Next Big Thing: Wyatt Russell on Going From Real-Life Hockey Player to Baseball Pitcher in Linklater Movie

Brian Higbee
Wyatt Russell

The son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn and former professional athlete talks about why working with Linklater on 'Everybody Wants Some' felt like "summer camp," and his parents' best acting advice ("Don't be an asshole").

A version of this story first appeared in the April 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Wyatt Russell has been in the game for a while. It was just different than the Hollywood one played by dad Kurt Russell, mom Goldie Hawn, half sister Kate Hudson and half brother Oliver Hudson. He snubbed acting to play professional hockey in Europe. But hip injuries cut his goalie career short in 2010, so he transitioned to roles in This Is 40 and 22 Jump Street. Now Russell is showing off his athletic skills as a pot-addled pitcher in Richard Linklater's baseball-themed Everybody Wants Some (Paramount, March 30).

What's the best acting advice your mom or dad has given you?

"Know your lines and be on time." Since every single movie is such a unique situation, everybody's going to inevitably have a different way of approaching a scene. But if you've got those two things down, you can work from there. And, "Don't be an asshole."

Linklater is casual. How was the vibe on this movie?

Rick invited us down to his ranch in Texas about three weeks before the shoot, and we made a bunkhouse with 12 bunk beds and just hung out together. It was like a summer camp. We'd all play pingpong and bowl. We'd be in the pool, and then he'd come over and be like, "Hey, can we go over that scene?"

So you all participated in shaping the script?

As much as you wanted to add within the bounds of the pace and the story outline. If it was good, then it made it in. I've never felt more heard in my life. In terms of the collaborative process, this truly was. You have a line in the script and go, “I just don't think Billy would say that. It's more of a Finn thing to say.” And people were giving lines to each other, which is, I would imagine, unbelievably rare on a movie set because actors are inherently selfish human beings. (Laughs.)

How did you get the role?

The first audition was actually an interview about my life and my time playing sports. Next was an audition, and you got to read the script and you could audition for whomever you wanted to, your top three favorite [characters]. Then Rick whittled it down for each part.

Was your real-life transition from sports to acting difficult?

When I got injured, it was a disastrous moment. But it turned out to be probably the best thing. When you're an athlete, you’ve got the horse blinders on pretty thick. Your exploration of other things in life tends to be limited because you have to have such a focus on what you're doing. I wasn't a good enough player to stray from that focus and still keep my ability. I had to keep my nose to the grindstone to be able to keep up with the competition. So when it ended, that was the beginning of, “Maybe I'll try acting.” When I read this script, I was hoping so badly that [filming] it was gonna be the [same] experience. No one wants to watch anybody play baseball in a movie. What is interesting is what baseball means or sports in general means to those people doing it. It's very specific. And when you can get somebody like Rick, who was a baseball player in college, he deeply understands what it is to be an athlete. It's really a movie about a life perspective of somebody who comes to college to play baseball and how the first three days of that experience sets them up for what's to come. That's what was always interesting to me about my experience playing hockey, not the actual game.

Do you have your next project booked?

I’m reading scripts and waiting. There's a couple things that I'm working on, producing-wise, with my brother, Oliver, and my sister, Kate, that I can't really talk about yet because the deals aren't closed. It's something we've been working on for a while. Working with them is the dream. They were the people whom I look up to. When my sister's around, we're really able to hunker down. We've sold a bunch of projects to a few different networks. Never had success in terms of anything being made into a pilot, but got six or seven things out there. Hopefully, this next one will be able to break that barrier. But just being able to work with them fills a void that a lot of actors can have, where there's a lot of waiting around. And if you let that take you over, you can kind of go crazy.

What director are you dying to work with?

I've done two movies with Jim Mickle. He's somebody that I'd love to do another movie with. [Alejandro] Inarritu. I would die to be in a movie with him. [Quentin] Tarantino. And Taika Waititi. Boy is one of my top-five favorite movies of all time. He's a special storyteller.

Your mother recently signed on to play Amy Schumer's mom in a movie. Any advice for Amy?

Have a blast because she is the most fun person I know. But Amy Schumer doesn't need to be told anything. (Laughs.)

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VITAL STATS

Age: 29 
Born: Los Angeles
Big break: Playing Little Mickey in 2011's Cowboys & Aliens
Rep: UTA

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