Posted: Friday October 28, 2005 2:26PM; Updated: Friday October 28, 2005 2:26PM
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Last week, SI writer Richard Deitsch interviewed Kurt Russell for the magazine's Q&A. The actor (Miracle, The Best of Times) plays a race horse trainer in Dreamer, now in theaters. Here are additional excerpts from their conversation.
SI: You nailed the part of Herb Brooks in Miracle. Is there another figure from sports who you are itching to play?
Russell: I could have done a brilliant job of playing Pete Rose about 15 years ago. I'm too old now. Pete actually talked to me about it. I could imitate Pete's style of play. I watched Pete a lot when I was playing. I wasn't as rah-rah as Pete, but I was aggressive. And I was a switch hitter. I had good control of my body. I could imitate his style and movement for fun.
SI: You played professional baseball for three-and-a-half seasons but injured your shoulder in 1973 when you were with the California Angels Double-A team in El Paso. Would you have made the majors?
Russell: I had been tagged already. I was going to Salt Lake to spend a week there and then probably join the Angels after that. I was a player who had two strong years in the lower classes of baseball. All I needed to do was get to a place where the lights shined. What I remember distinctly about my minor league career is that guys were saying 'Wait till you get to where you can actually see the ball'. At night they used lights at Double A and Triple A ball and I remember as soon as I got to Double A, I thought "My God, I can see the ball."
SI: Of course, if you had made the majors, your acting career would have been totally different, no?
Russell: All things would have been totally different. All the what ifs don't matter, though. It was probably a blessing in disguise, but I don't know. Everybody asks the question as you get older: Could you have made the major leagues? The question you they ask is: Do you think you could have helped somebody win consistently at the major league level? I don't know. That's the question I can't answer.
SI: Prior to this movie, how much time had you spent at the track?
Russell: I might have gone there once. I know nothing about race horses, which is a big part of the interest I had in the film.
SI: Did you visit any tracks or talk to any trainers for this role?
Russell: We were at Keeneland and I talked to some trainers who had pretty big stables. [Dreamer's writer] John [Gatins] had spent time with quite a few of these guys before. It was great, not just to talk to them and clarify the world that Gatins had sent up, but it was more important for me to see the demeanor of the men. As always, in the world of sports when it comes to people who are either training, coaching or managing, they are all very similar in terms of their demeanor. Because when you are dealing with athletes, you are dealing with a certain type of personality that is generally very arrogant and very knowledgeable about their own ability. And yet they are insecure. And those are the traits that stick out in the race horses I saw, and traits I heard these trainers talks about. Many times they just used the term "athletes" They don't look at the horses as animals as much as they do athletes. They train them and treat them like athletes.
SI: Most people forget that you are the uncle of professional baseball player Matt Franco. He won a Japanese League championship this year while playing for the Chiba Marines. Have you seen him play in person in Japan?
Russell: I never have been to Japan but I would love to see him play there. It sounds like an awful lot of fun. He had a really good year and was top 10 in every category.
SI: You attended the Subway Series in 2000. What's the best sporting event you've ever attended because of your celebrity?
Russell: To watch Los Angeles Kings games as a celebrity was a great thing over the years. I wanted to see the opener this year, but I was working. I was there when Wayne Gretzky scored his 802nd goal. That was a fabulous night. But unfortunately I was doing Tombstone during their great run to the Stanley Cup and didn't get too see too many games.
SI: As a baseball player, what's the better nickname, Tango or Cash?
SI: Outside of Goldie Hawn, who is the best celebrity fan to sit next to?
Russell: I had a good time watching hockey with the The Walrus. But I get him mixed up with the Penguin. Craig Stadler? That guy is a good hockey fan.
SI: Your son Wyatt is a goaltender for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. What's next for him?
Russell: He wants a D-1 scholarship at one of the good schools. After that, he wants to play professional hockey.
SI: Describe yourself in the stands as a hockey Dad?
Russell: I'm hot and cold. When I see something good, I stand up and cheer. When I see something bad, sometimes I let it out and sometimes I keep it to myself. As I get further and further along with watching Wyatt's hockey, I keep things pretty close to the vest. You sort of watch it and hope for the best. When it happens you enjoy it, and when it doesn't you just sort of sit there and suffer.