One of the best parts of Divergent isn't the punch-happy female lead Shailene Woodley or even the tattoo love-making — it's Jai Courtney's delightfully psychotic character Eric. The Australian action star, who's also set to play Kyle Reese in the Terminator reboot, discussed both of his scifi franchises with us and the unusual burden of fake movie tattoos.
io9: I know it's makeup but that tattoo looks absolutely saturated into your skin. Did it hurt getting it on? Does it just come right off?
Jai Courtney: No, I always take it off. Some people get a little lazy and want to keep them on overnight because it means they might get to sleep in the next morning, but no. It was actually a bit of a pain. The worst thing for me was having to shave all the time, because my neck kind of just got tore up by putting that thing on and removing it. But nah, it's a lot of fun doing that stuff. And I love getting the chance to commit to a kind of bold, physical choice with the appearance of the character. It was cool. We had a lot of fun developing that and I think the results were great.
This movie was filmed before the books were finished. Did you get a heads up on what happened in the end?
Courtney: No, of course not. You're right, the third book was unpublished at the time, but we didn't get any tip offs. Some of us had a rough idea about the arc of our character over the course of it. I think it would be impossible to predict what actually went down. I'm aware now of how it all comes up — I haven't read that book but it's interesting stuff.
You have a lot of really brutal scenes in this movie. Was it fun to play a total psycho?
Courtney: Yeah, it was. That was kind of the challenge for me. When I first read the script that was what I wanted to do, do something fun with it. It's easy to judge the guy, and just sort of think he's a one-dimensional kind of dick character who is just crazy. I think some of that stuff is true, but the fun part of the challenge was trying to unravel what he has done and see what was below the surface anywhere some of that came from. Whenever you get to play someone a little nasty it's always fun to do that. And have fun with it.
Do you thin Eric actually believes that Divergents are bad and must be destroyed or do you think he just likes killing people?
Courtney: I think he has bought into the idea that society needs to move in another direction. Basically what the Divergent represents is brainwashing, allowing certain people to have control over the masses. I think Eric's attitude is rooted in his introduction into his faction, and his battle with Four. And he's also got an inferiority complex there and sees Tris as a bit of a threat. But I think he's totally bought into the life.
This is such a high energy movie, especially for your character. You are always doing something physical. How do you keep the energy up when you're shooting a scene like the one where you throw Zoe Kravitz' character off a ledge? Does it ever get to you?
Courtney: It can, but it comes down to really basic stuff. It's down to safety. You gotta be careful so you don't over exert yourself. It can be easy on a film set when you're caught up in the heat of the moment and the passion of the scene that you're doing to say, "No, I'm cool, let's do it again." You want to keep it all alive, and often if you get complacent like that, that's when accidents happen. When it comes down to physical stuff, when you're shooting a fight or a car chase — I've had a bit of experience with action, it's very important that it's controlled.
Eric is such a big part in the next book. Have you discussed shooting Insurgent yet and their plans for your character?
Courtney: Not in great detail. There's not a script yet, so it's pretty unclear how that will flesh out. It's tough with these novel adaptations in that you really want to do the narrative justice, but there has to be compromises made. I'm not sure just how present his character will be. But we'll see.
It was interesting I went into this movie looking for chemistry from the two main leads and a bit of action, but you really kind of walked away with a lot of the scenes. Were you surprised with how Eric came off on camera?
Courtney: I appreciate you saying that. I haven't given too much thought. I guess I was a little worried at one point shooting it that my performance wasn't going to be a part of the story and could have been a little one note, as they say. But I just had to trust Neil [Burger] and he did well in directing me subtly and keeping it all contained. And he really threaded that through the piece. I was kind of pleasantly surprised. I think you're right, I think it's kind of true with everyone, you do get a sense of an ensemble.
I'm also very very excited that you'll be playing Kyle Reese in Terminator: Genesis. Do you think we'll be seeing a kinder, friendlier Kyle Reese or a darker version?
Courtney: Well, you'll just have to wait and see.
Have you been practicing saying "come with me if you want to live?"
Courtney: [laughs] Yeah, I've been running over that in my sleep. It's an important line — I don't want to forget it.