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Great Movies & fine Wines

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Favorite actor of legendary American director John Carpenter, and more recently one of Tarantino’s beloved faces chosen for Death Proof and The Hateful Eight, Kurt Russell by now should be used to interviews, but admits it actually takes him a lot of effort. Despite this, his face lights up with a huge smile when we mention his passion: wine. Rolled-up shirt sleeves, a pair of jeans and shiny shoes, Russell has the charm of a man who has something to say, and knows how to say it, “I like roles that are unclear. When you can’t immediately tell whether I’m one of the good guys or the bad guys. I like all the different sides, the gray areas; they are always more interesting to play.”

 

“I don’t like interviews.” This is how Kurt Russell starts off many of his press meetings. He complains, albeit with a smile. “The fact is I’m no good at these things, I want to say everything all at once, I don’t explain myself well and things don’t come out the way I’d like.” Strange for an artist who, at age 65, has spent 55 years of his life under the spotlight. In fact, Kurt Russell started hanging around TV studios and film sets when he was only ten years old. At twelve he appeared alongside Elvis Presley in It Happened at the World’s Fair, and
shortly after Walt Disney offered him a contract and made him a young star of the Mickey Mouse Club. This was in the ’60s and a decade later he started working on his first projects as an adult. Contrary to the fate of many child stars, Kurt Russell was not forced to retire from the film industry when he grew up. In fact, many of the movies made during his youth became cinema classics: Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Tango & Cash and Backdraft being the most popular.

In your last movie you played the part of a real-life hero, security officer Jimmy Harrell in Deepwater Horizon, that tells the true story of the fire that took place on the oil rig in April 2010. In 2016 you were the irascible and violent bounty hunter, John “The Hangman” Ruth in Quentin Tarantino’s western The Hateful Eight. However, before that it seemed you had disappeared from the scene.

That’s true, I have been less present on set because I have been pursuing another interest, my great love for wine – I have always enjoyed wine, but my true passion blossomed thanks to a movie.

Which movie was that?

It happened in 2007, when I was shooting Death Proof with Quentin Tarantino. We were in the Santa Rita hills north of Los Angeles. I was amazed to find the area had excellent wines. I have always been a bit of a connoisseur, I love to savor a good wine, but at that moment I realized I wanted to learn more about this wonderful product of nature. Even before that, I should mention that Goldie [Hawn] and I have always taken long trips to Europe, bringing our bikes with us. Italy and France are our favorite destinations – we love Tuscany and Burgundy. We like to ride in the countryside, especially among vineyards. From time to time we stop off at local wineries and taste the different products of the region we are passing through.

So how did this passion grow?

I took lessons from two producer friends of mine – I have a wonderful memory of my first grape harvest, they handed me a pair of shears and a basket. The first thing I did with my first bunch of grapes was cut myself. That was my first harvesting experience. Too proud to complain, I held in a cry of pain and hid the wound until I retrieved a pair of gardening gloves and
continued my education in the fabulous world of wine-making. The harvest is a magical moment, a celebration. Now, I finally have my own brand GoGi, produced in California, Santa Barbara wine region. My top product is a biodynamic Pinot Noir.

Being a wine enthusiast, you must also love food.

Absolutely! I love wine with food. Let me explain better, food is the reason I love wine. For me it has never been about sitting down and drinking a bottle on its own, with no accompaniment. For the way I see it, wine and food are two intrinsically inseparable elements.

What is your favorite dish?

I love meat, especially game. I hunt American venison; its meat is excellent, especially if accompanied by a good glass of red. Did you know that one deer alone provides enough meat for a whole year? I also hunt pheasants; Goldie is excellent at cooking them.

You and Goldie spend a lot of time at your ranch in Colorado – what does it mean to you?

I love it there. I go riding every day and personally look after and graze the cattle. It is a very quiet, secluded spot, that allows me to isolate myself from the world and leave the Hollywood bubble behind.

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Have you ever turned down a role in a movie to pursue your passion for wine?

It’s happened before. But I wouldn’t blame the wine; more that the parts weren’t interesting enough for me to leave my barrels, that I will admit. I am at a time in my life when, luckily, I can
choose. If a role is intriguing enough, great, I’ll accept it; otherwise I devote myself to my personal life. Making a good film is not that different from making a good wine.

How so? 

It’s an art; in both cases you need to have your ideas straight from the outset, before you even start, and you have to know your trade. If you have these points taken care of, you can make a good film just like you can produce a good wine; if you don’t meet these conditions, you end up with any old thing and it will never be a quality product. It will never be a work of art. To make a movie, you start with a story which can be compared to the vine, then you have the grapes, or the actors that represent the story. The director is the winemaker, the owner of the vineyard. The way you make your wine is the way you tell your story. Grape harvesting is like film editing, you take only the best and, at the end, the individual images and scenes become one smooth masterpiece, a good movie, or a fine wine.

Speaking of winning combinations, you and Goldie Hawn have been together for almost 35 years. What is the secret to one of the few lasting Hollywood relationships that works?

We don’t have a secret. I’m not sure. It’s a question we get asked all the time and I don’t have an answer. I can make her really angry at times and she can do the same to me. Isn’t that
what couples who have been together for a long time do? We laugh, we cry, we get excited. Maybe that is the secret, knowing how to get excited together.

 

Interview with Kurt Russell

Words Francesca Scorcucchi
Photography Maarten de Boer

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