A Good Day To Die Hard marks the second blockbuster featuring Jai Courtney to hit the screen in three months. Following his work in Jack Reacher, Courtney plays Bruce Willis’ son in the new Die Hard movie. And he spared us some time to talk about it, as well as chatting about Spartacus, Andy Whitfield, Werner Herzog and more…
I’d hate you to think I take films too seriously, but the way I see it, you’re Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s son…
You’re going into a role here in a heavily manifested franchise, as the son of a character who’s been leading the franchise from day one. How do you look at it? Do you dig into how other people portray fathers and sons?
Gordon-Levitt was obviously a very different thing…
True. He had a special chin and everything.
Yeah! I wasn’t doing what he was doing that in this, and Looper was only released towards the end of doing this. I enjoyed the movie though!
My approach wasn’t heavily based on imitating or mimicking Bruce really. I think about fathers and sons, they’re totally different people. Sometimes there’s a physical resemblance or whatever, but sometimes we can take poetic licence with that in the world of filmmaking. For me, the similarities were there on the page, and it was just about creating that relationship and believing in that.
So how do you create it? Did you spend a lot of time together pre-filming, or was it pretty instinctive?
Pretty instinctive. We kind of had a fairly natural chemistry that we discovered in the audition process. I guess that’s why it probably worked out, and we ended up going to work together on this movie. It didn’t require too much rehearsal or time; that’s certainly not the nature of these kind of things. You’ve just got a job to do, and try and have fun doing it.
It was all on the page though. And I think the interesting part, and probably why we could do it without having to work up to things too much is that they’re estranged. They haven’t been hanging out for years. So in some ways it’s helpful to see it on set, and see how it happens.
I read the story of when you were offered the part, and how you were about to board a plane to Sydney. But how many times did you have to audition for it? It sounded like quite a lengthy process…
It wasn’t too bad. I originally read months and months and months earlier, and nothing happened. You get used to that scenario, especially in L.A. with the amount of auditions that young actors are doing on a weekly basis. So I kind of forgot about it and moved on. And I went off to work on something a little while after that, and it was when I finished on that that I got the call saying they were still on the search for the right actor for this role. Could I go in and read again? After that, there was only one audition, and then the test with Bruce.
Did Jack Reacher help then? Because presumably the mechanic changes when you move onto a big movie set with a big movie star, but you’d done that for the first time just before this one. I wonder if that relaxes you slightly?
Yeah, definitely. I think that’s definitely fair to say. It certainly desensitised me to the ‘celebrity’ thing that can make you feel nervous, and poison your preparation a little bit. But also, I know it’s only a three month process, but I would have grown as an actor. You’re around the set, you’re around other talented people, you’ve got more of an awareness for what’s translating to the screen. I think that’s the great thing about any project is what you pick up: you can apply it to the next thing.
Heading into the audition process after that, Jack Reacher helped me immeasurably.
So what kind of bruises do you get off a Die Hard movie compared to Spartacus?
Spartacus was a lot of busted fingers, because we were smacking those swords around the whole time! But look, y’know, minor cuts and bruises on this, nothing too serious!
Can I ask you about where you’re all up to on Be Here Now, the Andy Whitfield documentary? It’s funded now, I understand.
Yeah. It’s got the finishing touches being put on it as we speak. I was a big part of raising awareness for that and the fundraising in order to get it finished. Obviously it was Andy’s initiative, really, when he was still alive. It’ll just be great to see his dream realised, and see that finished. Y’know, it’s a compelling story.
It’s an important one.
Well, it’s an interesting exploration.
One last question. There’s a bit in Jack Reacher where Werner Herzog’s character is explaining how he lost his fingers. It looked brilliantly insane from where we were sat on our side of the screen. You’ve acted opposite all sorts of people. but acting against Werner Herzog is hardly an everyday occurence! What was your reaction, as he was coming out with this bizarre and brilliant story?
[Laughs] It was great. We had fun quoting that speech. [Does brilliant Werner Herzog impression] ‘These ones I lost in a Siberian prison’. It was awesome!
I love Werner. A lot of people were nervous to have him on set, because he’s such an interesting character. But he’s a sweetheart. He was cool. And he makes some very interesting films and great documentaries. It was just a privilege.
Die Hard 6 then, with Jason Statham as well?
[Laughs] We’ll see about that!
Are you interested?
Yeah man, if I get the chance to reprise the role, certainly! We’ll just have to wait and see!
Jai Courtney, thank you very much.
A Good Day To Die Hard is out on the 14th February in the UK.
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