Fictional badass Mitch Rapp hits the screen for the first time — and age is on his side
Not a movie about long walks on the beach.
SPIDER-MAN HAS NOTHING on Dylan O’brien. Empire is watching O’brien as American Assassin’s hero Mitch Rapp evade local heavies by nimbly scaling a vent like your friendly neighbourhood counter-terrorist operative. Occupying studio space at West London’s Art Deco Gillette building, the shoot is nearing its midway mark. Next up, O’brien will mow down some bad guys in an Alfa Romeo.
American Assassin, a 2010 globe-trotting thriller rooted firmly in real-world geopolitics, is the 11th Rapp novel by the late Vince Flynn. It’s an origin tale that portrays Rapp as a young spook for the first time. The counter-terrorist agent is also O’brien’s first lead role since a vehicular stunt went awry on Maze Runner: The Death Cure in March 2016, leaving him seriously injured with concussion, facial fractures and lacerations. Eight months later, he’s back and undertaking a six-week crash course in mixed martial arts and intensive weapons training.
“I was worried about being able to pull this off,” he concedes of the strenuous action beats. “It was a challenge to find my feet in the training. Funnily enough, I did get into the knife-throwing. It gets really addictive trying to find your distance, find your rotations and get it down.”
Rapp will need more than blade-lobbing skills to survive American Assassin. Witnessing the death of his girlfriend at the hands of terrorists, the CIA black ops recruit goes rogue. Brought under the auspices of CIA director
Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), he’s assigned to Cold War vet Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) to track down mysterious operative Ghost (Taylor Kitsch). Producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler developed the character for nine years with Rapp as an adult, but chose to unleash him as a younger spook instead. Their hope is to freshen up a genre archetype that is often played by someone a little older.
“Here we have a character who is coming to terms with what is right and wrong. That’s very different from Bourne, Bond or any these types of characters,” explains di Bonaventura.
Revenge-driven he may be, but Rapp’s journey should ultimately see him side with the good guys — albeit, not before he’s run down some bad ones.
Clockwise from above: Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’brien) evades danger in Turkey — recreated on set in London; Is Turkish agent Annika (Shiva Negar) to be trusted?; Martial arts training with Michael Keaton; Getting immersed in the black ops moves.