Kurt Russell

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It’s easy to see a libertarian streak in many of the characters movie star Kurt Russell has portrayed over the years.

As anti-hero Snake Plissken in 1996′s Escape from L.A., he sneers about freedom, “In America? That died a long time ago.” As genetically engineered trooper Sgt. Todd in 1998′s Soldier, he defends peaceful farmers on the planet Arcadia 234 against murderous cyborg supermen sent by a militaristic government. As real-life Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks in 2004′s Miracle, he defies authority and uses unconventional coaching methods to mold a ragtag collection of American college kids into a team that beat the unbeatable Soviets.

That libertarian streak is no coincidence; Russell himself is one of Hollywood highest-profile libertarians — one who has talked about his pro-liberty beliefs on numerous occasions.

In the British magazine Talking Pictures (Spring 1997), Russell said, “I am by nature libertarian… don’t tread on me, just leave me alone, that’s all.” When he introduced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a speech in Los Angeles, Russell went out of his way to note, “I’m not a Republican; I’m a libertarian.” (Variety, January 19, 1998.) At the 20th anniversary celebration of the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, Russell said, “I’m a libertarian. I think a lot of people are libertarians and are afraid to admit it — or don’t know.” (TheWashington Post, May 2, 1997.) And on Fox TV’s The O’Reilly Factor (February 6, 2004), Russell said his politics are “limited constitutional government. I believe in that. Freedom, freedom, freedom. Being a libertarian, I do believe that limited government is good.”

Russell wasn’t always a libertarian. He told the Toronto Sun (August 4, 1996), “I was brought up as a Republican. But when I realized that at the end of the day there wasn’t much difference between a Democrat and Republican, I became a libertarian.”

Russell wasn’t always a movie star, either — although sometimes it seems that way. He was only 10 when he got signed to a contract with Walt Disney; only 12 when he appeared in an uncredited role in his first movie, It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963); and only 18 when he starred in the Disney classic The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969). He went on to star in The Barefoot Executive (1971), Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972) and Superdad (1973).

After a stint in the mid-1970s as a minor league baseball player in the Texas League (a potential career cut short by a rotor cuff injury), Russell returned to show business. He starred in a number of TV series and made-for-TV movies (most notably as Elvis Presley in 1979′s acclaimed Elvis), before making the jump back to movies in the early 1980s. He appeared in Used Cars (1980) and Escape from New York (1981) — his first movie with a distinct libertarian flavor.

In the years that followed, Russell starred in a variety of films; some of them big box-office hits (Stargate, 1994), some critically acclaimed serious movies (Silkwood, 1983), some high-profile flops (Captain Ron, 1992) and some cult favorites (Big Trouble in Little China, 1986). Veering back and forth between leading man and character actor, he also appeared in Swing Shift with Goldie Hawn (1984), Tequila Sunrise with Mel Gibson (1988), Tango and Cash with Sylvester Stallone (1989), Backdraft with Robert DiNiro (1991), Tombstone with Val Kilmer (1993), 3000 Miles to Graceland with Kevin Costner (2001) and Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise (2001). In 1994′s Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump, he was the uncredited voice of Elvis Presley

Russell was nominated for an Emmy Award for Elvis in 1979 and for a Golden Globe Award for Silkwood in 1983.

Since 1984, Russell has lived with actress Goldie Hawn, but the two chose not to marry. “We’re very individual,” he said of the relationship. “Society can rule you or you can be concerned about doing what you think is right for you.”

– Bill Winter

Quotable

“I’m a libertarian. I think a lot of people are libertarians and are afraid to admit it — or don’t know.” — Kurt Russell in the Washington Post (May 2, 1997)

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