Jai Courtney got a lot of notice for playing John McClane’s son in last year’s A Good Day to Die Hard. Not all the attention the movie itself got was positive, but it did teach Courtney a thing or two about appearing in the fifth entry in a franchise, all of which he took with him for next year’s Terminator Genisys and told us during an exclusive interview while doing press for police drama Felony.
Courtney, who takes over from Michael Biehn as future warrior Kyle Reese in the fifth Terminator installment, told us some tantalizing bits about the alternate future timeline the new film will establish… and teased us about a possible onscreen romance. Or not. He also gets into spoiler territory about his character Eric in The Divergent Series: Insurgent, and how director Neil Burger prepared him to embrace the character’s dark side on the first movie.
SuperHeroHype: Do you know the Australian actor Bruce Spence?
Jai Courtney: Yeah, of course.
SHH: He has this whole thing where he appears in the third part of a bunch of franchises: Mad Max, Star Wars, Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia…
Courtney: You gonna give me sh*t for being in part five?
SHH: Are you the part five guy now?
Courtney: I’m the part five guy. F**k, I hope not. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. Yeah, I know. It’s hilarious. I come in for the reboots and the late sequels on everything. I think this has gotta be the last one, man! Seriously. I have had that thought. I don’t wanna speak too soon, but it’s gonna be awhile before I get roped into another franchise, I’ll say that.
SHH: Right, well you did A Good Day to Die Hard. How did that prepare you for the franchise machinery of going into something like Terminator? It’s the same level of expectations.
Courtney: Yeah it is, I guess. I’ll tell you what it did: It taught me to expect nothing and everything. Look, the “Die Hard” thing was one of those situations where… even then people had told me–people in elevated creative positions, studio execs–I was told to prepare to kind of blow up and life’s gonna change. Everyone’s gonna know your career has taken off. Whilst it was a huge opportunity for me, it certainly didn’t go down quite like that. I think coming back around to another thing that has an in-built fanbase you’re gonna have a ton of skepticism out there, there’s gonna be people that are very critical that are loyal to the original things. I wrestle with it because I don’t know if we need to be doing these sorts of movies. Sometimes you feel like, “Aren’t there enough original stories out there to not rehash things?” At the same time there’s so much mileage yet to explore. I mean, this isn’t a remake of another “Terminator” movie, it’s a new universe and I think what they’re doing with it is really exciting.
SHH: You said the other day that it’s not quite a sequel or a reboot. Does that mean it kind of skews into different tangential time directions?
Courtney: It’s a reset.
SHH: Does it create a new timeline in the same universe the way J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie did?
Courtney: I guess that’s a fair comparison, in a sense. There’s a world that’s been established, but we haven’t necessarily seen those characters in that light before. I think the beauty of time travel means you can shift a lot on a dime. Yeah man, after making it… it was a tough film to do. It was full-on, it’s a big big movie. A lot of us worked very hard but I think it’s gonna pay off and I think audiences won’t be disappointed. I’m really excited to see what happens with it.
SHH: Does the romance between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor play a big part in it?
Courtney: I can literally tell you nothing. I’m sorry. I don’t even know if there is romance, man. Maybe the romance is between Kyle and Arnold. (laughs) Maybe.
SHH: **INSURGENT SPOILERS AHEAD** For Insurgent, does the arc of Eric coincide with the arc in the books?
Courtney: As in, “Do I die?” Yes. Yeah there’s no spoilers there ’cause it was already written in a different medium, so I’m happy to say that. It’s cool, we just wrapped on that the other week. That was actually a lot of fun, it was a lot of fun to go back and play a role a second time. It’s the first time I’ve done that. Yeah, it was cool, kind of like the way actors feel when they do TV and come back for another season. You’re comfortable, you’ve explored some ground with that, you’ve really got the character figured out and I guess things get written with that in mind now. You can see what worked and you know you’re cast. There’s just more room to have fun with it, and I think this film takes us out of that particular faction that we started with in the first one. It’s kind of on the road, like a big long chase sequence, the second book. It was fun to go back and play Eric again. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed being that cold and nasty. It’s good because he’s so dead. I wrestled with that originally, but that was a testament to Neil’s vision. You can throw different shades in there, but I was glad he pushed me to create the character the way he did ’cause it worked the second time around. It’s that subtle material, it’s quite fun to do stuff like that rather than make it so obvious.
SHH: It’s good that you die rather than succumb to “Jeremy Renner syndrome,” where you’re in a bunch of franchise movies then they all hit and you have to go in and do all the sequels.
Courtney: Oh f**k, yeah. I know right? No space for anything else. I got in and got out, mate. Made sure of that.
Terminator Genisys will be released by Paramount Pictures on July 1, 2015, while Summit has The Divergent Series: Insurgent scheduled for March 20, 2015. Felony opens in limited release on October 17. Look for our full interview with Jai Courtney next week!