THE RED BULLETIN: Who is Agent 47?
RUPERT FRIEND: He’s an assassin who’s been genetically engineered to be faster, stronger, more intelligent … But he also has a freak anomaly in his genetic makeup that makes him a little more human—just enough that his owners realize he’s a threat and try to shut him down. I found that very exciting, the idea that this so-called flaw could be his greatest strength.
The film is based on a successful video game series. Did you feel pressure from fans to do the character justice?
There is pressure, but I think pressure is a good thing. The fact that there is a huge and very loyal fan base for this character sets the bar high, and that’s as it should be.
How did you cope with the physical aspects of the role?
You have to be fit; otherwise it just doesn’t work. Audiences are savvy and they know when you cut away to a stuntman. So I was pleased to do as many of the stunts as the insurance would allow. I trained in boxing, Muay Thai, judo, Krav Maga. It kept me engaged in a way that was very helpful.
How did you find the filming process?
It was a very physical shoot, but I think I would have coped far less if it hadn’t been. I don’t know how other people do action movies because I’ve only ever done this one, but I’ve heard plenty of stories about when the action comes up – or as I would call it the fun stuff – people kind of sloping off to their trailer and sending their stunt guy out to do it. I don’t work like that. Because I was in the thick of the action, it kept me engaged with the role in a way that was very helpful. I knew that 47 was a master of many more things than I would ever become in my lifetime, let alone in the preparation period that I had! But I trained in boxing, Muay Thai, judo and krav maga, which is this sort of no-rules Israeli self-defense system. And then there was the fact that Agent 47 is known for these two iconic ‘silverballer’ guns… I very much enjoyed working on a style of combat for this guy that was based around all of that.
Agent 47 is an established videogame character with a huge fanbase… Did you feel any pressure to do him justice on-screen?
There is pressure but I think pressure is a good thing. The fact that there is a huge, very loyal fanbase for this character sets the bar high, and that’s as it should be. He’s had a huge and rich world drawn for him in that genre and has completed a multitude of missions – I was interested in adding to the world that people have already created rather than trying to define it or create the definitive version of it. It’s more about enriching it - if you enjoy exploring this world, here’s some more of it.
The film also has some amazing car stunts. Were they fun to shoot?
We had [two-time Formula Drift champion] Tanner Foust on set. He had a version of 47’s car that had been modified just for him – they put this big metal stick down into the workings of the brakes so that he could manually lock them and override all of the computers that were telling the car not to skid. I got to sit in the car with him.
One time he accelerated at a brick wall and I saw my life flash before my eyes, then he pulled this handle, span the car backwards and parked it – from 100 to 0 mph – in between two cars parked a car’s width apart. It was extraordinary. When I’d gotten over the fear, I was just watching what his face and hands were doing while he pulled off these incredible stunts, because then it had to be me doing as much of it as you can shoot safely from the inside – which is not the full whammy, but it’s still got to feel that way. That felt like a real teamwork thing. He said the one thing that pissed him off about seeing car work in films is when you cut to inside the car you just don’t believe that [the actor is] driving it. So it was important for me to do him justice, and keep up my end of the bargain.
What was the hardest stunt you had to perform?
There’s one scene where my character is handcuffed to a table and has to climb up another man’s body, wrap both legs around his neck and bring him to the floor. I had to do it about 50 times. You get very familiar with your most intimate parts.