He’s got one mission: kill whoever his target is, and take no prisoners. A mysterious and complex man of profound contradictions, his very existence seems to be a sin, but he wages a quiet war to rid the world of evil. He’s brilliant, charismatic and charming – yet reveals little about himself, has no name, and is known only by the last two digits of a barcode tattooed on the back of his head. Hitman is based on the video game from Eidos and IO Interactive.
Olyphant sat down with ComingSoon.net for a chat about the big screen adaptation. As he walked into the room, his hair was noticeably shaved short; that was due to some recent re-shoots which took place on the film. Check out what he had to say about coming back to playing Agent 47 and what we’re in for when Hitman shoots into theaters November 21st.
CS: What were the re-shoots about? Timothy Olyphant: Yeah, we did this kick-ass little action sequence in there, a couple little touch-up’s and stuff, and little bits and little inserts. It’s lovely to have that luxury. And then we had this action sequence that we sort of added.
CS: Did Xavier Gens direct the re-shoots? Olyphant: He is involved, he’s very involved. I saw him when I was there. He did not direct the re-shoots, but I don’t know what Fox’s position is on that – maybe he did direct the re-shoots? But, yeah, no I heard that talk that he was fired and I kept saying I was trying to get that guy fired for months. They finally fired him? F*ck! I was saying forever, “He doesn’t speak English, doesn’t anyone see that as a problem?”
CS: Can you tell us a little more about Agent 47? Olyphant: He’s based on this video game character. He’s essentially this guy who was born and bread for the purpose of killing. The story is essentially about this guy; he was hired to do this job and he does it, seemingly as well as he’s done any other. And then he’s told by the people he works for there was a witness and he’s got to clean that up. Something’s not right when he sees her – it’s a woman played by Olga Kurylenko, who’s just fantastic. She did a really lovely job, and there appears to be no recognition when she sees him, which obviously means something’s not right. And the next thing we know is someone is trying to kill me; the guy who I thought I killed is on television and nothing makes sense anymore. This guy’s world is being turned upside down.
CS: Did you play the video game or read up on the game to get familiar for the character? Olyphant: I did read about it – the lovely thing about the internet, as you lovely people know, there’s a wealth of information there – however, factual I’m not sure, but there is a wealth of information. And it felt like we did a – based on what I read and what I understand – a good job of honoring and paying tribute to the game, but at the same time we weren’t really slaves to it. It was a nice place to work from. Xavier was a big fan of the game – the director – a big gamer, in general. He got really involved and was really adamant about certain things that were reflected in the game. I also just thought that other than the imagery I saw, there were things like – there were a lot of things that once we got our hands on the script that Xavier and I both saw eye to eye on. It’s hard to tell what came first – whether we read about something in the game that inspired choices that were made or whether they were choices we wanted to do that were also reflected in the game. We were conscious to it the whole time.
CS: Have you given your likeness to future versions of the game? Olyphant: Oh, that’s a lawyer question, I’m not sure how or what they work out there. Have I given my likeness to? I don’t know, I don’t think so.
CS: How did you like your bald head? Olyphant: It’s a little chilly, it’s a little chilly, yeah. But, you know, it came with the part.
CS: What’s your take on the violence in the movie? Did Fox try to pull that back? Olyphant: Yeah, I’m aware of that, that was being talked about. I have no information where that supports that at all. I’ve had conversations, and they don’t have to have with me at all, and I’ve been very – ‘involved’ might be a strong word – but they’ve kept me in the loop here at the studio. There was nothing ever anything, there were never any conversations with any of the executives here or the producers in France or with Xavier that was about fear of being too violent. The only conversations we’ve had have been creative conversations that have been about the kind of violence and where it hurts or helps the story. There’s no way it’s not a violent film; we wouldn’t have – we’d have a 45-minute film. They can’t take out – we shot a very violent film. I think what happened is it’s a question of how you’re going to do – if there’s any truth to that rumor at all, there’s perhaps, there’s always a conversation about what you’re trying to elicit in an audience, the feelings. There’s a difference in the violence in the James Bond films, especially the one that just passed. There’s the violence in a Quentin Tarantino film as opposed to the violence in a horror film or something that’s designed to make you uncomfortable. I think if there was a conversation simply about that, finding the right tone – not about this idea of toning it down or making it less than it already is.
