Kurt Russell was a bankable Disney star in the 1960s and early 1970s. Once he reached adulthood, however, the roles stopped pouring in. When Elvis Presley died in 1977, the opportunity to play him in a biopic resuscitated Russell’s career. “I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going out in flames. I’m controlling this airplane,'” Russell said in the same GQ interview. “‘I’m taking it down, or I’m going to break through the clouds my way.’ And when I did that, that’s when I had an epiphany moment, saying, ‘Kurt, where have you been your whole life? Wake the f*** up. This is what you’re supposed to do.'”
The performance earned Russell an Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or special. The three-hour movie was also a surprise ratings hit. Despite John Carpenter’s lukewarm feelings towards “Elvis,” the project was instrumental in uniting him with Russell. When GQ asked Russell which of his films he is most proud of, he began with his three 1980s Carpenter collaborations.
“Elvis” was the unlikely seed that blossomed into one of film’s most entertaining partnerships. Unlikelier still is that Presley has become one of modern cinema’s most popular subjects. Austin Butler earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Baz Luhrmann’s ambitious 2022 film “Elvis,” and Jacob Elordi is the latest actor to play the King in Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla.”