Timothy Olyphant Interview – HITMAN

     November 20, 2007

A little over a week ago, a number of Los Angeles based online journalists got to sit down for a roundtable interview with Timothy Olyphant – the star of the new 20th Century Fox movie “Hitman.” While all of us were frustrated about not being able to see the movie prior to interviewing Timothy, none of us bailed out on the great opportunity to ask him some questions on playing Agent 47 – the newest video game character to be adapted to the movie screen.

Of course, with the rumors swirling about the director being forced out of the editing room, new reshoots being done only weeks before release, and all the other rumors that get started due to no one having seen the final film… all of us were looking to this interview to set the record straight.

But here’s the problem.

Timothy did address the issues and he answered the questions…but he told a lot of jokes with a straight face. For example, when he was asked about whether or not Xavier directed the reshoots, Timothy said, “He is involved. He’s very involved, I saw him when I was there, he did not direct the reshoots. I don’t know what Fox’s position on that, by the way. Maybe he did direct the reshoots. Yeah, I heard the talk on that, that he was fired. I kept saying I was trying to get that guy fired for months. They finally fired him? Fuck! I was saying forever. He doesn’t speak English, didn’t anybody see that as a problem?”

The thing to realize is…he’s clearly joking around while answering our questions. But the problem is he didn’t realize the way the online community takes quotes, and he sure doesn’t realize what a quote can mean out of context and what would happen if it was run without an explanation. I can assure you, based on what happened after this interview, with websites running stories that attributed Timothy as saying things that he was joking around with… he’ll never make this kind of a mistake again, and he’ll be much more guarded with his answers for future movies.

So while you read the interview below…please keep in mind that he was joking around while talking. As always, if you’d like to listen to the interview as an MP3 you can download it here.

Since I missed the critics screening on Monday, I can’t tell you if the movie finally breaks the streak of video games turned into movies. But as a fan of Mr. Olyphant and the game it’s based on, I really hope the movie works. We’ll all know soon enough as “Hitman” opens tomorrow at theaters everywhere. Finally, if you missed the movie clip I posted the other day you can watch it here.

Question: Is this all that’s grown back or is it short for another role?

Timothy Olyphant: This is all that’s grown back. Reshoots, a few weeks ago.

Q: Can you talk about the reshoots and what that entailed?

Timothy Olyphant: We did this kick ass little action sequence in there. A couple of little touch ups and stuff. Little bits, little inserts, you know. It’s lovely to have that luxury. Then we had an action sequence that we sort of added to.

Q: Since we haven’t seen the movie yet, can you tell us a little bit about your character?

Timothy Olyphant: Agent 47 is based on this video game character. He’s essentially a guy that was born and bred for the purpose of killing. The story is essentially about a guy who was hired to do a job, and he does it, seemingly as well as he’s done any other. Then he’s told by the people he works for that there’s a witness, and he’s going to go clean that up. And 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 me. Which obviously means that something is not right… and the next thing you know someone’s trying to kill me. The guy I thought I killed is on television and nothing makes sense anymore. A guys world is sort of turned upside down.

Did you play the video game just to get used to it?

Timothy Olyphant: I did read about it. The lovely thing about the internet, as you people know, there’s a wealth of information there. However factual, I’m not sure, but there’s a wealth of information. And it felt like, based on what I read and understand, we did a good job sort of honoring and paying tribute to the game but at the same time, not being a slave to it, which is a nice place to work from. Xavier was a big fan of the game, the director, is a big gamer in general, and loved the game. He was really adamant about certain things that were reflected in the game. I also just thought the imagery I saw, there were lots 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 it’s because we read about something in the game that inspired choices we made, or whether there were choices we wanted to do that sort of were also reflected in the game. We were conscious of it the whole time.

Have you given your likeness to future versions of the game?

Timothy Olyphant: That’s a lawyer question. Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

How did it feel to feel the air on your freshly shaved head?

Timothy Olyphant: It’s a little chilly. But you know…it came with the part.

Did Xavier direct the reshoots? There had been some talk that he’s not…

Timothy Olyphant: He is involved. He’s very involved, I saw him when I was there, he did not direct the reshoots. I don’t know what Fox’s position on that, by the way. Maybe he did direct the reshoots. Yeah, I heard the talk on that, that he was fired. I kept saying I was trying to get that guy fired for months. They finally fired him? Fuck! I was saying forever. He doesn’t speak English, didn’t anybody see that as a problem?

We’ve heard about the film, this is what I’ve heard and maybe you can clarify it, that the film was really, really violent and that Fox got a little bit scared and is pulling back the level of violence that was originally shot.

