Another old article about Jai in movie “A Good Day To Die Hard”
by Philippa Hawke
March 19, 2013
Preparing for the action sequences in the new Die Hard film wasn’t the trickiest part of the assignment for Australian actor Jai Courtney.
Nor was being cast as Bruce Willis’ son. For Courtney, almost the biggest challenge of A Good Day To Die Hard was learning some lines in Russian and making them sound convincing.
I’m sometimes embarrassed to admit how casually I approach things. I’m not someone who likes to live in the gym.
He had dialogue coaching, thinking that he would grasp some basic sense of the language, but was “not even close”. And the preparation was done well in advance of the shoot – too far ahead, perhaps.
“You get to that day of filming and it’s all gone. It was much more challenging than any physical stuff or stunts we had to learn,” he says.
An American accent, on the other hand, is a fairly normal element of his working life. It’s a standard requirement for an Australian actor looking for work in Hollywood. “Auditioning for a couple of years, 99 per cent of the time you are doing an American accent,” he says.
He had good teachers when he studied at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and he also works with a dialogue coach to brush up before an American role.
And, he adds, Willis paid him an indirect compliment, telling an interviewer who asked him about the movie that Courtney had the classic South Jersey accent.
Courtney’s first feature appearance, and his first job straight out of studying at WAAPA, was a small role that involved a day’s shoot in Kalgoorlie for Stone Bros (2009), an Australian comedy directed by Richard Frankland.
After graduating he moved to Sydney and started to audition. A year later, he got a role in the first season of the TV series Spartacus, then went to Los Angeles to begin auditioning there.
Of making the move to a lead in a big-budget feature, he says: “I don’t know if there is a way to prepare yourself. I guess you gain whatever you can from whatever other stuff you’ve worked on and rely on your instincts as an actor, and your work ethic.”
It raises the stakes a little, he adds, working on a big-budget feature with well-known actors, or on a high-profile franchise such as the Die Hard series.
In A Good Day To Die Hard, Courtney plays Jack, the estranged son of Willis’ tenacious cop, John McClane, who is being held in a Russian jai for reasons that aren’t entirely clear at first.
He is, in some ways, a chip off the old block, temperamentally and physically. But it would have been a mistake, Courtney says, to overthink the fact he was playing Willis’ son, or make too much of an effort to establish a resemblance.
“It could have gone into serious cheeseland if I attempted to do something too close to the man himself.”
It wasn’t like Looper, the recent science-fiction drama in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt played a younger version of Willis, Courtney notes. That involved prosthetics and special effects, and a performance that established physical and stylistic echoes.
Still, to play an action role in an action movie there are certain requirements. “With films of this nature, you have to rehearse stunt sequences, or learn fights, or familiarise yourself with weapons or car training. Safety is paramount, so you can’t step into something like that without some level of preparation.”
But it doesn’t necessarily involve a punishing training regime, he adds. Less than people expect, at any rate: it’s more about simply staying in shape and looking after yourself.
“I’m sometimes embarrassed to admit how casually I approach things,” he says. “I’m not someone who likes to live in the gym.”
Before A Good Day To Die Hard, Courtney had a role in Jack Reacher as an expert marksman on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the title character, played by Tom Cruise.
His character was in league with an arch-villain played with quiet menace by director Werner Herzog. Courtney knew some of the filmmaker’s movies, he says, and looked forward to working with him.
“It was great, he’s a lovely guy. A bit of a kooky dude, but it was great to have him on the set and work alongside him.”
His next couple of features have an Australian connection. Last year he was in I, Frankenstein, directed by Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow, When The War Began), which is due for release in September. And in December he finished shooting Felony, an Australian feature written by and starring Joel Edgerton.
“It’s great to come home and work,” he says – and especially on a film shot in the parts of Sydney he grew up in. He plays a young suburban detective in Felony. “He’s kind of green and represents the moral compass, the kind of ‘true north’ of that particular story.”
In a few weeks he starts shooting Divergent, directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless), based on the novel by Veronica Roth, the first of a series that has been compared to The Hunger Games. “I’m probably wandering down the villainous path again, a little,” he says. “This isn’t a genre I’ve explored before. I’m looking forward to having some fun with it.”
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