‘Insurgent’ Star Jai Courtney Talks ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘Terminator: Genisys’

Jai Courtney
Terence Patrick for Variety

The Australian “Spartacus” star has been on a roll lately with parts in “Divergent” and “Unbroken.” He’ll next be seen in a pair of high-profile sequels, “Insurgent” and “Terminator: Genisys” and is about to start work as Captain Boomerang in David Ayer’s hotly anticipated “Suicide Squad.”

Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, the list goes on; what are they doing in Australia to breed these great actors?
I think it’s a combination of work ethic and generally being zero bulls— people. If you possess some talent and are enjoyable enough to work with, the natural progression is it leads to more stuff. Or perhaps it’s the Vegemite we’re raised on.

What can “Divergent” fans expect from “Insurgent”?
I actually just came from a screening of it. It’s big! It’s rather impressive in scale and it’s a lot of fun. They really stepped it up. We’re taken out of the world we go to know in the first film and the landscape is a lot broader.

Have you read the book series?
I read the first book. So when I got the script for the new one I wasn’t sure what would happen. I must admit, I’ve been pretty lazy with my attachment to the books. Veronica (Roth) knows that, she’s none to impressed with me.

How did you land the role of Kyle Reese in “Terminator: Genisys”? Was it an audition?
Yes, I was in Australia and it was a bit of a whirlwind trip. I was working on “Unbroken” and I had to test on a Saturday in LA for “Terminator.” So I flew out Saturday afternoon, landed on Saturday morning, went to the audition for about three hours, went back to my house, had sushi, got drunk, got back on the plane Saturday night, landed Monday morning and went to work. I remember thinking, “If I’m going to do this, I better book the damn job.” Thirty hours of travel in one weekend.

What can you tell us about the movie? It looks like things are very different than the story we’ve come to know.
It’s not a reboot or a sequel or a prequel. It stands alone. We’re introduced to a world that we’ve seen before. However, when Reese is sent back to save Sarah Connor, something has happened in the process and everything has changed. All the information he has for the mission and the task at hand is different. Therefore, things have been reset and that’s where we move forward from. That’s about all I can say.

Were you a fan of the original “Terminator” films?
Big time; I must have seen “T2” 50 times as a kid. We really are throwing it back to the films that Cameron did. There will be gentle nods to those, paying homage, but moving it forward as well. And trying to engage an entirely new audience, not just people loyal to the series.

Did you have any conversations with your fellow countryman Sam Worthington about joining the “Terminator” world?
I didn’t. In fact, I’ve never actually seen “Terminator: Salvation.” I’ve been asked about how much I studied the previous films and how much you draw from them and at this point you’re almost a fool to. It’s not like you’re going to mine it for character tips. The movie is different, the stakes are different and you’re a different actor.

What’s up next?
I’m getting ready to go into “Suicide Squad.” I’m deep in prep for that, we’ve been training pretty hard for a couple of months. It’s an incredible cast and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone; everyone’s kind of been in their pocketed zones and we’re shipping out in a couple weeks to start rehearsals.

Captain Boomerang was a pretty sought-after role. How did you get the part?
I’d auditioned for David before for “Fury.” It’s funny, about two weeks before he called me I was saying to a friend of mine I’d never do a comic book movie. I was saying there’s too many of them … clearly talking s— for the sake of conversation. Then David rang and told me about this. He was the big draw for me, I really wanted to work with him. And I’m playing an Aussie, which is really refreshing and fun and the world is going to be pretty spectacular. So I jumped on board.

Acting is a tough business; was there ever a time you considered doing something else?
I never had a choice, to be honest. If this doesn’t all work out, I’m completely f—ed. I always hated the idea of having something to fall back on. In a sense, that helped me. I didn’t give myself a choice, it just had to happen. If it doesn’t work, I really don’t know. Maybe I’ll come talk to you and apply for a job.

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