The legendary Walt Disney was single-handedly responsible for launching the careers of many Hollywood stars including actor Kurt Russell.
In the late 1960s at the ripe age of fifteen, Russell signed a 10-year contract with The Walt Disney Company and not too long after, the actor became one of the biggest stars in the industry. The Silkwood actor went on to star in hundreds of TV and movie productions, some of which earned him Golden Globe and Emmy nods.
Over the years, Russell remained close to the company and even starred in the recently released Disney and Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 film.
But, this does not even begin to scratch the surface of the deep connection the actor shared with Walt Disney himself.
“We did have a personal relationship. We played Ping-Pong at lunch sometimes. He’d come down to set. We’d go watch movies that the studio was making, and he’d come down and ask if I wanted to go see them,” said Russell.
On the day of Disney’s death in December, 1966, Russell was on set filming scenes for a Disney studios produced project.
“I was shooting a close-up and noticed there was some hubbub going on off camera,” Russell said in the 1999 biography Remembering Walt. “This guy came over to me and said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you this, Kurt, but Walt Disney died.’”
That was also the beginning of a bizarre urban legend. According to the lore, Russell and the mogul’s relationship was so special that a dying Disney uttered the actor’s name as his last words. Decades after the animation expert’s death, Russell finally spoke out to address the rumors about the mystery.
Strange as it may sound, there is an element of truth to the claim that “Kurt Russell” were Disney’s final words. It isn’t exactly as far-fetched as you’d think considering the pair’s relationship went beyond business.
Russell saw Disney as a grandfather figure and a mentor in all areas of his life.
“There were many, many things that I connected with him [on],” he continued. “He reminded me a lot of my own grandfather,” said Russell. “I was very comfortable around him, and I had a great time with him, great relationship, and it was very important.”
A few years after his death, Russell was made aware of a list that Disney left behind which had his name scribbled on it.
He told HuffPost: “They pulled me into the office a couple years after he died, and this woman — who I don’t believe it was his secretary, but it might’ve been, I don’t know ― pointed to [something he wrote] and she said, ‘Do you know what that’s about?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t.’[She said], ‘Because he wrote something after it. But then he went back up and he wrote your name. That was the last thing he wrote.’ And I said, ‘Oh gee. I don’t know what it’s connected to.’”
The note was found on his desk in 1970 by former Disney archivist Dave Smith and it turns out, those words were the last thing Disney wrote in his office before he was admitted to the hospital where he died.
So the legend isn’t exactly false because Kurt’s name was indeed among the last few words Disney wrote but as director James Gunn said, “it isn’t exactly a true story, that this was the last thing [Walt Disney] wrote in his office.”
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