There are so many reasons to love Kurt Russell. The beloved actor is a convincing action hero, fits right into the Wild West, is perfect in any rom-com (especially with Goldie Hawn), and like a fine wine just continues to get better with age. But let's not forget about the time that he played Elvis Presley. That's right, back in 1979, Russell starred as The King of Rock 'N' Roll himself in a TV movie directed by John Carpenter. Coincidentally, the movie that would transition Russell's Hollywood career after years as a child actor, was portraying the very star he worked opposite in his first film.
Back in 1962 when Russell was just 10 years old, he made his big movie debut in It Happened at the World's Fair, an uncredited role where he got to kick Elvis Presley's character in the shins. At the time, he had no idea how famous Presley was but explained to James Cordon on The Late Late Show that seeing women run after him on set was the first time he'd seen a real celebrity. Despite all that, Presley was still a really nice guy, even to a young Kurt Russell.
"He was just a really nice guy. He was 27 years old at the time and when I played him, I was 27. And I kind of remembered he was one of those very memorable people and was just a real nice guy."
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They would even play catch behind the scenes during the week that Russell was on set. Funny enough, the 1979 film wasn't the only time the actor played Elvis on the big screen. He provided the voice for Elvis in Forrest Gump and portrayed an Elvis impersonator in the Kevin Costner film 3000 Miles to Graceland.
The TV film, Elvis, followed the superstar's rise to fame from the time he was a boy through 1969. Director John Carpenter set out to tell a dramatic retelling of his life's story, not make a musical, despite the fact that there was obviously music throughout. And we have to say...Kurt Russell really nailed those classic Elvis moves up on stage.
Though he perfectly embodied The King in the biopic, he didn't actually do the singing. That was all thanks to country singer Ronnie McDowell who recorded a total of 36 songs for the film's soundtrack. Russell's real-life father, actor Bing Russell, co-starred in the film as Elvis's father, Vernon Presley. His first wife, Season Hubley, co-starred as Priscilla Presley, who was apparently paid a large sum of money to "fact check" the script before it was approved to air on ABC. Pat Hingle appeared as Colonel Tom Parker and Shelley Winters as Elvis's mother Gladys, rounding out an all-around strong cast in the film.
The biopic earned numerous awards accolades including an Emmy nomination for Russell for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Made for Television. It seems that the film also created a strong partnership between Russell and John Carpenter. They would go on to work together in numerous future films including Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and Escape from L.A.