In IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD’S FAIR
10 year old Kurt Russell
is paid by Elvis's character to kick him in the shins.
Little did we know that years later Kurt Russell would play Elvis
in the movie "Elvis" and receive an Outstanding Lead Actor
Emmy nomination for his
portrayal. Russell was briefly married to his "Elvis"
co-star Season Hubley with whom he had a son, Boston.
much more dangerous could a part be than playing Elvis Presley,"
muses Kurt Russell about his three-hour performance in "Elvis"
the first screen biography of the King’s death since his untimely
What better role could anyone pick to blow away a career on?"
Indeed, it would be hard to come up with one. In addition to the usual
phalanx of skeptical critics, will "Elvis" pass muster with
Elvis family & fans? Especially those who aren’t getting a piece
of the action. Mostly, to be considered are fanatical Elvis worshipers,
who will quick to blow the whistle on any sacrilege towards their idol.
Russell a former pro baseball player from Northfield Mass and long time
Disney star is not overawed which is probably one reason he landed the
role over almost 700 wager Elvis impersonators.
"The risk appealed to me, says Kurt as he curves his upper lip into
an uncanny Elvis-like sneer. I figure it would be fun as nobody's
reaction to my acting bothers me. Except my own!"
If Kurt is not preoccupied with the scrutiny the TV movie will get the
people who made it are. It would be hard to find a more carefully
selective script despite the fact that Tony Lawrence who produced the
movie drew on an estimated 150 books and articles on the King. Perhaps
Lawrence was concerned over legal repercussions from Presley’ father
Vernon, ex-wife Priscilla or manager Colonel Tom Parker. What emerges in
"Elvis" is a sanitized and at best incomplete view of the King
For example the move ends in 1969 after Elvis comeback concert in Las
Vegas. Left out is his problem with and divorce from Priscilla, his
succession of affairs before and after his marriage, his loneliness, his
drug abuse, his gun fetish and ultimately his graceless death at
"I got some surprises," he states defensively, "I think
the audience will too. The whole point of the movie is to present a
portrait of an Elvis most people didn’t know and I think we’ve done
Unfortunately these promises revelations turn out to be fairly trivial.
One of the film’s disclosures is Presley’s preoccupation with
parapsychology. Another is his fear of assassinations. Neither suggests
the qualities that made Elvis unique.Indeed
Kurt offstage Elvis is so devoid of personality that when he takes the
stage and suddenly erupts into manic gyrations the effect is incongruous
the viewer. This is not Kurt’s fault, with his sideburns swagger and
sexy pout he does make a convincing Elvis.
Russell put a prodigious amount of work into his role … watching
videotapes reading articles and talking to such technical advisers as
Larry Geller. Elvis former hairdressers Dave Presley his stepbrother and
Charlie Hodge Elvis former rhythm guitarist who play himself in the
movie. Russell was helped also by the fact that many of his lines were
taken verbatim from Presley interviews. But since these are matters of
public record they offer a ghostly accuracy without any insight. Russell
displays more of a hot-blooded quality in his love scenes with Season
Hubley who plays Priscilla. This is due in part to the real-life romance
they ignited on the set.
Kurt deserves the vacation. He had put in 150 hours mastering the famous
pelvic gyrations, practicing before his three sisters who are all Elvis
Kurt only mimes the songs whereas veteran
McDowell does the soundtrack that does offer and understanding into the
Moreover, Russell attributes his insight into Elvis to his won memories
of Elvis… as an 11-year old child star Russell was given a bit part in
the 1963 Elvis film, "It Happened at the World’s Fair"
He recalls, "Elvis was very energetic and high-spirited and took a
real interest in me and my dad, Bing Russell who portrays Elvis’
father Vernon Presley in Elvis."
Kurt remembers... the scene where he
had to kick Elvis in the leg... "I wasn’t happy doing that
because I really liked him... then after I saw the movie I thought every
fan will hate me forever." In a some what protective
attitude, Kurt concludes "What eh hell Elvis gave us great
entertainment … the least I can do is portray him
sympathetically." "....It’s my way of saying thank you to
the consummate entertainer of the 20th century."
Kurt Russell began his career as a
child actor when Walt Disney signed him to a ten-year contract.
After that he pursued a career in professional baseball.
He played second base for the minor league until injury forced
him to retire. Kurt’s father Bing Russell, also a former baseball
player who turned to acting, played the deputy sheriff on
"Bonanza" for a number of years. Kurt Russell career include
films such as Silkwood, Tango and Cash, Backdraft, Vanilla Sky and
Overboard when he co-starred with Goldie Hawn. Today Kurt and
long-time love, Goldie Hawn live in Vancouver where their son Wyatt is perusing career
in hockey. Recently became grandparents when Hawn's daughter, Kate
Hudson, gave birth to a boy.
Elvis: The Movie, 1979. Although
Kurt Russell doesn't look much like Elvis in real life, he simply became
him in this acclaimed tele-movie. He nails The King's voice,
personality, and demeanor. Elvis is told in flashback, starting with
Elvis' arrival in Las Vegas for what would be his 1969 comeback concert.
It then works backward to show his awkward teen years, his discovery by
Sam Phillips, his rise to fame, Army service, relationship with
Priscilla (Season Hubley, who married Kurt shortly after working
together here), and his frustration with his movie career. The story
ends in 1969 so we never see Presley's tragic decline or drug abuse.
Elvis also features Shelley Winters in a strong performance as his
beloved mother Gladys, Kurt's dad Bing Russell as Elvis' dad Vernon, and
Pat Hingle as his shady manager, Colonel Parker. Country singer
McDowell does an uncanny job of recreating Elvis' singing vocals. Please
note that the Elvis: The Movie available on video is NOT the original
three-hour TV version but rather the two-hour European theatrical
release. Kurt recently slipped back into the white jumpsuit for the
Elvis-themed flop, 3000 Miles to Graceland.