Kurt Russell, first and foremost, is an Elvis fan. “An Elvis movie to me is always worth watching, simply because of Elvis,” Russell said on Turner Classic Movies. After working with Elvis in 1963, Russell had two opportunities to see the musical icon live in concert. The shows were two very different performances. The first time Russell saw the King he was still in his prime. The second time was after the unkind years had worn Elvis down.
It was that second Las Vegas performance by Elvis that inspired Russell, and would eventually lead to his big break. In 2016 the actor told GQ how fans gasped at the drastic new look of the icon, and how it influenced him. Russell said:
“I’m telling you, God’s honest truth, 30 seconds later, he was Elvis. What I realized about that was, which I drew on later on, he was living it. He was just doing what he was doing and had gone to the ‘Oh, f*** it’ state, and he was fantastic. He knew it didn’t matter if he weighed a thousand pounds. The performance, it made it sort of even better. He was moving into a different zone, and becoming like Pavarotti, or something.”
It was that confidence he observed watching Elvis that Russell would draw on a few years later when taking a risk on a movie that he knew could easily be a disaster.