Timothy Olyphant: I’m aware of that too, that that was being talked about. I have no information that supports that at all. I’ve had conversations that they don’t have to have with me at all, but I’ve been very involved, which might be a strong word, but they’ve kept me in the loop here at the studio, and there was never a conversation that I’ve had with any of the executives here or the producers in France or Xavier that was about fear of being too violent. The only conversations we’ve had have been creative conversations about the kind of violence and where it hurts or helps the story. There’s no way it’s not a violent film. We’d have like a forty five minute film – you can’t take out… we shot a very violent film. I think what happens is, if there’s any truth to that rumor at all, there’s always a conversation about what you’re trying to elicit in the audience, the feelings that they have. There’s a difference between the violence in James Bond films – especially the ones from the past – as opposed to the violence in a Quentin Tarantino film, as opposed to the violence in a horror film, or something really designed to make you uncomfortable. The conversations were about that, finding the right tone and not about this idea of toning it down or making it anything less than an R-rated film. Does that make sense?

What is the tone? Is it gritty violence, fantastical violence, what is it?

Timothy Olyphant: I thought what we were making was reminiscent in terms of specific films, it felt like the old John Woo films. Like some of the films that came out of South Korea. There’s a certain elegance to the film, but the violence was there as well. It wasn’t comical… we weren’t making something where it felt like wow, 50 guys just died and I barely noticed. It wasn’t that kind of thing. As the movie changed, I know 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 is a very, very thoughtful guy and a very smart guy, and 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 was quite an opportunity and quite flattering. I hadn’t done anything like this before, had this kind of responsibility. That was all well and good, but Xavier was, from the moment he met, he was…his enthusiasm for the material was… he was aiming high. He wanted to make something… he was aiming high and I thought that was impressive.

We spoke to you earlier this year and the deal for this hadn’t even happened yet. So how quickly did this all come together?

Timothy Olyphant: It was quick. You’re talking about when you guys asked if I was doing it and I said it’s not true, as it was out on the internet first.

Around January, when he did the Catch and Release junket, you hadn’t committed yet.

Timothy Olyphant: Right. A rumor was out.

So within a year, to have shot and finished the film and it’s not coming out.

Timothy Olyphant: Apparently that’s how they do things around here. It’s crazy. Die Hard I wasn’t as much a part of it, obviously, but it felt similar in its scale in how fast it was shot. Cause I was shooting Die Hard in January and it’s coming out on DVD in a couple of weeks. So it’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 till Xavier and I had talked. But it all happened fast.

Is there humor in the film or is it pretty serious?

Timothy Olyphant: We tried to find some moments. We did. We definitely did. Perhaps not enough. I haven’t seen the final thing. It’s always nice when you can find those little moments.

Is it sort of a gallows humor, a dark humor?

Timothy Olyphant: Yeah. We’re not yucking it up by any means. He was trying to make a serious film, but still, you have to find those moments.

I believe Luc Besson produced this, or was executive producer. So how involved was he in the production?

Timothy Olyphant: I don’t know. I can tell you I had very little interaction with him when we were making the film. I met him; he was there for a day or two. I didn’t have that much interaction with him.

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Can you talk about filming the action set pieces and being so involved – the leader on the film.

Timothy Olyphant: It was great. I really enjoyed it. It was very challenging for a number of reasons – it was challenging because it was a big responsibility and I hadn’t had it before – be the lead in this kind of a film. And it was all sort of amplified by the fact that the director was French and the crew was Bulgarian and so on and so forth, it added all sorts of additional challenges. But that being said, I really enjoyed it. Like I said, Xavier was a very smart guy, and it was very rewarding, engaging with him, creatively, and fighting the fight if you will, day in and day out. How can we make this… is there a way to make this scene smarter? How much of a character film can we make, given the source material? Can we still try to get to the heart of something here?

What sort of acting tools did you have when you’re playing this guy who is almost nothing but a killing machine?

