Australian actor Jai Courtney is a busy guy. He’s taken on the mantle of Kyle Reese, John Connor’s father in Terminator Genisys, gone toe-to-toe with Shailene Woodley in the popular Divergent series of films, and even played Bruce Willis’ son in A Good Day to Die Hard. And that’s just the past three years.
All that experience joining the casts of hotly-anticipated blockbusters had to come in handy on his most recent project: portraying the infamous Captain Boomerang in Warner Bros. Pictures‘ DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad.
Though his name has been shortened to Boomerang and some of his more distasteful characteristics left behind, Courtney still went to extremes to get the the bottom of the famously divisive member of the Squad. While at the film’s press junket in New York City, Courtney spoke to ComingSoon.net about earning the respect of director David Ayer, tattoos, why he’s not a fan of the term “method,” and what really happened with those magic mushrooms and cigarette burns.
ComingSoon.net: Let’s talk comic books. Did you read them as a kid?
Jai Courtney: You know what, I didn’t, and that may upset some hardcore fans of this franchise. But I just wasn’t into ‘em, you know? And that’s why I stepped in somewhat naively to this. The main attraction was working with David Ayer. Other than that, all my research and knowledge of the Squad came after I’d been given the opportunity to come and work on it.
CS: How much did you expose yourself to the Suicide Squad comics after you took the role?
Jai Courtney: Um, a bit, I obviously draw on that for a bit of inspiration, I look into that stuff. There’s a lot of this character that I wanted to leave where it was, you know what I mean? Not in a kind of dismissive way, there are just some characteristics to him that weren’t going to translate to a movie being made in 2016. I just wanted to know that it was handled in a way that I could be proud of it back home, as an Aussie as well–there are just some delicacies around that. The character in the comic books can be a little more stereotypical, and I was a little apprehensive to play into those cliches as an Aussie.
CS: And he’s a bit racist in the comics.
Jai Courtney: Totally, totally that as well. It’s just, you know, sh*t can get a little on-the-nose if you judge it too much from afar. Look, it was great that David was open to my collaboration with tightening those screws a little.
CS: How did he ease your fears then, and make you feel safe that the script wasn’t going to go there?
Courtney: He’s’ a smart guy and I just trusted him, that’s really what it came down to. You know I expressed like, little baby concerns, but it wasn’t a major thing where I really thought he was going to lead me down the wrong path. It was just that I wanted him to be cool with the fact that if scenes felt inauthentic to me that we’d be able to work with that. And he’s down with that too. He doesn’t give you a ton of freedom and comfort off the bat, you’ve kind of gotta to earn that with David. But I think that’s good, that’s part of his process is to…[to someone in the background] I’m just talking about your process!
CS: Was that him [David Ayer] in the background?
Courtney: Yeah. He just poked me in the kidney. But yeah, it’s kinda good like that. It’s nice to not feel too comfortable. Because I think it forces you to think harder and work harder and investigate what you’re doing more thoroughly.
CS: Well talking of his methods, you reportedly put cigarettes out on your arms and took magic mushrooms to help you get into character. David Ayer is famous for inspiring his actors to go to great lengths, what were his directions to you that inspired those methods?
Courtney: [Laughing] Oh look, I think what’s interesting about that is that when you pluck something out of context it’s easy to imagine it’s as simple as that. Events didn’t take place quite as they maybe…
CS: How did they take place?
Courtney: It’s a little misconstrued, but that’s alright.
CS: Do you want to set the record straight then?
Courtney: The thing is, right, like why would I take magic mushrooms and get on a phone call with David Ayer? Obviously that’s not the case. All I was saying is that I happened at one point to have taken mushrooms, and I was doing a little thinking about my character and just investigating some stuff a little further. David under no circumstances encouraged me to digest, or ingest, anything for that matter. That’s not his style.
CS: So where did the cigarettes come in? I have to ask because that’s really intense.
Courtney: Well, I used to be a smoker. And I dunno, it certainly seemed logical at the time. I was just investigating some stuff. You know David taught me to get in touch with my inner sh*tbag, and we talked about a man that was broken up for different reasons. That’s the cool thing about this world that he’s created: it’s grounded and it’s authentic. You can have a character crashing through walls, you can have supernatural elements in a scene, you can have super powers – that’s all cool. But for him that’s not interesting unless that’s rooted in reality. It doesn’t mean that you can skim over those details with him. He’s not interested in that. We can create this crazy world, but we’ve gotta feel the heart and soul inside of these individuals. Even if it seems like they don’t possess those.
CS: Your breakout role was in the “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” TV series, where you also play a reluctant member of a group of fighters who are being controlled. How was portraying the brotherhood between your gladiators different from the camaraderie you shared with your fellow Suicide Squad members?
Courtney: Ah well, look I was way greener back then and it was a different world, I was so bright eyed and bushy tailed. Everything was impressive about working on that show [Spartacus], and it offered me an enormous opportunity. I guess the development on that really was all around the training. In a way, it [Suicide Squad] wasn’t dissimilar. We had a lot more time on this to allow those kind of bonds to strengthen, to let the glue set. There was more emphasis on that, period, because it was more important to have that handled. I mean “Spartacus” kind of–that just happened, like it tends to when you get a pack of people training with the same goal in mind: camaraderie ensues.
