Kurt Russell on Handling Criticism, Near-death Experiences, and What He Wants His Legacy to Be

Kurt Russell
Kurt RussellMike Davis / Getty Images

The star of the Netflix film The Christmas Chronicles—in which Snake Plissken plays, yes, Santa Claus—talks about dodging disaster and why baseball is harder than acting.



What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I was 10 or 11 years old, and I had just started working. My father said, “OK, you’re going to make a man’s salary, so do a man’s job.” I translated that as, pay attention, do the job as good as you can, earn your way, make the team.

Who were your heroes growing up?

My grandfather, Buddy, was a pilot. He was a very cool guy. I believe he was license number 192—it was signed by Orville or Wilbur Wright. He has a demeanor that I think influenced me greatly. He was calm and knowledgeable, someone who took his job seriously, in terms of completing the mission and enjoying it in the process. It’s probably why I got into flying later on.

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You played minor league baseball for three years. How is baseball similar to acting?

They aren’t dissimilar in terms of pacing, preparation, and being ready, so that you can step in on the day and not have to think about the mechanics of anything—you just let it go. I used to refer to it as getting into the batter’s box and looking for something white. The ball is all that matters.

What’s harder?

Baseball. You don’t know the outcome.

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How should a man handle criticism?

You have to develop the ability to separate out the bullshit criticism—which is in fact to get you off your game, make you feel insecure. That’s not criticism, that’s game playing.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Find the fun. Even if it’s difficult, find what makes you feel good about what you’re doing.

What should every man know about money?

There’s that saying that money is the root of all evil. I totally disagree with that. I think money is the root of all good.

Is it ever OK for a man to lie?

Lying is a part of the human experience. It’s not something I like or admire, but it is something that I understand—that at times people are going to lie to you.

What role should vanity play in a man’s life?

A man will feel much more comfortable about himself if he has very little time to think about how he looks. Stop watching yourself. Go do what you want to do.

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What adventure most changed your life?

Learning to fly. It’s something you have to take very seriously—life-and-death seriously—especially when you have people in the airplane that you’re responsible for.

Do you have any hairy experiences?

Oh yeah, many, many. That’s hangar talk.

What was the most scared you’ve ever been?

I got thrown into two spins. I had 1,500-to 2,500-foot-per-minute updrafts immediately followed by 1,500- to 2,500-foot downdrafts. Rivets were popping out of the airplane.

What goes on in your mind in that kind of situation?

It just becomes a battle between you and nature. You have to know the airplane well enough to know what to do to get through it. When the rivets are starting to zing out of your plane, it’s a challenge to keep your mind on the job at hand. That’s where you start talking to yourself out loud and very seriously.

What do you want your legacy to be?

This is probably a terrible thing to say, but if I can’t be there to appreciate my legacy, I don’t care. I’m just going to do what I think is going to give me and those around me the best possible chance at having a good life and a lot of fun, and the chips are going to fall where they may.

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