He’s “Mr. Jimmy,” the boss of the ill-fated oil rig Deepwater Horizon. She’s Felicia Williams, the wife of chief technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) who’s petrified to discover an explosion is threatening the lives of the 126 people on board the vessel.
Deepwater Horizon marks the first acting collaboration between Kurt Russell and stepdaughter Kate Hudson. Even though they share only one fleeting moment together, it is a scene 20 years in the making.
Russell told Yahoo Movies Tuesday at the Toronto International Festival that he actually wanted Kate, whom he raised with wife Goldie Hawn, to take a role in 1996’s Escape From L.A., his eye-patched action hero Snake Plissken’s follow-up to the the 1981 classic Escape From New York.
“I wanted her to play the female ingénue,” Russell said of the role of Utopia, which eventually went to A.J. Langer (My So-Called Life). “And so did [writer-producer] Deborah Hill and [director] John Carpenter. [Kate] decided not to do it. This was before she started. She made her decision. That role, in a movie that Pa’s starring in, maybe not. And she talked it over with Goldie, she talked it over with me, and she ended up saying, ‘Nah, I guess this isn’t the way to start.'”
Hudson started instead in quieter films like 1998’s Desert Blue and 1999’s 200 Cigarettes, though it was Cameron Crowe’s 2000 coming-of-age drama Almost Famous that launched her career and earned her an Oscar nomination. “She had been pretty careful and we had tried to help her be careful about how she started,” Russell said. “We knew she was going to do it.”
That’s because the actress, now 37, developed a fascination for filmmaking while visiting her parents’ sets in the ’80 and ’90s. “It’s a completely different experience, you’re just a kid. You’re in the way,” Hudson said. “Most kids get bored on set. But I loved watching how to make movies from very early. So I always wanted to be there.”
She remembers going on productions like Overboard (1987) and Winter People (1989), but there are a couple others that standout. Like Russell’s Big Trouble in Little China (1986). “It was Halloween time, and John Carpenter and my dad — everybody brought their kids — and they hid candy all over the set of Big Trouble. And if you remember Big Trouble, those sets were awesome. So having a scavenger hunt there was really cool.”
Hudson loved watching Ron Howard, who directed Russell in the 1991 fireman drama Backdraft. “I just remember what a kind director he was, and how focused,” she said. “Backdraft was so intense. We had to hide behind the trucks when they’d shoot certain things and my dad was up there with all the [protective] gel on and things are blowing up all over the place. And Ron was as calm and collected and as focused as anybody I’ve ever seen in a situation like that.”
Russell and Hudson were approached separately to appear in Deepwater Horizon, but they were able to talk about the script before both signing on. Russell said he even pitched director Peter Berg and team an additional scene that would bring their characters together. “I said, ‘You do understand that we have an opportunity here?’ I gave it my best, couldn’t sell it.”
The film’s content is intense and tragic, but the New Orleans shoot was a happy, family affair. Not only did Kate bring sons Ryder and Bingham down with her, but her brother Oliver Hudson, also an actor, was in town shooting Fox’s Scream Queens, and brought his kids as well. Russell had all of his grandkids in one place, a rare occasion for a showbiz family. “It was pretty special,” he said.
Kate’s kids have typically been bored when visiting her film sets. “Usually if you’re my kids, you’re like, ‘Mom, it was great to see you, I’m gonna go. I don’t want to be here. I’m out.’ But she noticed a difference while in Buffalo shooting this summer shooting the Thurgood Marshall biopic Marshall.
“Ryder, now that he’s 12, is starting to love it,” she said. “On Marshall he was watching the monitor, he was talking to the director [Reginald Hudlin]. I could see him watching, he would ask all of these questions. And the guys would show him different lenses and stuff. I was like, ‘Uh-oh.'”
Sounds like the family business could be growing.
Deepwater Horizon opens Sept. 30.
Watch our Role Recall interview with Kurt Russell: