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Wyatt Russell on why he left hockey for acting — and the crucial lesson he learned from his famous parents

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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At 24, Wyatt Russell was playing minor-league professional hockey in Europe when he blew out his hip. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me, to be honest,” Russell says today (watch his interview with Yahoo Entertainment above).

That’s because the 32-year-old has since followed in the footsteps of famous parents, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, and found success on the movie screen — first in supporting roles (playing an athlete, typically the lackadaisical type) in movies like 22 Jump Street, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, and Everybody Wants Some!, and making his first starring turn this weekend in the World War II horror-thriller Overlord.

“It wasn’t really a decision as much as it was made for me,” the actor says about his transition from income-generating yet “barely professional hockey” to entertainment. “At that point, I was 24 and felt like it was a good time; I need to move on in my life anyway. It wasn’t like, ‘Okay, now I’m gonna act!’ It was like, ‘I think I could be good at this. It’s something I should try, and let’s see how it goes.’ And then once I realized, ‘Oh, I don’t have to do it the way people tell me how to do it. I don’t have to do it the way people expect me to do it. I can just do it the way I’m gonna do it, use what I’ve learned in my prior life, and see where it goes,’ it was pretty much as simple as that.”

Russell’s role in Overlord as Ford — a hardened, tough-as-nails explosives expert on his second tour of duty when his platoon is dropped behind enemy lines, where they face off against demonic Nazi experiments in the lead-up to D-Day — feels very much like a part that his legendary action hero of a father Kurt (Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China) would have taken back in the day.

But Wyatt insists he’s not looking to emulate the rugged leading man stylings of Kurt. “The honest-to-God’s truth is he’s a great actor that’s been around for a really long time, and he’s done awesome stuff and anything he’s ever done, people go, ‘Oh man, I wish I could’ve done that.’ And it’s just because he chose things to do that he thought he could be good in, and that he thought were interesting. I don’t think anybody else should do it any other way. You try and do things that you think are interesting. You try to add to the piece or whatever it is you’re doing to make it interesting, and be as good as you can in it.”

The most valuable lesson he gleaned from Kurt and Goldie? Be yourself.

“What he gave me, and my mom gave me, was the mindset that you’re an individual, and you make your choices individually. Individuality is an important thing in this business — to not lose yourself. And those were the most important things that I got. There’s nothing about acting that they can really teach you. It’s just not the way it really works.”

Overlord is now in theaters.

Watch Wyatt Russell talking about the horrifying real-life experiments that inspired Overlord:

Read more on Yahoo Entertainment: