CS Interview: Star Jai Courtney on action thriller Honest Thief
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with star Jai Courtney (The Suicide Squad) to discuss his role in the Liam Neeson-led action thriller Honest Thief as the corrupt FBI agent John Nivens. The film is now out in select theaters!
ComingSoon: You’ve kicked ass with Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise, you’ve had your ass kicked by Tom Cruise, what’s it like entering the ass-kicking world of Liam Neeson?
Jai Courtney: I feel like it was just the direction I had to go, I had to tick another one of these legends off my list and who better to link up with than Liam on a movie like this [laughs]. It was a lot of fun and he’s obviously a legend and it’s kind of a familiar genre for him and what we love seeing him do and that’s a big part of why I wanted to get involved and come on board, so I was thrilled for the opportunity.
CS: Though we’ve seen you play similar characters before, what was it like getting to the heart of your role in this one?
JC: I always have a lot of fun with these characters, I do try to spread them out a little because I have other interests and I feel like there’s kind of more strings to my bow, but it is a lot of fun when you get to do something like this where you’re a pretty straightforward bad guy. You always try to root that in something that feels authentic and Nivens was no exception, he’s a guy that truly believes that it’s a victimless crime they’re committing and what’s the big deal and he makes some sense. It might not be in line with everyone’s moral code, but there’s something to be said for it. I always just try to have fun with that and not judge these bad guys too harshly and it helps me settle into that and enjoy and I hope audiences can do that with this character as well.
CS: What was it like developing the antagonistic banter with Liam and Anthony Ramos?
It was great, Anthony and I had a great time, we play very different guys where our codes sit and our ethical approach to the job, so it was kind of interesting because they’re both sort of not on the same page the whole time and trying to convince him of some of the stuff we have to be capable of created a nice energy between us. Liam was interesting, there’s so much of the film where we’re not in the same room, but he’s kind of coming after us or we’re going after him, so it was really cool when we finally got to do a couple of those scenes where we’re in the same space, there’s some great action there as well and of course no Liam Neeson film would be complete without some great phone conversations either [laughs]. It was cool to be a part of some of those moments in it as well.
CS: Did you find you got to do a majority of your stunts throughout the film?
JC: Yeah I did and it was a lot of fun, it’s not like super super heavy for my character, but there’s some great shootout stuff and it’s always good working with some great people and getting some weapons combat. We had a fantastic stunt team, Mark Vanselow, who also doubles as Liam, was our coordinator, they’ve been together for a long time and I think they have a really great shorthand in developing the action for his kind of stuff and the kind of film that he likes to make and I had a great time with him. There was some cool stuff, some great pyrotechnics, a bit of driving as well, some good car-rig stuff. I haven’t played this space in a minute, I’ve kind of been exploring other types of cinema and TV even in this past year, so it was cool to be back in the saddle with a sort of straightforward action film and playing a role of this kind.
CS: Since you mention TV, Mark Williams is one of the creative minds behind Ozark, did you two talk at all about having you join the final season?
[Laughs] No I didn’t bug him about that, so it’s all good, these things will either happen or they won’t through the kind of natural progression of things. The show Stateless I did out in Australia, it came out on Netflix not too long ago and I’m thrilled with that, there’s such great writing in TV at the moment and I really enjoy that more long-form storytelling so hopefully one of these days I’ll find something to go over there and do, it’d be awesome. I’m a big fan of Ozark, that was a lot of what had to do with getting involved with Mark and hearing his brilliant ideas.
CS: There’s a nice dark humor underlying the whole film, what was it like for you honing in on that tone for your character?
JC: I kind of like that vibe, it’s kind of what’s fun about playing a role like this is you have to kind of be able to manage that, it’s kind of what helps keep these characters enjoyable. That’s always kind of my goal in playing a villain is to portray something people want more of, even if they’re not someone that’s really likable, you want them walking away feeling like they had fun with them. Kind of having a bit of banter and a bit of a comic edge to some of the exchanges, that all is the sort of things that make it interesting for me when I’m exploring it and reading something and deciding if it’s the right move and Nivens was kind of right in line with that. I saw an opportunity to have a lot of fun with someone and get up to no good.
CS: What would you say were some of your biggest creative challenges coming into this project?
Honestly the challenging stuff was getting back into some of the physical scenes and working out some of that stunt stuff. There’s a great fight scene with myself and Kate Walsh, which was a lot of fun, but took a lot of rehearsal, and some stuff with Liam’s character as well and I think having that bit of a break from the action scene, that’s the sort of stuff that’s such a perishable skill and that you really get a fitness for when you’re doing a lot of it. I think that was something where I was like, “Damn, yeah, we’re getting back in the gym and putting the work in to make sure these scenes really serve the movie and they’re exciting and keeping everyone safe during.” That was probably the biggest challenge with this, playing an asshole comes kind of naturally to me, so working with a character like Nivens is often the easiest kind of stuff I get to do and I do joke a little there, but strangely there’s something kind of so fun and satisfying about playing a character that doesn’t have a ton of redeeming qualities and it frees you up. It’s good to play someone earnest who has a strict kind of moral code as well and is dealing with challenges within, but for a film like this it was cool to play someone like Nivens and I’ll be doing it again for sure.
Written by Steve Allrich (The Canyon) and directed by Mark Williams, the co-creator of the hit Netflix crime thriller Ozark, Honest Thief will follow a bank robber (Neeson) who after attempting to turn himself in after falling in love with an employee from where his loot is stashed must deal with the complications that arise when his case is taken on by corrupt FBI agents, played by Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos.
Williams produced Honest Thief alongside Tai Duncan, Stephen Emery and Myles Nestel of Solution Entertainment Group, which sold the international rights to the film to Briarcliff and Open Road in June.
Neeson has found large success in recent years in the action genre, starring in the fan-favorite Taken trilogy and starring in this year’s box-office hit The Commuter, the fourth collaboration between him and director Jaume Collet-Serra. The 66-year-old actor will next be seen in the upcoming comedy Made in Italy, the directorial debut of James D’Arcy (Avengers: Endgame), which is scheduled for an August 7 release.
Honest Thief is in select theaters now!