On This Day: TV Movie ‘Elvis,’ Starring Kurt Russell, Aired on ABC in 1979

by Katie Maloney
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Forty-two years ago today, Kurt Russell played the King of Rock n’ Roll in Elvis.

ABC aired the TV-movie Elvis, starring Kurt Russell on February 11, 1979. The two and half hour film, portrayed Elvis Presley’s career from his early days all the way to 1970. This was Russell’s big break into more serious roles. Previously, he had worked almost exclusively on comedies. His portrayal of Elvis helped him land future roles including Escape From New York, The Thing and Silkwood.

 The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Made for Television. Additionally, the film received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations including Outstanding Lead Actor for Russell.

Kurt Russell as Elvis in the made for TV movie.

Kurt Russell Kicked Elvis In The Shin

Kurt Russell was the spitting image of Elvis in voice, appearance, and mannerisms during his portrayal in Elvis. We’re sure Russell did his research into the rock n’ roll icon before filming the movie. However, Kurt met Elvis Presley long before Kurt even started his acting career. In fact, Kurt was only 10-years old when he first met Elvis. He appeared in a scene with Elvis for the film, It Happened At The World’s Fair. During the 30 second scene, young Kurt kicks Elvis in the shin. He shared the details behind the scene during an interview.

“He was the nicest guy,” said Kurt. “He was 27 years old then. I was 10. They put a pad on him. I never missed the pad.”

Ten years after kicking Elvis in the shin, Kurt Russell depicted Elvis in the award-winning TV movie. At the time of filming, Kurt was the same age that Elvis was when he filmed his scene with a young Kurt. He mentioned the beauty of the timing during his interview.

“There I was, 10 years later when I was 27 years old, playing Elvis Presley,” said Kurt. “He was someone who made a big impression on a 10-year-old kid.”

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