By 1986, Kurt Russell had established himself as one of the brawniest, toughest action stars in Hollywood thanks to bruising roles like Snake Plissken in Escape From New York (1981) and MacReady in The Thing (1982).
He’d prove his mettle even more behind the scenes on Big Trouble in Little China, the cult fantasy-action flick in which Russell played a wise-cracking trucker who helps his best friend (Dennis Dun) save his fiancée from the grips of an ancient sorcerer in the underworld beneath San Francisco’s Chinatown — and which opened in theaters 35 years ago, on July 2, 1986.
Russell fell ill with the flu during production, with his body temperature reaching 105 degrees at points. But he didn’t stop filming.
“I really got sick on that one. You can hear it in the movie. You can hear me working on it,” Russell told Yahoo Entertainment during a 2014 Role Recall interview (watch in full above, with Big Trouble in Little China starting around the 2:15 mark).
“There are those days. But we had to get it shot and get it done. Those days it’s [like], ‘Time to go to work, get it done.’”
It was an impressive level of commitment from an actor who otherwise didn’t have incredibly high hopes for the project, even if the film did re-team him with his revered The Thing director John Carpenter.
“I remember thinking that the title Big Trouble in Little China was going to be rough on us. I thought, ‘It’s too many words, people aren’t going to hold onto that,’” Russell said.
“And there was another movie that came out the same week I think with Peter Falk called Big Trouble. So that was that. … This was another one [where I thought], ‘Hopefully they’ll find it.’”
Big Trouble — the last film from famed independent filmmaking pioneer John Cassavetes, which also starred Alan Arkin and Beverly D’Angelo — actually opened five weeks earlier than Russell’s, but it was a critical and commercial disappointment that Cassavetes himself disliked.
Big Trouble in Little China did not take the world (or underworld) by storm upon its 1986 release, earning only $11 million, less than half of its estimated budget. But it was a big hit on home video, and soon enough evolved into a full-fledged cult classic.
So, yes, they found it. In fact it’s the only Big Trouble movie we’re still talking about 35 years later.
Watch the trailer:
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