But this, [Suicide Squad] it was a lengthy pre-production and it was full of training for different things, training for physical goals, these kind of intense rehearsal sessions, and a lot of fun and laughter. A lot trust got built in that process. People are being vulnerable and letting it hang out, and pushing each other, testing each other’s wit and creative limits and ideas. It was an inspiring period of time, I think, for us all. And we were just feeding off the energy of it, and out of that was born this little family, you know? It was pretty remarkable.
CS: And do you still feel sort of family oriented towards your fellow actors? Or was it in-character where you felt more like a family?
Courtney: In truth, the actors for sure because we’re pretty united, and that’s not necessarily the case when we’re on-screen. I think our characters probably bled into us a little and vice-versa.
CS: Did you get one of the cast tattoos that I’ve heard about?
Courtney: Yeah of course.
CS: Where did you get your tattoo, can I ask?
Courtney: Mine’s on my wrist. It’s actually a pretty tidy little tat, mine. I’m pretty happy with it. Some have faded or were done on parts of the body that don’t hold ink too well. But mine’s a firm souvenir that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
CS: And you guys didn’t tattoo each other, right? You went to a tattoo shop, or did you…
Courtney: Nah, we tattooed each other. Margot Robbie had a tattoo gun. It sounded like a good idea at the time.
CS: Margot Robbie just had a tattoo gun hanging around?
Courtney: Yeah, for real. I guess she was given it at some point or something? It inspired a conversation about doing something stupid like that, and you kinda don’t have to ask us twice. That’s the kind of sh*t we bring out in each other.
CS: Talking of Margot, what does Boomerang make of Harley Quinn then? How does he see her?
Courtney: I think he sees her as a bit of fun, but I think he sees her as an absolute nightmare because she’s bat-sh*t crazy.
CS: A big ball of crazy.
Courtney: A big ball of crazy, and I think Boomerang, when it comes to women, he would rather simplify things. But probably makes life a little more difficult for himself in the process, because I don’t imagine him to have it all figured out on the romantic front. He doesn’t care, he’s here for a good time, not a long time. I think he is a loner, a little bit, but I think he likes it that way. He’s done that to himself, because he’ll step over anyone, you know? And it’s interesting because, Boomer, I like the guy so I want to say, ‘he’s a good dude at the heart of it’ and this and that, but you know he’s not. He’s a bastard.
CS: No one ever sees themselves as the villain, though. It’s interesting because in the comics Boomerang grew up in poverty and didn’t know his father, did any of that help you in relating to him more, seeing him as a more complex person?
Courtney: Yeah, definitely, and I think that was the cool part about it. Finding reasons why that juice was there. I did a lot of thinking and sort of planning and understanding this character through the eyes of that sort of stuff. And it’s true, David and I had those conversations and kept that alive. It feeds into what I was saying earlier about his search for authenticity within a world that could be seen otherwise.
CS: Laurence Olivier may or may not have joked with Dustin Hoffman about method acting on the set of “Marathon Man” telling him to “just act instead,” implying that method was a sort of cheat. Why isn’t that true for you?
Courtney: I don’t think it’s that cut and dried. Call it research: some people’s research just carries into the physical production. They don’t want to stop the searching, and therefore all of a sudden they’re in-character the whole time. It’s funny because I don’t think that anyone–you know, the word method is something that’s really easy to like, coin? And kind of label from the outside? But I dunno that those actors really see it that way. If anything, it’s just born out of probably the fear of not finding it when they need to, therefore they try not to lose it. I don’t necessarily operate that way, but I think whatever you gotta do, man. There’s sort of a code in our profession of respecting each other’s process and not trying to impinge on anyone else’s with your own. I think it’s cool to be around, whatever lengths people want to push themselves to is on them and it’s fine by me.
CS: It also seems like you don’t always know when that crossover is happening, when you stop being yourself and start becoming this character, when you really dig in. Is that ever unnerving? That you realize you’re not yourself anymore?
Courtney: I don’t know about unnerving, I think it’s something to watch out for. There’s definitely roles where you become more susceptible to that. I would chuckle a little bit on this film because of the guy I was playing, and I would tell myself I could sort of get away with certain things because it was all in the eyes of keeping the spirit of that character alive. I don’t know, man, you gotta be strong. I think people can kind of leave themselves open to the impressionability of that sort of stuff sometimes too much. You gotta know when to put the brakes on.
CS: You told SuperHeroHype back in 2014 “It’s gonna be a while before I get roped into another franchise.” What made you change your mind and join the Squad?
Courtney: [Laughing] Very simple: David Ayer. There was no question, it was an absolute no-brainer. When I got on the phone with him and he talked about this role and this film, it didn’t really matter – I didn’t care if plans were otherwise earlier it was just about not losing the opportunity to work with him.
CS: And it sounds like it really delivered for you.
Courtney: It did, indeed, it really exceeded my expectations. It was a wonderful experience.
CS: And do you hope to maybe work on, if this does well, a sequel to this with him?
Courtney: Oh f**k yeah, of course.
CS: So you’re in for that? Your Boomerang will come back?
Courtney: Indeed, I hope it does.
Suicide Squad opens in 3D, and in 2D, and in select IMAX 3D theaters on August 5, 2016.