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Kurt Russell Turns 60

50 years after his debut, Russell is still one of Hollywood's most reliable leading men

Big 5-0 (March) : Kurt Russell

— Illustration by Sean McCabe

The Big 6-Oh: March 17

Kurt Russell has been acting in movies and television since the late 1950s, but you’d probably be hard-pressed to name more than a few of his roles. That’s not a bad thing — in fact, the ability to blend into believable characters and move between different genres is likely what has fueled such a long career, which began with bit parts in TV Westerns and eventually transformed him into one of Tinseltown’s most reliable leading men.

His filmography is filled with solid character work in movies like Silkwood, Escape from New York, Tombstone, Backdraft and Miracle, but to true film buffs, the Massachusetts native may be most closely associated with Elvis Presley.

At 12, a young Russell made his film debut in an uncredited role in Presley’s 1963 musical It Happened at the World’s Fair. Seventeen years later, he played the King himself in the 1979 TV mini-series Elvis, earning an Emmy nomination as best actor. The connection doesn’t end there, though: in 1994’s Forrest Gump, Russell provided the voice for Elvis, and in 2001 he teamed with Kevin Costner as a pair of Presley impersonators who plan a casino heist during a Las Vegas Elvis impersonator’s convention in 3000 Miles to Graceland.

His long-term romance with Goldie Hawn, which blossomed back in 1983 while they filmed the romantic comedy Swing Shift and continues today, has made for a unique, seemingly solid Hollywood coupling. An avid sports fan, Russell moved with Hawn to Vancouver, British Columbia a few years back so that their son Wyatt, a promising ice hockey player, could focus on the sport. Russell has also been known to hit the golf links and is an annual participant in the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Not that acting has taken much of a backseat. In 2007, Quentin Tarantino cast Russell as Stuntman Mike in his grindhouse tribute, Death Proof. Later this year, he’ll return to the sports film genre he inhabited so flawlessly in Miracle, playing a high school football coach in Touchback. If his past is any indication, expect him to turn in yet another great and ultimately underrated performance: Russell may have been born on St. Patrick’s Day, but there’s been nothing lucky about his remarkable run.

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