Interview for a journal DAMAN
March 31, 2014
CRUEL INTENTIONS. Being a ruthless leader in “Divergent” doesn’t reveal the nature of Australia’s acting export Jai Courtney. Here DA MAN chats with the male protagonist in the upcoming “Terminator” franchise.
Some say that great actors possess the chameleon-like ability to transform from one role to another. In the case of Jai Courtney, the bulky posture is recognizable, but the character is ever-changing. Rewind back to five years ago, the heart-warming personality won the hearts of many admirers by playing the honest chap Damian in the Australian prime time soap opera “Packed to the Rafters.” Titillating with plenty heart-to-heart conversations and family trials, Courtney showcased a convincing act before the camera despite no kicks and jabs involved in almost all of the scenes. But that was bound to change. ‘
In Hollywood, the 28-year-old thespian seemingly took on a different entity. His big break in the “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” TV series paved the way for coring major film titles that often portray him as vicious and unforgiving. True to his character Varro in the TV series, Courtney has embodied a gladiator persona, a “killing machine” figure that scares and keeps the audience glued on the edge of the seat. Such is his latest role of Eric, the leader of the Dauntless faction, in the action-packed blockbuster “Divergent.” Tattoos and piercings elevate his menacing appearance, complicated further by Courtney’s gripping deliverance as the gruesome, bloodthirsty fictional character. This year, Courtney is clearly on a roll as he takes on another character transformation alongside Jack O’Connell and Garrett Hedlund in a movie titled “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie. Also worth the wait is his own rendition of the coveted role of Kyle Reese in the “Terminator: Genesis,” acting against Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator. It’s clear to say, when it comes to picking the roles, Jai Courtney is one who knows how to roll with the punches.
DA MAN: Hi Jai, how are you doing? Where are you currently based? Jai Courtney: Doing well. Currently based in Los Angeles. DA: You played the cruel and ruthless Eric, the leader of Dauntless, in “Divergent.” How was it like?
JC: Divergent was a lot of fun to shoot. We were in Chicago for about four months. The cast was a great group, and we all got along like old friends.
DA: Like old friends?
JC: It was a fantastic ensemble to be a part of. A lot of us have become close friends and will probably remain so. It’ll be fun to get most of the gang back together for the sequel.
DA: That sounds great, and the possibility for a sequel is awesome. When you first joined the cast, had you read the book first or taken any physical training for it?
JC: I hadn’t read any of the books until I was considering taking the role. Once I realized how great the material was, I started to get excited by the possibility. Training wasn’t too intense for me on this project. I knew I had to appear intimidating, so I just hit the gym a little harder to bulk up.
DA: Appearing intimidating is one thing, but how do you connect with such a character?
JC: I think the initial reaction to the character of Eric is that he’s mean. But I had to find ways to feel compassion for him. I looked at him as a purist, a hardened young alpha male whose approach to training the initiates wasn’t necessarily kind, but he was still genuinely invested in their training and potential to become good Dauntless warriors.
DA: If you could pick one memorable moment in the making of “Divergent,” what would it be?
JC: That’s hard to pin down. The whole process was memorable. I think my favorite scene to shoot was when Eric throws Christina (played by Zoë Kravitz) over the ledge above The Chasm.
DA: It’s interesting to notice that you have starred in a number of Hollywood action movies. Is it your personal intention to focus more on this particular genre?
JC: I wouldn’t say it’s my focus, but I’ve had a lot of fun shooting films with heavy amounts of action. I like breaking that pattern from job to job, but as long as the script resonates with me well, I will always be open to do more action movies.
DA: And then there’s the “Terminator: Genesis,” which will be released sometime next year. Congratulations on landing the role of Kyle Reese. First of all, how did you get the part?
JC: Thank you! It was a pretty straightforward process. I tested for the part alongside Emilia Clarke who’s playing Sarah Connor. We had a great session with the director, Alan Taylor, for about two hours, and that was it. Fortunately, Emilia and I had great chemistry, and they offered me the part. I’m excited. It’s going to be a challenging shoot, but I can’t wait.
DA: While it will be awhile for the audience to finally get to watch that movie, how has your journey in Hollywood been so far?
JC: I started coming to L.A. after I worked on a series called “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” I came back-and-forth between here and Australia and just auditioned as often as I could. It took about two years to finally land a job. That film was “Jack Reacher.” Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to work pretty steadily in Hollywood.
DA: What’s your favorite movie role to do? What type of roles do you usually go for?
JC: Oh, another tough one to single out. I’m not sure. I really enjoyed making an Australian film called “Felony” last year. I got to work alongside Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the script. The character I played is a young detective in suburban Sydney. Something about that role really stuck with me. He has a great journey in the film battling with his moral code and the corruption he uncovers within the police force.
DA: How is it different being an actor in Hollywood and in Australia? JC: There’s a sense of momentum in Los Angeles that you don’t get in Australia. We don’t really have film studios like they do here, so there’s a lot less domestic content being produced. I guess you just feel busier in L.A., even when you’re not working. DA: Are there any actors whom you consider as role models?
JC: Lots. I mentioned Joel Edgerton before. He’s someone whose work I’ve admired for a long time, and it’s awesome to see him doing so well now. I just had the pleasure of working with Russell Crowe too, whom I’ve always had respect for as an actor. Hugh Jackman is another, [also] Guy Pearce. I have great admiration for the Aussie guys who’ve been able to achieve global success without compromising their integrity. All those guys pick great projects and work consistently. That’s something I’d like to echo in my career.
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