In his new film "The Art of the Steal," Russell stars as Crunch Calhoun, a former getaway driver and current motorcycle stuntman more famous for his spectacular crashes than actually landing his jumps. That is, until his half-brother Nicky (Matt Dillon) gets Crunch and the old crew back together for one final score, one that Crunch is hoping will go down in the history books.
So while you'd expect "The Art of the Steal" director Jonathan Sobol and co-star Jay Baruchel to geek out over getting to work with the legendary leading man in their new heist movie, what you don't expect is for Russell to do the same over getting the opportunity to pick Terence Stamp's brain, or gush about Baruchel's "This Is The End."
Yet Russell did just that when Moviefone Canada spoke to him shortly after his new movie's debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. And with "The Art of the Steal" in theatres this Friday, the iconic actor talked to us about how much fun he had making the film, his upcoming role in "Fast & Furious 7" (and warning, a potentially huge spoiler), and how he just couldn't turn down the chance to work with Zod.
Moviefone Canada: How'd you enjoy the premiere at TIFF?
Kurt Russell: Well, I was down in Atlanta, I'd just gone down there to work with a writer. I was doing "Fast & Furious 7," and they're having some fun with taking a look at this new character who, at the end of it, I think we probably are gonna kill off. [Laughs] We're having a good time, and I didn't know I was going to be doing that.
So I had been planning on going to the film festival for a couple of days and now it looked like I wasn't going to be able to, but they were able to arrange a plane to come pick me up. I got on the plane, I got off the plane, I went to the bar to meet the fellas for about a half an hour. Then suddenly we were walking the red carpet there, answering questions, and then walking on the stage as Jonathan [Sobol] was introducing the movie. Walked off the stage, got in the car, and got back in the plane and headed back down to Atlanta. [Laughs]
I got a lot of phone calls afterwards which were really nice. Especially one, a text message from Martin Short's son, Henry. He had been at the screening and he loved the movie, and said the audience had a ball with it. And he said, "Where are you? Where's the party?" And I said, "I'm in Atlanta now! I'm already back!" So it was a very quick trip, but it was fun while I was there.
Jonathan Sobol was able to put together a really great cast here. What'd you see in him or this script that made you want to do this movie?
First of all, when you read a script, the script itself has to hit you. And I thought this one was fun because it was a sting movie within an art heist film, and yet turned out to be an art heist film too. [Laughs] So I loved the way he interwove those two genres, and I was interested in talking to him. And when I talked to him, I realized he's such a sharp guy, he really knows what he's doing. When you read the screenplay, you get the idea that [Crunch] is Machiavellian and fun. So when you're going to do the part, I think that gives you the opportunity to have some fun with the actors too. You work closely together, you find things. Jay Baruchel and Chris Diamantopoulos are just two actors that are a blast to find stuff with. I thought Matt Dillon was great in his role, I think he's just perfect for it.
And also, for me, I loved the fact that he was able to get Terence Stamp in the movie. I got to work two days with him, and I wanted to pick his brain and ask him certain things. I think if you get a chance to work with Zod, you should do it. [Laughs]
Your chemistry with Jay especially seemed really strong, and obviously needed to be to help sell your whole mentor/apprentice relationship. How quickly did it take you guys to develop that?
It's funny, sometimes it develops slowly. When it develops quickly, I have a tendency to be leery of it. Both of those things didn't happen with Jay. It happened quickly, and I wasn't leery. [Laughs] I could just see he was a free-flower, and at heart so am I. So you've got two people that love to get in the sandbox and play. You don't know how you're gonna end up looking, you're ultimately at that point in the hands of your director, and you have to have a lot of trust there. And Jonathan was the kind of guy that I had a lot of trust in.
So it's fun for me, because I was working with Jay who I don't know, and Chris, same thing, I didn't know him. And when you find that you're working with similar people who are extremely talented, you want the world to see them. And I was sitting in my hotel room down in Atlanta, where I was doing "Fast & Furious," and I saw "This Is The End," and I thought it was just so much fun to see. I know "Goon" was Jay's undertaking and where he started really coming to notoriety, but "This Is The End," the audience really gets to see him there and see his abilities. And it was a funny movie, so I'm just really happy for him. I think this will be another strong role where he's really good, and he's a very talented guy. So lucky me, I got to work with some talented people.
In a movie and genre like this, the heist plot clearly has to be tightly scripted, but does that leave any room for improvising with you guys?
It does if your actors really know the characters, and if they really deeply understand the screenplay. Especially when it's as intricate as this one is. There's spy vs. spy vs. spy going on. I'm thinking one thing, not saying something, saying something. Then there's other characters that are doing the same thing, so you don't know who's doing who. And then you give the audience the opportunity to begin to guess and say, "Wait a minute, I think this is what's going." I thought that Jonathan did a terrific job in terms of weaving those two genres together, and I loved the possibilities as an actor of playing Crunch within that. It's a loser bunch, and I think at a certain point in the movie, you get the feeling this isn't going to end well, but it'll end funny. And I liked that about ten minutes before the end of the movie, I didn't still quite really know for sure what was going to be happening here.
What do you have more fun playing then, those plot twists or the snappy back-and-forth dialogue? What appeals to you more?
It's funny, you enjoy the one you're doing most on the day. That's really the truth, because you're gonna be leaving it and going onto the other side tomorrow. I think you give them equal measure. In particular, for me, I enjoyed the idea when I was reading it of watching Crunch, because he's not lying to you. He is who he is. But at the end, he's sort of somebody that you suspected, but you weren't quite sure of. And the fact that you get to play all the different aspects of the intricacies equally, that's what I think gives it the balance. And gives the audience the opportunity of thinking they're ahead, understanding they're behind, now thinking that "Wait a minute, I got it now." And then saying, "Nope, I don't have it. I don't know where this is going." If you give it all equal measure, and you have equal pleasure in playing it, then I think that the audience gets the sense that the actors are having a great time. And any time the audience gets the sense that the actors are having a great time, I think you're involved.
Do you enjoy being at the stage of your career where just signing onto a smaller project like this can really help push it across the finish line?
Yeah. Well, I mean, I've been involved with doing big projects where when you sign on, it does too. It's all the same. What matters is that you want to make something. You wanna put on a show. To me, I love the opportunity of playing characters in things that I'd like to see. All my life, I've never really cared about big, small, television, movies, plays, I don't care where or what size it is. I must say that in the last eight, nine years, I've just sort of enjoyed [myself]. I love making wine, it's a blast to be in the vineyard, and perhaps it has refreshed me. But I feel really strong right now in terms of what it is I want to do, in terms of projects and making movies. Some of them are gonna be, well, "Fast & Furious" is on the large side, and this one is a movie that, I don't care whatever audience sees it, whoever sees it, if one person or a million people see it, you want the same result, you want it to be enjoyed. And there's some projects coming up in the future that again are gonna be all over the map.
"The Art of the Steal" opens in theatres on Friday.