Interviews

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Set Visit: Ray Stevenson

Source: Silas Lesnick
March 14, 2013



Q: How does it feel to be the Big Bad of the film?
Ray Stevenson:
Itís so much fun. I get to blow stuff up and shoot guns. I have a fight with that big man over there. Itís a lot of fun.

Q: Youíve been doing a lot of iconic properties between Thor, The Punisher and this.
Stevenson:
I only do icons. Actually, Iím not sure what it is. Itís a desperate measure to try and get an action figure for my two little boys. Finally, I may be getting one! "Thor" was going to do one, but I havenít seen it.

Q: Speaking of stuff for kids, the riff on the Punisher you did for "Super Hero Squad" was hilarious.
Stevenson:
Ah, yes. Heís a weird character to try and throw in the mix somewhere. Heís sort of walking death. Someone once asked me, ďIf you put Spider-Man, Batman and who-ever man in a room with you, whoís going to come out?Ē I said, ďOh, come on. They donít kill people.Ē Itís unfortunate, but if youíre on Frankís list...

Q: Thereís kind of cult growing up around that film now.
Stevenson:
I think so, yeah. It would be nice. Not a lot of fans knew it when it was out, but it really has grown over the years, which is really nice.

Q: There have been talks of turning the Punisher into a live-action television series.
Stevenson:
Really? Why not? I mean, thereís always room for a good vigilante story. Not that I advocate vigilantism! But thereís always room for a good one. I just think that, with Frank Castle, you run the danger of popularizing him to a certain degree. You donít want Billy Neíer-do-wellís kid tooling up and going back to take revenge on all the bullies at school, do you? Again. You donít want to glamorize someone like Frank Castle and say thatís alright to take vengeance into your own hands. Thatís why, with "Punisher: War Zone," we really made of point of showing the world as a dark place. Youíre kind of glad heís there and you want to see what he does next, but it downplays that idea that someone would want to go out and actually be Frank. People wear the symbol. They wear that skull in different ways, shapes and forms. If you cross a line, thereís zero tolerance. If you go and murder children or rape children, youíve crossed a bloody line. Thereís a certain instinct in everyone that thereís a zero tolerance line somewhere and itís not up to the lawyers to really work that out.

Q: Does Firefly have his own agenda in this movie, or is he strictly working under Cobra Commanderís orders?
Stevenson:
Yeah, heís working with Cobra Commander. Heís very much a right hand guy, really. But he is a mercenary type of character, basically. He was an ex-Joe and heís now going for the highest bidder. Now he dresses better.

Q: So he has a history with some of the Joes?
Stevenson:
Not so much personally as just with the whole Joe setup. Heís got no problem with murdering a few of them. He just lights them up, really. One of the lines we tried at one point was, ďIíve broken out of eight prisons, but Iíve only broken into one.Ē So yeah, heís got a bit of a sketchy past. Heís just fascinated with things that go boom.

Q: Youíre wearing some very distinct makeup.
Stevenson:
This is only half of it because Iím in the car today. Ordinarily, they darken the hair and do more on the scar. I had this idea that it should be a bone white tree of a scar, like the mark of Kane.

Q: How did this project come your way?
Stevenson:
Lorenzo di Bonaventura very graciously called my agent. He said he was a bit of a fan and asked if Iíd be interested in playing Firefly. I said, ďIn a heartbeat. Where and when?Ē He said, ďNew Orleans.Ē I came here once before a few years ago for ďCirque du FreakĒ and was delighted for the chance to be back.

Q: Were you familiar with the cartoon or the comics beforehand?
Stevenson:
It was all new to me. It was a new world to discover, which was great fun. Itís got its own kind of energy and its own genre. Itís own sort of style. Ninjas. The Arashikage. If you can commit to that world, itís great. You can only take the comics and the previous movie so far. Ultimately, itís about the script. Thatís what you then zero down on.

Q: Did you find that with your other roles in Thor and Punisher that you were dealing with a fanbase that was already very active and engaged?
Stevenson:
Itís scary, really. But theyíve invested. The fanbase is invested, especially in such established, iconic characters. Theyíve invested every week and every fortnight, buying the comics for years. Actually, the characters belong to the fans. You do have to be respectful of that, but youíre not doing the comic. Youíre doing the script. With Volstagg, other than having a CGI Volstagg thatís nine feet tall and nine feet wide, it was more to try and get the spirit of it. Heís a guy who has got a heart the size of a planet and wears it on his arm.

Q: It seemed like you sure loved wearing that Volstagg fat suit.
Stevenson:
That suit. Oh my god, it was a nightmare. I remember Kenneth Branagh saying, ďYou can go larger, love. Go larger.Ē I said, ďAlright, but if I dip my toe in the river of ham, youíve got to tell me.Ē He turned around and went, ďDarling, youíre speaking to someone who has swam in the river many times.Ē He just said, ďYou canít go too large.Ē So I thought, ďAll right.Ē My son was three at the time and, when something upset him, itís like his whole body cries. Volstagg has that childlike quality. When itís time for battle, itís ďFor Asgard!Ē and he just thinks heíll sort it out later and charges in.

