Movie contracts often require stars to do publicity interviews for films. So the actors go out expecting softball, fawning questions to pump their latest roles. Often a studio representative or an actor’s agent will even talk to journalists first to get them to agree to parameters for the interview—this is often the price of access to the star.
Still, now and then a reporter goes off script. These deviations can give us wonderfully candid moments, such as in 1997 on CBS’ 60 Minutes, when Steve Kroft followed up a question on how many kids Clint Eastwood has with this question:
“Seven kids with five women, right? Not all of whom you were married to.”
Upon this comment, Eastwood gave Kroft his “Man with No Name” stare, making the interview unforgettable. Kroft had been rude, but Eastwood was on 60 Minutes, not Entertainment Tonight.
Kurt Russell, however, clearly had no idea he’d be discussing gun rights when he did an interview with Hollywood Elsewhere on his role as bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth in The Hateful Eight, a new release directed by Quentin Tarantino.
According to Jeffrey Wells, who writes the Hollywood Elsewhere blog, here’s how the conversation went:
Wells: The Quentin cult, if you will, is, like, 23 years old, starting with Reservoir Dogs…right? Violence as attitude, violence as style, violence as fashion…not dealt with in an earnest, realistic way. The swagger thing.
Wells: And I was looking in the New York Times this morning and this guy interviewed several people in the country in the Midwest and West. And with almost everybody out there, he reported, there’s a feeling of anxiety in the culture…when’s the next one?
Russell: So how do you connect the dots?
Wells: I think there’s a feeling about shootings and violence right now…I think it’s different in 2015 than it was in the mid ’90s. But Quentin is still playing the same game more or less.
Russell: Well, Quentin does what he does. He’s painting a picture, writing, telling a story…like a filmmaker. But to mix and match reality with fantasy is something I don’t understand, but that’s just me. I think we should understand the difference. To mix today’s politics with, in this case, a tale about, uh, a fictional tale about the Civil War…
Wells: I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about a ground-level, water-table…a feeling in people’s bones. People are genuinely…between Paris and San Bernardino the idea of sudden violence becoming a normal, day-to-day aspect coming from the gun culture and everything else…it’s a different vibe, you know?
Russell: I don’t understand concepts of conversation [about] the gun culture. We’ve lived with guns since, what, the 7th Century or something? I don’t know.
Wells: Well, I think we all know…guns are a trope. Not a trope but a totem, a metaphor that disenfranchised white guys need…it makes them feel good about themselves.
Russell: You can say what you want. I don’t agree with that. It’s not my thing.
Wells: Well, it’s statistically irrefutable.
Russell: If you think gun control is going to change the terrorists’ point of view, I think you’re, like, out of your mind. I think anybody [who says that] is. I think it’s absolutely insane. The problem, the problem that we’re having right now to turn it around…you may think you’ve got me worried about you’re gonna do? Dude, you’re about to find out what I’m gonna do, and that’s gonna worry you a lot more. And that‘s what we need. That will change the concept of gun culture, as you call it, to something [like] reality. Which is, if I’m [on] a hockey team and I’ve got some guy bearing down on me as a goal tender, I’m not concerned about what he’s gonna do—I’m gonna make him concerned about what I’m gonna do….
Wells clearly had an agenda, and he got so far away from the facts that Marlow Stern, a reporter with The Daily Beast, hardly a pro-gun-rights website, even addressed this in an interview with Russell.
Russell said, “Here’s the thing: I’m just selling a movie. I never go out there to do publicity about anything other than the movie. I have my political point of view, of course; I’m an American and I’m entitled to it. But I don’t like espousing it publicly. I’m very vocal with my friends, and they’ll tell you that. But this guy just wouldn’t stop. He just went down this road and I went, ‘OK,’ and tried to bring it back a couple of times to the movie but he just wasn’t having it.
“He got into the whole thing about how gun control was somehow going to fix terrorism, and I was like, ‘Dude, I just don’t get that thinking!’ It reminds me sometimes of being a parent. Let’s say you’re the parent of a kid who’s getting bullied at school. Your kid is getting punched around and he comes home and tells you about it, and your response is to say to your kid, ‘Now, are you sure you haven’t done something to make him mad? Are you sure you didn’t do anything to anger him?’ and you never give the kid any credence as far as, ‘I believe you and I believe the bully. He apparently doesn’t care for you, and you’re going to have to turn around and face that bully.’ At least that’s one argument to have, isn’t it?
“I just didn’t get where he was going saying that gun control was a magic wand of fixing the situation with terrorism. That isn’t going to stop them from what they want to do.”
Russell also discussed the Hollywood Elsewhere interview and gun rights on the daytime talk show “The View,” as reported earlier.