Kurt Russell is an actor that is known for a great deal of iconic roles. This includes a portrayal of legendary singer Elvis Presley. Despite the fact that Russell famously portrayed Elvis in a 1979 made-for-television movie, he has also had some other notable ties to Elvis over the course of his Hollywood career. Join Facts Verse as we explore the link between these two iconic legends, starting with the time when Kurt Russell and Elvis Presley got physical.
Although Kurt Russell is perhaps best known for his roles as an adult, he started his career as a prominent and successful child actor. Although he gained most of his notoriety during his childhood years via his partnership with Walt Disney Pictures, he made his screen debut alongside Elvis Presley in 1963’s It Happened at the World’s Fair.
Kurt had a fairly small role in It Happened at the World’s Fair, but it was one that caught the eye of the late Walt Disney. Kurt was cast as a child that could be seen interacting with Elvis during a very memorable scene from the film. Elvis is anxious to meet an attractive nurse, but to do so he has to feign an injury. He asks Kurt’s character to kick him in the shins, which the young boy then proceeds to do. Given that he didn’t have much experience in the area of Hollywood stunts, Kurt ended up fumbling the kick and hitting Elvis a little bit harder than expected.
The young Kurt was afraid that Elvis was going to get angry, but the singer kept his cool. Elvis’ presence made a huge impression on the young child actor, and Kurt has recalled the awe he felt when he saw the hoards of young girls piled up to meet Elvis after the filming of the scene. Little could the young actor have known that he was going to end up portraying the legendary singer himself later on in his career.
After appearing alongside Elvis, Kurt was hired by Walt Disney to star in the 1964 film Follow Me, Boys! The film was made in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America and was the last film that Walt Disney made before his death. On his deathbed, Walt Disney expressed that he felt the young Kurt was going to play an important role in the company’s future. Kurt ended up appearing in nine more films for Walt Disney Pictures after Walt’s death. However, his career as an adult actor was going to be even more impressive.
By 1979, Kurt was an adult. He was ready to start acting in more adult roles, and that opportunity came to him in the form of a made-for-television Elvis biopic. As it turns out, Kurt Russell was perfect for the role in more ways than one. Not only had Kurt interacted with Elvis personally, but he had also grown to have a similar appearance to the legendary performer. Kurt put his all into the role, and it paved the way for him to become the full-blown movie star that we associate him as today.
John Carpenter directed the biopic, simply titled Elvis. Carpenter had just finished filming 1978’s Halloween when he was offered the chance to direct the film. Seeing an opportunity to try his hand at a genre besides horror, Carpenter jumped at the chance. However, the lack of creative control he had over the production has caused him to view the film somewhat negatively in hindsight. Still, the legacy of the film perseveres, largely due to Kurt Russell’s titular performance as the legendary singer.
Kurt Russell’s turn as Elvis Presley marked the early stage of his adult career. From there, he went on to star in many of Carpenter’s subsequent features. Carpenter cast Kurt as the main character in his 1981 film Escape from New York. This character’s name was Snake Plissken, and he has since become one of Kurt’s most popular characters. Kurt went on to star in Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing. Although not as immediately popular, the film has become a cult classic and is regarded as another of Kurt’s signature films.
Kurt and Carpenter worked together two more times, in 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China and 1996’s sequel to Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. It was Kurt’s initial success in Carpenter’s films that allowed his career to blossom as a Hollywood star. Kurt never forgot the role that started it all, his portrayal of Elvis Presley. He also revisited that role in a couple of unlikely ways later in his career. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
After appearing as Elvis Presley in the 1979 made-for-television biopic, Kurt Russell went on to return to the role of Elvis in two other films. At least, he did so in part. In 1994’s Forrest Gump, Kurt gives an uncredited cameo performance as the speaking voice of Elvis. Several years later, he played a character in 2001’s 3,000 Miles to Graceland that dresses up like Elvis in order to pull off a heist. Kurt certainly hasn’t been defined by his numerous portrayals of Elvis, but he does perfectly fit the part! Many other actors have attempted to take on the role of Elvis Presley, and some of these actors have even worked with Kurt either before or afterwards.