Q: One of the things youíre very good at is jumping into character that donít just look very different but sound very different. Can you talk about the voice of Firefly?
Stevenson:
I like to just change a little thing. You look at the characterís center of gravity. Frank was a heavyweight boxer. Heís got Judo legs. If you hit him with a truck, heís still going to be standing there. Itís a different center of gravity than someone like Volstagg, whose center of gravity is much higher, even though heís larger. I remember looking at the elephants in ďFantasiaĒ or ďDumboĒ where theyíre up on their toes. Itís a different center of gravity. So you can change the voice as well. How someone speaks can say as much about a character as anything else.

Q: Are your key weapons the guns you have on you?
Stevenson:
Iíve got the handguns. You should see my jacket. Iíve got my knife and Iíve got fireflies. Bascially, theyíre munitions with bombs. Then my bike is one huge weapon of mass destruction.

Q: How much bike riding do you actually do in the movie and what kind of training did you have?
Stevenson:
None whatsoever. I think it was too risky. Even the stunt guys that use that bike were expert, it was their specialized area. And even they had trouble with that bike. It looks great. Itís got machine guns, rockets, whatever but in actually riding that thing, actually controlling it, itís a beast. So it wouldnít even be worth training me up and getting me on it.

Q: Are you excited for "Thor: The Dark World" and is there anything youíd like to see Volstagg do in the next one.
Stevenson:
Iíd like him to be in it. [Laughs] Iím still waiting to hear. I was very proud of the first one. I thought Chris Hemsworth did a cracking job, as did Ken Branagh.

Q: It was one of the hardest ones to get right.
Stevenson:
We walked a knife-edge on that movie and any slip along that way and you would have lost your audience but he took this behemoth and pulled it off.

Q: The template is set now, so it should be easier for you guys to go back and play in the world.
Stevenson:
Fortunately he did the Asgard stuff first. Because wearing those larger than life costumes, if weíd have done the New Mexico stuff, it would have looked like the medieval fair come to town. But we had done Asgard and seen some of the biggest sets Iíve ever been on.

Q: What are your fight scenes like in this one?
Stevenson:
I have two or three big fights with Dwayne. Fisticuffs. We end up hand to hand twice. One early on and then one big one at the end Ė very cool fighting. Very unique... Gun-fu. Itís kung-fu with guns. Firing at the same time, and blocks. The whole sequence was worked out where we both have weapons drawn and are literally blocking and kicking. Itís just incredible.

Q: Are you getting ready to shoot that?
Stevenson:
Weíre shooting some of it tomorrow. We have to tidy up with the first unit. Second unit spent two or three days last week on the whole fight.

Q: Is the fight choreography more difficult because you have to have that whole extension?
Stevenson:
Well, itís technical. Since you canít be shooting blanks. In case one goes off in somebodyís face. So technically the fight is a choreographed dance because squibs are going off in the wall. So when you do that [motions with his gun] thereís an explosion in the wall. So itís on target. You just learn it.

Q: Johnson seems like a good action partner because heís the kind of guy who throws himself into it 100 percent.
Stevenson:
Completely. Heís great. Really easy to work with. Heís fast and strong. Even some of the blocks, itís like hitting an iron bar. Heís great. Iím not sure Iíve ever fought anyone that size before. Heís monumental. Itís interesting to be eye to eye in a firefight with a guy who is six foot four.

Q: Thatís one of the rare things about you physically, a lot of actors are not 6 foot 4 and you bring that physicality.
Stevenson:
I just keep my head down. Itís never really posed a problem Ė or Iíve never really heard about it. Hopefully I just keep working and no one says anything about it.

Q: In this scene here, you crash and then run?
Stevenson:
No. This scene, we go head-to-head. It leads up to the gun-fu fight. And basically heís in this attack tank and Iím on my motorbike and weíre literally gunning at each other. Firing all weapons at each other. And I launch some rockets as he launches some and both things blow up. He just blew my bike up. But I have this package which has been taken from the Fort, from the Heads of State. Itís my briefcase, which I canít possibly live without. So Iím hightailing it off to a speedboat out there with a machine gun on it. And heís got a bigger boat. And he gives chase. We have this chase around the piers with guns going off and then weíre into this mano a mano. Itís going to be great but this is us going head to head. I think Jon Chu is bringing a lot of heart to this. Itís not just about these amazing toys and action scenes. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, thatís his world as well. But Jon Chu is bringing a lot of heart to it as well.

Q: Chu said there was a lot of improv before filming began but since youíre separate Ė did you go through that?
Stevenson:
No. We kind of Skyped. ďHi Jon.Ē ďHi Ray. How are you?Ē It was weird. Jon and Lorenzo must have had a discussion before that. So, I didnít get grilled. It was Lorenzoís role: ďI want you to play it but I want you to come up with things. See what you want to do with it.Ē Very simple. No pressure.

Q: You mentioned Firefly is a mercenary.
Stevenson:
Heís an ex-Joe.

Q: He has no actual political agenda?
Stevenson:
Just power and money. And being with the biggest gang. And I think he just likes to dress like this. He dresses like heís going to Bahnheim in Berlin. A big club in Berlin, rather than on parade. Heís done his parade days. Theyíre over.

Q: Did he kill that alligator himself?
Stevenson:
Oh yeah. And ate it. He killed it with a bomb. ďIíll put it on the back of that jacket. Itís going to look cool.Ē In fact, on the elbow is the tongue. Alligator tongue. Iíve got some stingray skin on there as well.

Q: Have you seen any alligators down here while youíre filming?
Stevenson:
Yeah, Iíve done the tours down in the bayou. And thereís that wonderful, wonderful educational program: Swamp People. None unexpectedly, though.

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