Man at His Best

Ten Minutes With: Suicide Squad Star Jai Courtney

He's carving out a niche as a beefcake who can act​.

BY | Aug 2, 2016 | Film & TV

Jai Courtney has hewn out a position for himself as a go-to guy in blockbusters and franchise movies, which is no bad thing if you want to be a working actor in Hollywood these days.

The 30-year-old Australian's second film role was as the villain's henchman in Tom Cruise action movie Jack Reacher; his third was playing John McClane's son alongside Bruce Willis in the fifth Die Hard film. He played bad in the first two Divergent movies and good, as Kyle Reese, in Terminator Genisys. His latest is sort of good and bad: as one of a team of caged supervillains released to save the world, in the forthcoming superhero movie Suicide Squad.

It would be fair to say that his physical presence is among his prize assets, but Courtney is a classically trained actor with three years of drama school and a love of theatre. When Suicide Squad bursts into multiplexes, he'll be filming The God Four, a rowing drama, which will be his first movie lead (co-starring with Michael Douglas and Game Of Thrones' Natalie Dormer) and the sort of robust, acting-with-action role that could become his stock-in-trade.

Does the hype and fan-boy analysis of a film like Suicide Squad affect the actors?
You have to welcome that in. You can't accept the support without willing to be critiqued. We have that community to thank for the success of these films, and the hype that gets behind them. That's why we're living in a period where they are so profitable and attractive to make.

Are they attractive to work on, not just for those who rake in the profits?
For Suicide Squad, we were afforded an awesome rehearsal process, which you're often not on films of this size. You learn new technical skills a lot as an actor but you don't always get to work on the craft with your cast-mates. On Suicide Squad, we did have boot camp in a sense, for the physical stuff and the fight work, but also for creative stuff, too. It pulled something out of everyone that you don't always get a chance to access. To be honest, I didn't realise the experience would be as rewarding as it was. I'm really, truly thankful for it.

What other useful life skills have you learned?
I had to learn horse riding a few years ago, but I haven't kept up any time in the saddle. There's been a lot of weapons work and martial arts. The horse riding was for The Water Diviner with Russell Crowe [who also directed the film]. When I met him for the role, he asked me if I could ride a horse, and I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Don't bullshit me.' I thought I was pretty convincing, but he said to me, 'Every actor thinks he can ride a horse and play the harmonica.' I've never been asked to play the harmonica, but I should totally put that on my CV.

Are you learning rowing for The God Four?
Yes, and it's far more challenging than they make it look in the Olympics. It's like golf: if you try and hit the ball hard first time, chances are you'll shank it. First time in a boat is the same. You want to utilise power and strength, which you do need, but the adjustments are so delicate and your progress depends on them.

Suicide Squad is a huge summer movie; The God Four is an independent drama. Are there similarities working on big movies and smaller ones?
I've come to realise that it's a triumph for any film just to get made. Anyone who really knows what goes into the process will agree. It's incredible that they get completed, and if it can be something that can be considered good, or even great, and pleases audiences as well? That is a fucking miracle.

Is it the ambition of every Australian actor to get to Hollywood?
It's somewhat of a cultural approach in Australia to not dream too big. I think we are different to the Americans in that way. Quietly, I did believe that was possible, but I also had no idea what that road looked like getting there. So there was a part of me that also just wanted to make a living out of acting. Had I gone on a domestic TV show in Australia and it provided me with a lifestyle and something for years, that's more than most of us hope for as actors.

You are one of the few Aussies in Hollywood without a home-grown soap on your CV.
I'm still young though, mate. I might go home and do an arc on Neighbours any time, let's not rule it out.

From: Esquire UK.