There was a time when an interview with Wyatt Russell would take place in a locker room, not a plush downtown Toronto hotel suite.
The Goon: Last of the Enforcers star not only plays a hockey player in the film, he was once a junior league goalie who says his first vivid memory was getting a pair of skates when he was just three–years-old. Hockey, he says, “was my love, my passion.”
His promising athletic career was cut short by multiple concussions and an injury-plagued season with Groningen Grizzlies but the thirty-year-old fell right back into rink life on his first day of shooting Goon.
“We were supposed to be getting off a bus after a game to meet our family members,” he says. “I remember sitting down and being like, ‘This is what I did.’ It was actors acting, but I thought, ‘I’ve done this. I’ve already done this.’ I looked over to my left and they start filling in the bus with players that would fill out the team and there was a guy right next to me and I was like, ‘Dylan?’
“I had played with him for a little while in Brampton. After that moment it became really easy and fun to slip back into hockey and hockey terminology. It’s a world. It was what I wanted to do with my life.”
The son of actors Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell says he met many people like the violent enforcer Anders Cain he plays in the film. Cain doesn’t love the game, he loves to win, a perspective, Russell says, comes when players get jaded.
“They have a lot of talent. They’ve had a lot of talent since they were kids and there has been a lot of pressure put on them. For a lot of people there’s a breaking point and the way that usually manifests itself is through self-destructive behaviour and they don’t even know they’re doing it.”
It’s not unlike show biz.
“Every profession where people view it as larger than life,” he says, “when you start to believe that it is larger than life and you are larger than life, is where I feel the downhill skid starts to happen. When you start to see yourself as more important than the world that’s going on around you.”
He avoided those traps because, although he grew up in a show biz family, his parents were raised in “lower middle class American families that lived in Maryland, Maine and Thousand Oaks. They didn’t all the sudden forget that. That’s not who they were or who their families were.”
Now that a career in hockey is in his rear view mirror and Russell has perspective on how his new job fits into the scheme of things.
“It’s just entertainment,” he says. “Sometimes certain things can make a difference culturally. Maybe, on the smallest, tiniest, littlest scale but at the end of the day it is meant for you to go to the movie theatre and have a good two hours. You’re not curing cancer.”
It was his patents Kurt and Gildie, veterans of a combined 100 films and countless hours of television, who taught Wyatt that a life spent in front of the camera is “about bigger things than yourself. They didn’t forget and they raised us with that idea in mind.”