CS: What is the tone of the violence? Olyphant: I thought what we were making was reminiscent of, in terms of specific films, it felt like the old John Woo films, some of the films that have come out. South Korea has a certain elegance to the film, but the violence was there as well. It wasn’t comical. We weren’t making something that felt like, “50 guys just died, I hardly noticed.” It wasn’t that kind of thing. And I think that as the movie changed, Xavier and I had a lot of conversations about the type of violence and how it changes throughout the film as the character changes. Xavier was a very thoughtful guy, a very smart guy, he really is the main reason I was enthusiastic about this project. It’s not lost on me, the fact that Fox offered me a project like this, and it’s quite an opportunity and quite flattering. I’ve never done anything like this before, and had this type of responsibility, and that’s all well and good. But Xavier, from the moment we met, his enthusiasm for the material and his – he was aiming high. He wanted to make something he felt was – he was aiming high, and I thought that was impressive.
CS: This was such a quick project to come together; what was the timeline? Olyphant: It was quick. You’re talking about when you asked if I was doing it and it wasn’t true because it was out on the internet first. Apparently, that’s the way they do things around here. “Die Hard,” I wasn’t as much a part of it, but it felt like similar in scale, how fast it was shot. I was shooting “Die Hard” in January and it’s coming out on DVD in a couple weeks, so that’s impressive. But I think at that time, there were conversations happening, but it certainly wasn’t set in stone. I hadn’t met Xavier at that time. I didn’t commit to the film until Xavier and I talked. But it happened fast.
CS: Is there any humor in the film? Olyphant: We tried to find some moments, we definitely did. Perhaps not enough, I haven’t seen the final thing, but it’s always nice when you can find those moments. Yeah, we’re not yukin’ it up by any means, he was trying to make a serious film. But still, you’ve got to find those moments.
CS: How involved was Luc Besson as producer? Olyphant: I don’t know. I had very little interaction with him. When we were making the film, I met him, he was there for a day or two. But I don’t know how involved he was other than that, other than my experience; I didn’t have much interaction with him.
CS: How was it shooting the action sequences? Olyphant: It was great, I really enjoyed it. It was challenging. And it was challenging for a number of reasons – one, it was challenging because it’s a big responsibility and hadn’t had it before in this kind of film. And then it was sort of amplified that the director was French and the crew was Bulgarian, and so on and so forth. That all adds up to additional challenges. But that being said, I really enjoyed it, I really enjoyed it. And Xavier was a very smart guy and it was very rewarding to be engaging with him creatively – fighting the fight, if you will, day after day. How can we make this? Is there a way to make this scene smarter? Is there a way to make this scene more? How much of a character film can we make given the source material? Can we get to the heart of something here?
CS: What kind of acting tools did you have for playing Agent 47? Olyphant: I think the angle I take is, you trust that sort of takes care of itself; you kill a bunch of guys in an elevator and you walk out the only guy without a scratch on you, that defines who you are. And so you trust that, and you can leave that alone. You can say, “I don’t really need to try to convince everyone, I’m a badass, ’cause I just walked into that situation and I’m the one who comes out without a scratch.” And so you kind of put that aside, and what else you try and do is say, “What else is there?” How many other angles can you look at this and where is the humanity in it all. You start with a guy who goes from job to job to job, and it sounds sort of a cliché, it’s sort of a lonely existence – a traveling salesman. And I thought for a second, I thought it was kind of interesting to try and look at his job prior to the events that start to happen; it’s kind of mundane, job to job – you’re really good at what you do. It’s probably pretty easy and you’re not really engaging with too many people, and there’s probably some kind of detachment from it all to go out and do it. And then that’s start to get kind of interesting, it starts to get – when you look at something that’s special, and you try and figure out what’s pedestrian about it.
And the second thing that starts to happen is you realize once this guy is and you start to turn it upside down. What happens when that guy’s world just turns completely upside down. And you have this sense of a soldier, who essentially his job is “you point, and I shoot.” That’s basically the assassin, ’cause the assassin isn’t choosing who dies and who doesn’t die. Someone gives him a target and he goes and takes it out. And so what happens when there’s no trust and there’s no boss; the boss isn’t to be trusted, the target isn’t being given to you, and who do you take out and who do you not take out. And what starts to happen is it starts to have him examine in some sort of unconscious way, what else is there. If I’m not that guy, than do I have any other job skills? You start looking at it that way, and those are very human experiences and everyone can relate to that; everyone can relate to the carpet being pulled out from under you, and everyone can relate to the idea of asking yourself “Is this who I am, or am I capable of being someone else?” Not necessarily something better, but something else, and is that just pre-determined. Those are interesting things to try and explain.
