Here's my guilty pleasure for the week: Kurt Russell. I went to see "Sky High" the other day with my family and had a very pleasant time. Kurt plays Steve Stronghold, a.k.a. The Commander, real estate agent by day - super hero by night. It's a family movie, so the kids were the focus, but it was nice to have Kurt there to ground us parents squarely in our Disney litany.
Way back when he started being in movies, Kurt Russell was the new face with Fred MacMurray in "Follow Me, Boys!"(1966) He spent his teens working for Disney, perhaps no more memorably than when he played Dexter Riley in "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes ."(1969) Dexter showed up in two more films, "Now You See Him, Now You Don't" and "The Strongest Man in the World." He was always just this side of hip - but he looked like he might be trouble if you messed with him too much.
That would happen in 1975, when he played Charles Whitman in "The Deadly Tower." Kurt was more than a little stressed when he looked down on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. This role pretty much put an end to the speculation that Dexter Riley might reappear in "The Sniper Wore Tennis Shoes" for The House of Mouse.
After he left minor league baseball because of a shoulder injury, he auditioned for the role of Han Solo in a little sci-fi project George Lucas was putting together. That didn't pan out, but in 1979 he played Elvis in a TV movie directed by John Carpenter. The Elvis motif carries throughout his career, beginning with bit part in "It Happened at the World's Fair" when he was a kid who kicked the King in the shin. After the Elvis on TV, he had a voice-over as Big E that went uncredited in "Forrest Gump." He was an Elvis impersonator/casino robber in "3000 Miles to Graceland." And let's face it - unless his hair all falls out and his lip stays still - he's always going to have (with apologies to Mojo Nixon) a little bit of Elvis in him.
John Carpenter pushed Kurt's nice-guy all the way to the edge when he cast him as Snake Plissken in "Escape from New York." There wasn't much nice about Snake - he did save the President and all - but then he tore up the cassette tape that would have saved the world from World War Three. Kurt was a tough guy, and if you see him in "Big Trouble in Little China," he's got a sense of humor about it.
Kurt's in his fifties now. He's still hanging around with that Goldie Hawn, and he's back making movies for Disney. These days it's a toss-up whether the grizzled old dreamer will be played by Dennis Quaid or Kurt Russell. That's fine with me - but when they start work on "The Secret Life of Elvis," I hope Dennis isn't waiting by his phone.