Thursday, August 22

‘Stargate’s’ Russell explains ‘strange reality to Hollywood’


‘Stargate’s’ Russell explains ‘strange reality to Hollywood’

By Michael Horowitz

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Kurt Russell is in the middle of explaining the mathematical
theory he uses to select his film projects.

"There’s a strange reality to Hollywood," he says. "On a scale
of one to 10, there are projects that are offered. Then on a scale
of one to 10 is how much they want to pay you. If you arc those two
together, somewhere they’re going to meet."

His gestures are exaggerated and relaxed as he illustrates the
concept. The 30-odd years he’s spent in film have given him a great
deal of ease, and here at the Four Seasons to promote his upcoming
sci-fi adventure Stargate, he is anything but uptight.

"You might have a great script and they want to pay you very
little," he offers, "and you might want them to come up a little
bit so the arc is not quite so far down here, but at some point in
your mind, it’s worth it to do that.

"Other things are really horrendous projects with tremendous
salaries and what you eventually do is say ‘this is a two script
with a 10 salary and I’d need a 12 salary to do this thing! Then
they ‘well, we’ll give you a 12 salary’ and you say ‘make that two
into a four!’ and you start talking about that."

Russell is quite rational and pragmatic when it comes to
choosing his projects. He also tends to be very forthright. The
preceding comment leads to the sticky question of how much he was
paid for Stargate, but Russell does anything but flinch or
doublespeak.

"I’ll be honest with you," he starts to the dismay of his
publicist. "They offered me what I felt was a 12 salary for a three
script and I said ‘the script has potential though, these guys are
really good at what they do, the script has a chance at being a
seven script with some 10 effects.’"

Luckily, with a budget rumored to be around $55 million,
Stargate has the goods he was gambling on. Russell feels that films
powered by special effects are to him the hardest to chance. "These
are the greatest risk movies that actors can take," he states. "To
the actor, you know what you can do, sort of, mostly. And you don’t
really do things you don’t think you can do. When you take a risk
is when you plan on somebody else to come up with something."

That’s why the most important factor in his decision to star in
Stargate was the personnel involved. Mario Kassar, mega producer of
Terminator II and Basic Instinct and other hits was at the helm,
and the director was Roland Emmerich of Universal Soldier.
Incidentally, Russell was Emmerich’s wish list first-choice for the
part of Colonel Jack O’Neil.

"Mario Kassar, Roland Emmerich, and (co-writer) Dean Devlin were
three guys, in my estimation, showing a great amount of
enthusiasm," says Russell. "They really wanted to make a spectacle
movie, they had a very definite idea as to the approach to the kind
of movie they wanted to make."

Russell, best remembered for cult John Carpenter science fiction
films such as Escape From New York and The Thing, needs a
conceptual framework that the filmmakers have to be able to
articulate. The written screenplay can be a poor indicator of
certain imaginative elements.

"When you read a script like Stargate it brings up lots of
questions, foremost of which is well, what are these things going
to look like?" he laughs. "We’re dealing in science fiction and
with someone’s imagination. If you were to read E.T. and say, ‘what
a wonderful little screenplay. what’s that E.T. thing going to look
like?’ And they say ‘well, believe it or not, but there’s a lot of
significance in that it should look like a glass of water.’"

He takes a sip of water.

"You just don’t know what is going to be in the imagination of
the filmmaker and you’re sort of confused. After a while it comes
down to how excited are these guys and what have they done? And how
much enthusiasm do they have?"

So for all the calculation, Russell just got swept up in the
excitement. "When you sense a great deal of enthusiasm," he smiles
as he sits up in his chair, "I’m one to say, ‘hey, let’s throw in
with these guys!’"

Apparently however, seeing the finished product doesn’t factor
into the equation. Russell divulges that out of the five to six
films he catches a year, his own are never among them.

"I haven’t seen a movie I finished in the theater since … I
don’t know the last one I saw," he shrugs. "It had to be more than
15 years ago. Because if you’ve got time to go see a movie, you’re
certainly not going to go see a movie you did."

"I haven’t ever seen any movie I’ve done more than once," he
affirms. "It’s not out of design, it’s just that literally at this
point I’d have to sit down and shove the tape in the cartridge and
I get about five minutes into the movie and I say ‘I KNOW the
ending to this one! I want to watch something else! I was there, I
know how this works out!’

Russell shrugs again as he finishes his thought. If it weren’t
for being an actor it would be hard to see him having anything to
do with the entertainment industry.

"Maybe when I’m ninety years old," he laughs, "and I’m senile
enough to where I don’t remember the endings of the movies, I’ll
sit down and watch some of them."

FILM: Stargate. Opening Friday everywhere. Free screening
tonight at Ackerman Grand Ballroom.

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