Why Kurt Russell Repeatedly Rejected Stargate (And Why He Finally Agreed To It)

“Stargate” is a very silly movie, but like many silly movies, it’s also kind of fun. The sci-fi action pic comes from the team of director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin, who would go on to score a blockbuster hit with “Independence Day.” But before they got there, they made “Stargate,” a movie in which a giant gate opens a portal to another planet, where the aliens all look human and live and behave like they’re in Ancient Egypt. You see, centuries ago, these aliens visited our world and influenced human history. It’s basically a scenario you’ll hear time and time again on the ludicrous History Channel show “Ancient Aliens,” but with a lot more guns. As Roger Ebert said in his one-star review of the film, “The movie is so lacking in any sense of wonder that it hurtles us from one end of the universe to the other, only to end in a gunfight between the good guys and the bad guys while the colonel’s bomb ticks down.”

He’s not wrong. And yet, I still kind of enjoy the picture, mostly for its Spielberg-influenced sci-fi shenanigans, and the sturdy, dependable presence of Kurt Russell. Russell, sporting a flat-top haircut, plays a U.S. Air Force Special Operations officer who is part of the team that goes through the titular stargate, only to then find himself fighting for his life against the forces of the film’s villain, the alien god Ra (Jaye Davidson). “Stargate” also stars James Spader, but it is probably safe to say that Russell was the biggest “name” in the movie. As it turns out, Russell originally turned the movie down multiple times — for a very specific reason.

Kurt Russell has a pretty solid career — there aren’t many movies of his I’d consider to be awful. Not all of them are great, of course, but he clearly is an actor with a good sense of taste. He knows what works for him, and how to perform. And as it turns out, quality was a reason he initially turned down “Stargate.” In fact, according to Dean Devlin (via Variety), Russell turned down the film “several times.”

This was a problem, as the production really wanted someone with Russell’s starpower in the lead. Eventually, the reason behind Russell’s reluctance was revealed: he had the wrong script. As Devlin put it, “[W]hat we found out is that he had been given the wrong script … He was given a very early draft of the script that should never have gotten out. So, when he actually saw the shooting script he went, ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad.'”

“Oh, this isn’t so bad” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of a script, but apparently “not so bad” was good enough to finally convince Russell to take the role.