In 1993’s hit Western Tombstone, Kurt starred alongside fellow Hollywood actor Val Kilmer, among many other stars. Many filmgoers considered this pairing slightly coincidental given that Val Kilmer could be seen portraying Elvis Presley himself in another film that same year. That film was True Romance, directed by Tony Scott and written by an up-and-coming Quentin Tarantino shortly after his debut feature Reservoir Dogs. One may wonder if Val Kilmer asked Kurt Russell for advice before portraying the legendary singer. As well, it’s notable that Tarantino later went out of his way to use Kurt Russell in 2015’s The Hateful Eight.
Val Kilmer isn’t the only former coworker of Kurt’s to have tried his own hand at portraying Elvis Presley. 1996’s Escape from L.A. saw Kurt sharing the screen with another cult legend, Bruce Campbell. Campbell is best known for portraying the protagonist in the Evil Dead series of movies. However, Campbell later went on to portray Elvis Presley in an unrelated cult horror film, 2003’s Bubba Ho Tep. The film follows an elderly Elvis Presley living in a retirement home after faking his death. He is tasked with killing a mummy named Bubba Ho Tep alongside a similarly alive JFK.
Besides Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, and Bruce Campbell, there are a few other notable actors that have tried their hand at portraying Elvis Presley. 2005’s Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line turned to an actor by the name of Tyler Hilton when it need someone to fill the role of Elvis. A 2005 biographical miniseries once again titled Elvis cast Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the role. The 2016 film Elvis & Nixon had two tough titular characters to cast. For the part of Elvis, the producers ended up going with character actor Michael Shannon. Although Shannon doesn’t have a strong physical resemblance to the late singer, his acting skills allowed him to trick the audience. For the part of Richard Nixon, Kevin Spacey was cast. Because of the scandal that Spacey faced soon after the film’s exhibition, it’s unlikely that the film will gain much of a cult audience in the future. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Jack White from The White Stripes portrayed Elvis in the 2007 film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
Recently, it was announced that another Elvis Presley biopic was in the works. This biopic is going to be directed by Baz Luhrman, director of the hit films Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, and The Great Gatsby. When plans for this new biopic were unveiled, Elvis fans were understandably anxious to learn who was going to play the part of Elvis this time around. Some possible choices were Miles Teller, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Ansel Elgort. Another contender was Harry Styles, former teen singer from the boy band One Direction that has since ventured into acting. However, it appears that the role has gone to Disney Channel star Austin Butler. Although some fans may be skeptical of a Disney Channel star taking over the role of Elvis, remember that Kurt was a child actor in many Walt Disney productions. As well, it may ease your mind to know that Austin has similarly grown a great deal since his early Disney days.
Austin may be best known for his performances on the Disney Channel, but it was his recent turn on Broadway in a 2018 production of The Iceman Cometh that caught Baz Luhrman’s eye. Luhrman saw the performance and kept the young actor in the back of his mind. When he got the job of directing this new Elvis Presley biopic, Austin was one of the first actors that he thought of. It’s an interesting coincidence that both Austin Butler and Kurt Russell came from a background in Disney productions. Perhaps having experience with Disney is the secret key to being able to accurately portray Elvis Presley on the screen.
The new biopic will be Luhrman’s first film since 2012’s The Great Gatsby. The pressure on both him and his lead actor will be immense, and Austin will certainly have his work cut out for him if he intends to portray Elvis half as successfully as Kurt Russell did so effortlessly over 40 years ago. However, given that Luhrman is the one who first helped Leonardo DiCaprio achieve teen idol status in 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, perhaps Luhrman’s judgment should be trusted when it comes to iconic portrayals.
Elvis’ popularity has resulted in him being portrayed by many actors since his death. Comment down below to share whom your favorite actor to have portrayed Elvis is, or whether or not you think Austin Butler is a good choice for this new and upcoming biopic from Baz Luhrman. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!