remember about them.”
The young actresses in this movie have said they like you not only because you've been a sex symbol for so many years, but because of your relationship with Goldie Hawn. What was it like working with them?
“Ah, they were really cute. I mean, they were cute. They were talking one day and I happened to walk on some conversation. I knew it was something that I wasn't supposed to be hearing. They were all talking and I said, 'What are you guys talking about?' Jordy Ladd said, 'Nothing.' I said, 'Nah, you're doing something.' She said, 'We're just talking about our Daddy crushes.' (Laughing) They all looked at me and smiled. I said, 'You guys are sweet.'”
There are scenes from the movie that are missing, including one where Stuntman Mike gets a lap dance. Was that filmed?
“Well, that's one of Quentin's things. He said, 'They're going to ask about that.' I say, 'I know, I know. It's a lost reel. And it might be found and it might not be found.' Oh, yeah, we did it. It's there. I think on the DVD, or maybe not. He might not ever put it in. It's fun to do a picture where months after the film has been released you still don't know what's going to be in the movie forever. He shot a lot of stuff with Stuntman Mike and with Pam [played by Rose McGowan]. We have a lot of stuff at that bar.
But as he said when we were first reading through the script, he said, 'These movies, sometimes they put the fourth reel in front of the sixth reel and it was very confusing.' And then some young kid would steal a hot scene out of a movie and put ‘missing reel’ in there and say, 'I don't know. I don't know what happened.' Then some projectionist would fall asleep and a piece would burn. He said, 'By the time it got to your city, it would sound really bad and look terrible and there would be stuff missing.' He said, 'You see this, 20 minutes will be gone from this and I don't know what 20 minutes. Some of it is going to come at the worst possible time.' So I don't know. I'm sure it'll come back at some point. It's out there. It's a lost piece of footage, but it's out there.”