Jai Courtney has successfully weaved back and forth between the worlds of theater and TV -- he was the star of TV’s Spartacus: War of the Damned -- and is now back on the big screen in A Good Day to Die Hard after his turn in last winter’s Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise. He admitted, in our exclusive interview, that whether small screen or large, the process is remarkably similar.
“For me, it’s about capturing the character. Technically, there are large differences. Some argue that it’s a totally different craft, but I haven’t found that the case. TV often moves quicker -- there’s things that are brought into that that change the way you do your job,” Courtney said. “From a performance perspective, it’s similar.”
As shown in the A Good Day to Die Hard trailer, this story finds John McClane (Bruce Willis) heading to Russia to save (so he thinks!) his son Jack (played by Courtney). The Australian actor found the lack of presence of McClane's son in previous Die Hard movies a chance to completely invent the Jack character.
"The interesting thing is when we meet these two characters in the same space, they don’t know what each other has been up to, so there was a lot of freedom to get creative," Courtney said.
Willis and Courtney spoke in-depth with director John Moore to explore where Jack had been and what he had been up to, as well as how he wound up in Russia. "Jack and John have been estranged for some time. He has no idea he is in the CIA. And for someone to be that deep undercover and obviously worked in military background, he has to have gone off the grid in a serious way for that to be news to his father," he added.
"We had a lot of fun creating that. We tease that he was a rebellious youth, perhaps trying to piss off his cop father. But, I think that rebellion led to him finding discipline in a way and he approaches things in a different way than John, which creates an interesting dynamic when we get into the buddy flick."
Willis and Courtney's chemistry pops off the screen, as shown in this A Good Day to Die Hard clip.
"It was pretty organic," Courtney said of making the cinematic father and son. "With a film of this nature, it’s almost better to keep it fresh and see what happens on the day. Technically there will always be aspects that you need to be prepared for, as far as their relationship, the banter, but it was fun. A lot of the conflict comes out of the fact that they think they’re vastly different from one another, but really they are very similar. Jack is truly just a chip off the old block."
Courtney admitted to enjoying the franchise, but not being a Die Hard fanatic growing up. In fact, he was only old enough to see Live Free or Die Hard in the theaters. "In my teens, the first one I saw was the third, Die Hard with a Vengeance. They were just films I caught," Courtney admitted. "I watched them all. I was aware of the franchise, and it is very iconic. It’s so crazy to think I’m part of that now."
With 20th Century Fox paying tribute to the franchise with its recent Die Hard mural unveiling, Courtney's otherworldly feeling of being part of the Die Hard universe was only further enhanced. "It means everything. It meant the world to me," he said. "I’m proud of this film and very fortunate to be in this position. It’s kind of mind-blowing. Hopefully, it’s not over yet. I think audiences are going to be excited by this latest installment and hopefully we’ll do many more."
When it came time to film with the legend that is Bruce Willis, Courtney reported that it was just best to ignore that fact and tackle the work. But, he still had moments of awe. "It was one of those things that was exciting and scary at the same time. It was a little intimidating. At the core, it’s just cool," Courtney said.
"I just embraced that. The sooner that I realized that I could just go out there and do the job and not worry about performing opposite Bruce Willis, it was kind of better. I had moments throughout the shoot where he did incredibly McClane-type things and I’d be so psyched. But, at the end of the day, you’re just castmates. He was great at being there for me the whole way. You look at Bruce and he’s every bit as good as he was on the first film, even better."
It mirrored another experience he had recently. “I had the same thing with Tom Cruise on Jack Reacher. Here’s a guy that’s a consummate professional. Watching these guys at the state of their careers, they’re so respected. It’s cool to see them still so passionate. It’s admirable."