Kurt Russell is one of my favorite actors to watch. His plucky charm seems to radiate from his somehow perfectly round, and perfectly sharp at the same time, face. Even in roles like MacReady from The Thing, or Snake Plissken from Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., roles where he plays hardened men with no love for the world, Russell still brings that tongue-in-cheek element to them, peppered with a spice only he has.
One of the fun things to watch an actor do, for me, is to use their roles to explore different sides of themselves. In this way, with some actors, each role they play becomes essentially a different version of themselves; the same character reacting to a different set of circumstances.
So, I submit to you, some of Kurt Russell’s characters are actually all the same person. He changes his name and moves from place to place or time to time, but he is the same character. This doesn’t line up with every single movie Kurt Russell has done but more than a few of them line up for me. (Spoilers to follow) Here’s how I see it:
The Thing (1982) Dir. John Carpenter
Kurt Russell, a helicopter pilot, stuck at Outpost 31 in Antarctica has quite a day fighting off a John Carpenter alien that can assume any organic form. After the alien kills everyone but two people, Kurt Russell ostensibly blows it to hell with dynamite. Needless to say, Kurt Russell had seen some shit at this point.
He watched all of his friends die brutally and is now most likely questioning his reality. Kurt Russell needs a break. So he mangages his way back to the States and picks up a job as a truck driver.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) Dir. John Carpenter
After going a little insane because of the event in Antarctica, Kurt Russell has donned a new attitude towards life.
“I’m a reasonable guy. But, I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.” – Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in BTILC
Kurt Russell ends up “leading” a group of rag-tag do-gooders to rescue his friend’s fiancé from an ancient, evil, mystical, Chinese sorcerer. He somehow, manages to keep his cool throughout all of it.
“I’m not saying I’ve been everywhere and I’ve done everything. But I do know this is a pretty amazing planet we live on here. And a man would have to be some kind of fool to think we’re all alone in this universe.” – Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in BTILC
After Kurt Russell’s experience with aliens and sorcerers – not to mention his tactical experience and his problem solving skills, Kurt feels that maybe he has a future in law enforcement…
Tango and Cash (1989) Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, Albert Magnoli, Peter MacDonald, Stuart Baird
…So Kurt Russell becomes the greatest police officer that the west coast has ever seen. Contested only by Sylvester Stallone’s character in Tango and Cash, a really excellent 90s buddy cop movie. Kurt Russell and Sly are oil and water when it comes to crimefighting, but they have to learn to work together when they’re framed for murder.
The movie ends is a fiery explosion with, what I would call, an apocalypse mobile: a modified 88′ Chevy Silverado.
Now that Kurt russell has even more tactical experience and, arguably, some paramilitary experience…why not join the U.S. military…?
Stargate (1994) Dir. Roland Emmerich
Kurt Russell becomes a Colonel in U.S. Air Force. Because of his encounters with aliens and the generally unexplained, Kurt Russell is put in charge of a special team that will travel across the galaxy, through a wormhole machine, to another planet, get into a fight with more aliens and save the local proletariat from their overlords.
If you’ve ever watched and episode of Stargate SG-1, then you know that shenanigans can happen with a Stargate. You could be sent to a jail world. You could end up (back) in antarctica. You could be sent back in time because of a solar flare…
…You could be sent to a jail world, where all of your crazy experience helps you survive and escape the post-apocalyptic island of New York and then a not-this-again episode where the same thing happens in L.A.
Tombstone (1993) as an episode of Stargate Dir. George P. Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre
…You could be sent back in time to the old west and became a lawman because you can’t get back to your own time and being a lawman is all you know…
This is where Kurt Russell finally gets stuck; in the old west. He lives out his life as a lawman and eventually becomes a bounty hunter in…
The Hateful Eight (2015) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Okay, granted, the Stargate thing sort of breaks everything, it’s not a perfect theory, OKAY! Kurt Russell’s roll as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 would also allow a blanket theory that he is, in fact, the same character in every Kurt Russell movie. Honorable mention to Death Proof (2007, Dir. Quentin Tarantino) which probably fits in just after Tango and Cash somewhere on account of Kurt Russell’s new found love for extreme automobiling after his ride in the apocalypse mobile.