Timothy Olyphant: The angle I take is that you trust that takes care of itself. You trust that if 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 say, well, I don’t need to convince everybody I’m a bad ass because I just walked in that situation and I’m the one who walked out of that without a scratch. You put that aside. Then what you do is say, what else is there? How many angles can you look at this? Where’s the humanity in it all? You start with a guy who goes from job to job to job. It sounds sort of… I don’t know if it’s a cliche or something, but you assume it’s a lonely existence, like a traveling salesman kind of thing. I thought it was interesting to look at his job prior to the events that happen, and it’s kind of mundane. You go from job to job, you’re good at what you do, it’s probably pretty easy, and you’re not engaging with a lot of people. There’s a sort of detachment to it all to be able to do it. That starts to get kind of interesting, when you look at something that seems so special and you try to find what’s pedestrian about it. Then the second thing that starts to happen is then you take that and you just turn that upside down. What happens when that guy’s world turns upside down, and you have this soldier – for lack of a better term – who essentially his job is you point and I’ll shoot, since the assassin isn’t choosing who dies and who doesn’t die. Somebody gives him a target and he goes and takes it out. But what happens when there’s no trust, there’s no boss, the boss is not to be trusted, the target’s not being given to you, who do you take out and who do you not take out? What starts to happen is it starts to force him to examine in some sort of small, maybe unconscious way, is what else is out there? If I’m not that guy, do I have any other job skills? You start looking at it that way, and those are very human experiences. Everybody can relate to that. Everybody can relate to the carpet being pulled out from under you. Everybody can relate to asking yourself, is this who I am, or am I capable of being something else? Not necessarily something better, but something else, or is that just pre-determined? Those are interesting things to try and explore.

Is this a character the studio envisions as a franchise? Is this something that you want to pursue a franchise?

Timothy Olyphant: I don’t know what the studio’s plan is, you’d have to ask them, but it seems these days everything is intended to be – if it’s successful, there’s another one coming. It’s hard to find a movie these days that doesn’t have a franchise potential. Someone was telling me the other day, Game Plan, sequel. I was like, really? A franchise? I didn’t see that. But it did great, so why the fuck not?

Are you signed for multiple films?

Timothy Olyphant: Yeah.

Does the film set up a sequel? Does it end on a cliffhanger?

Timothy Olyphant: It’s certainly rich with possibility. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

You recently finished this. Are you lined up for another project? Are you signed on for something else?

Timothy Olyphant: I leave on Wednesday for Canada. I’m starting next Monday and that will take me towards the end of the year, and I’m not sure after that.

Can you tell us what the film is?

Timothy Olyphant: I’m doing a movie called The High Life. Not sure if there’s a The, but it’s definitely High Life. A guy named Gary Yates is directing it; he directed a film that was at Sundance a couple of years ago called Seven Times Lucky, which was a great little film. It’s a movie about four morphine addicts in 1983 who attempt to rob a bank. And it’s funny.

Who are you doing the film with? Who are your other…

Timothy Olyphant: Joe Andersen from Across the Universe is in it.

You’re going from this big, action mainstream, to a much smaller, edgier movie. Do you see yourself dancing back and forth like that?

Timothy Olyphant: You know, as long as they’ll let me. Like right now, my mindset, while excited about Hitman, I can’t wait to do this tiny, little film. God bless the studio executives who gave me this job, but it’s a really different creative conversation. It’s nice to be able to go and just shoot. You got 98 pages, whatever the script is, and it’s just perfect and you just shoot that, it’s great. It’s a nice feeling. The director’s got all the power in the world, and those are great things. On the other hand, when this is all done, I’ll say, “Somebody give me a big fucking trailer, because this is just ridiculous! This is a fucking joke – they don’t got cable or nothing in there!” It’s lovely to be able to go back and forth. If I can keep doing it, I had the pleasure of working with Bruce Willis and how he’s been able to go back and forth from big picture to small picture without any lack of credibility and without 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, “What the fuck is Bruce Willis doing in there?” He’s a goddamn genius and it’s really impressive. I’d love to be able to steal a page from that.

I’ll bet he still has a really big trailer even on a small film.

Timothy Olyphant: You know that’s a good question. But I don’t think so.

Now that it appears that the Deadwood TV movies are probably not going to happen…

Timothy Olyphant: Probably not. Were they going to happen?

Now that it appears to be totally in the past, what are your thoughts on the legacy of that show? Did you keep anything from the show as a memento?

Timothy Olyphant: The answer to your last question is no, I didn’t keep anything from the show. My feelings on the show are the same as they were from the jump – it was an incredible creative experience. Really one of the greatest creative experiences I’ll probably ever have. Working for David Milch was the job of a lifetime.

Do you feel kind of gypped that you won’t have a chance to go back?

Timothy Olyphant: Honestly? It always feels a little… I could really give a shit. I mean it in the most respectful way. I had a great time making that show, and I am thankful to have been given that experience. To look at it from any other angle is a slippery slope. I don’t think anybody owes me anything. I walk away from that saying thank God it existed. And I have great relationships from that show, and you know what’s better than seven or eight years on TV? Like three years on TV.

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