“I don’t know whether to join the [misinformation] or tell the truth … ,” Gunn briefly teases. “As a storyteller, I feel equally beholden to this wonderful story, but at the end of the day, the truth wins out.”
Russell, of course, was a child actor making a series of Disney movies — including 1966’s “Follow Me, Boys!” with Fred MacMurray — when Walt Disney died that same year.
As Russell recounted in the 1999 biography “Remembering Walt” by Amy Boothe Green and Howard E. Green: “Sometimes [Disney would] come down to the set and ask, ‘Do you want to see part of a movie that’s being put together?’ ”
Russell has said over the years that the legendary animator-filmmaker liked to ask him questions to get a sense of how a young mind works. The actor has said that Walt Disney reminded him of his own grandfather — inventive and creative and thoughtful — and so the teen actor was unintimidated by the mogul.
Walt Disney, impressed by the young actor’s gifts, wanted him under contract for future Disney films — which might well explain why the words “Kirt Russell” were found scribbled on a note on the filmmaker’s desk when he died at age 65.
“I’ve seen that sheet on this desk, that spells ‘Kirt Russell,’ ” Gunn confirms.
“I was able to take a tour of Walt Disney’s office — they’ve totally re-created how it was on the Disney lot when he died. They love their Disney lore — all the Disney guys — and they kind of told me the whole story.”
Russell himself was shown the sheet soon after the filmmaker died, when a Disney employee asked him about its possible meaning. Perhaps Walt had written the actor’s name weeks earlier, while planning a next picture for him? No one knows for sure.
“It isn’t exactly a true story, that this was the last thing [Disney] wrote in his office,” Gunn says.
Yet the lore persists — fittingly for a filmmaker and studio head who liked to fire our youthful imaginations.
“I talked to Kurt about it; he loves the story,” Gunn says playfully. “I believed it. I think Kurt believes in it and [Marvel Studios head] Kevin Feige believes it.”
Hollywood storytellers embracing such a tale? Now that’s easy to believe.