Catching Up With
As Kris Kristofferson Nears His 80th Birthday, The Reel To Real Guys Catch Up With The Actor And Musician To Discuss Westerns, Life And What It Means To Be Free
Kris Kristofferson in a talent agency publicity photo from 1978.
By David Fantle and Tom Johnson
Reel to Real Special for Modern Times Magazine
June 21, 2016 — Singer-songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson turns 80 on June 22. He’s marking that milestone by also appearing in a new motion picture that opens in select markets this month, Traded, starring Trace Adkins. Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr., the Western concerns “a father who must leave his ranch for Dodge City to save his daughter from an old enemy, putting his reputation as the fastest draw in the west to the test.”
For Kristofferson, this marks an infrequent foray back into feature films. His most notable performances include his role in Sam Peckinpah’s Billy Garrett and Billy the Kid, his Golden Globe-winning performance opposite Barbra Streisand in A Star is Born and his role in the Blade series with Wesley Snipes.
Known for his rebellious streak, Kristofferson is also playing a series of concert dates with another musical rebel, Willie Nelson. We had an opportunity to hurl some questions to Kristofferson about his film career, family and the Western genre.
RtoR: Growing up did you like Western movies, what were some of your favorites and why?
Kristofferson: Yes, we watched them on Saturdays at the theater in Brownsville, Texas. My favorites were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers films.
RtoR: Favorite Western stars and why?
Kristofferson: Gene Autry, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. They were all strong characters.
RtoR: After Gene Hackman made Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood several years ago, many thought the Western was coming back. There have not been a lot of Westerns made it recent years. Do you think Traded will renew interest in the Western genre and if so, why?
Kristofferson: I hope Traded renews interest, but I didn’t know it went anywhere. I’ve always enjoyed making and watching Westerns.
RtoR: Your daughter, Kelly appears in the film. What was it like working with her?
Kristofferson: Kelly is a beautiful artist and a pleasure to work with. She has always been nothing but pure joy.
RtoR: Is Kelly the only one of your children in show business? Did you encourage or discourage your kids into going into show business?
Kristofferson: I have never encouraged nor discouraged my kids to go into show business or any other business. I have always encouraged them to do what they love and to follow their heart. Several of my children have been in films, and one is a pro wrestler [son, Jody], which is show biz in a way.
RtoR: Making music or making movies, different, of course, but do you have a preference?
Kristofferson: Music is closest to my soul.
RtoR: What kind of acting roles do you look for these days?
Kristofferson: Anything. They don’t throw many scripts to guys my age.
RtoR: Is it true on your gravestone you said you want these words? "Like a bird on the wire...Like a drunk in a midnight choir...I have tried in my way to be free"
Kristofferson: I said that once, yes, but I don’t plan on having a tombstone per se.
RtoR: What does freedom mean to you?
Kristofferson: No restraint of any kind.
David Fantle & Tom Johnson have been entertainment journalists for more than 30 years and co-authored the 2004 book, Reel to Real: 25 Years Of Celebrity Profiles From Vaudeville To Movies To TV.Fantle teaches film and television at Marquette University in Milwaukee and Johnson is a former senior editor for Netflix. They can be reached at www.reeltoreal.com
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