CS: Is this a character that could be turned into a franchise? Olyphant: I don’t know what the studio’s – you’d have to ask them. These days, it seems like everything is intended to be. If it’s successful, there’s going to be another one. It’s hard to find a movie these days that doesn’t have a franchise potential. Someone was telling me “The Game Plan” sequel. I was like, “Really? It’s a franchise? I didn’t see that.” But it did great, so why the f*ck not. I don’t know.
CS: Are you signed for multiples? Olyphant: Yes.
CS: Does this film end with a cliffhanger? Olyphant: There’s certainly a reach of possibility, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
CS: You’re not dead in the end? Olyphant: There’s plenty of guys with bald heads and tattoos on the back; I’m sure they could make Agent 48.
CS: Are you signed on to start another project? Olyphant: I leave on Wednesday, I leave for Canada to start working on Monday and that will take me to the end of the year, and then I don’t know after that.
CS: What is that film? Olyphant: I’m doing a movie called “The High Life.” I’m not sure if there’s a ‘The,’ but it’s definitely “High Life.” It is a guy named Gary Yates is directing it. He directed a movie a few years ago, which was at Sundance that was called Seven Times Lucky – it was a great little film. It’s a movie about four morphine addicts in 1983, who attempt to rob the bank, and it’s funny.
CS: Who are your co-stars? Olyphant: If I butcher anyone’s name – Rossif Sutherland is in it; I think I’m saying his name correctly. And I think his name is Joe Anderson; he’s in “Across the Universe.” It is Joe Anderson, yeah – he’s doing it as well. And there’s one other guy, but he hasn’t been – I’d be speaking out of turn, they’re locking someone down now. That’s right, that’s what you guys do. There’s this one other guy – he’s replacing Vin Diesel; it was going to be Vin Diesel, but he’s been fired.
CS: What are you looking for in your career in terms of big movies and small movies? Olyphant: You know, as long as they’ll let me. Right now, my mindset is I’m really excited about “Hitman,” and I can’t wait to do this tiny little film because – G-d bless the studio executives for giving me this job, but it’s a really different creative conversation. It’s nice to be able to go and just shoot, and just shoot. You’ve got 98 pages – whatever the script is, and you’re like, “That’s perfect, let’s shoot that, that’s great.” It’s a nice feeling. The director’s got all the power in the world, and those are great things. And on the other hand, when that’s done, I’ll say something like, “Somebody get me a big f*ckin’ trailer, ’cause this is ridiculous.” It’s a f*ckin’ joke, this didn’t have cable, or anything like that. I can’t heat my pool. No, it’s lovely to be able to go back and forth and if I can keep doing it. I had the pleasure of working with Bruce Willis, and what he’s been able to – how he’s been able to go back and forth from big picture to small picture, without any lack of credibility or disrupting the film. There’s no sort of hurdle to get over; when he puts himself in a small picture, you don’t have to say, “Well, what the f*ck is Bruce Willis doing in there?” He’s a G-d damn genius, it’s really impressive, and I’d love to steal a page from that.
CS: What did you take away from “Deadwood”? Did you keep anything from the show? Olyphant: The answer to your last question is “no,” I didn’t keep anything from the show. My feelings about that show are the same as they were from the jump. It was an incredible creative experience. It was one of the greatest experiences I imagine I’ll ever have. Working for David Milch was a job of a lifetime.
CS: Do you feel jipped you won’t be able to play that character again? Olyphant: Honestly, (shakes his head no). ‘Cause it always comes out as “I really could give a sh*t.” I mean that in the most respectful way. I had a great time making that show, and I’m very thankful for been given that experience, and to look at it from any other angle is it’s a slippery slope. I don’t think anyone owes me anything, I think I walk away from that saying, “Thank G-d it existed.” I had great relationships from that show. And you know what’s better than seven or eight years on TV – three years on TV.