THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD
Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson team up for laughs, thrills and several dozen swears.
Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds made a film together in 2013, but didn’t cross paths once. That’s because the film was CG animation
Turbo, a not-exactly-classic tale of a common garden snail (voiced by Reynolds) who dreams of being a racer, and is at one point given a pep talk by a mouthy mollusc named Whiplash (Jackson). “You can do 300 animated movies for Dreamworks and never once meet a co-star,” explains Reynolds. “Those are odd jobs.”
The film that has finally got them together properly is The Hitman’s Bodyguard. An unashamed throwback to the buddy movies of the ’80s and ’90s, the action comedy sees Reynolds’ bodyguard-with-a-past Michael Bryce (who’s also a control freak) assigned to Jackson’s assassin Darius Kincaid (who could not be more laidback) to ensure he gets to court on time to testify against an evil Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman, obviously). It’s full of action, bickering, glamorous locations around Europe, car chases, 12-letter swearwords and ironically deployed tunes. But its main draw is its superstar pairing.
“Sometimes you can look at someone on screen and go, ‘That guy looks like fun,’” says Jackson. And you get there and the guy is not fun. He is an asshole. You think, ‘Wow, this guy is a better actor than I thought.’ But Ryan was great. It worked out very well.”
Meeting with Empire in a boutique New York hotel, the pair settle into an easy, entertaining routine: Jackson holds court, while Reynolds chips in with smart interjections. It’s like being in a 3D buddy movie — minus the car chase.
“Motherfucker” in used a lot in this film. What is the joy of “motherfucker”? Ryan Reynolds: It has so many syllables you can roll around in your mouth. Samuel L. Jackson: The British don’t use it. Reynolds: It’s like how you use the word “cunt”. Jackson: When I came to London to make Ragtime in 1980, it’s how people knew I was American. I would be at Euston train station and these football yobs would start chanting
Jackson: It’s so versatile, it depends how you say it. It can express anger: “Motherfucker.” It can convey disbelief: [shaking head] “Motherfucker…”
at me [does a good impression of a baying football mob], and I would just be like, “Alright, motherfuckers!” And they’d go, “Oh, he’s American.” Reynolds: I use it most as an expression of pain. [Slowly] “Mother… fucker.”
It can be a term of endearment: [brightly] “What’s up, motherfucker?” It’s a verb, an adjective, a noun. It can do anything.
Reynolds: In fact, the only time you can’t say it is when you are actually fucking your mother. That would be weird.
Moving on. Ryan, there’s nothing like this film on your CV…
Reynolds: Right. I’ve been the lead in movies and I’ve been in an ensemble cast, but I’ve never been in a buddy movie. I liked that it was a straight-down-the-barrel, pure-bred action comedy. No gimmicks, just character and action.
Jackson: Also, we were allowed to embellish the characters in any way we wanted to, to make them human. When you have two guys sitting in a car together, they’ve got to have something that keeps an audience’s attention.
One thing you do in the car is sing. Ryan, you were all over All That She Wants by Ace Of Bass. Reynolds: I made that song ten times worse, which says a lot.
And Sam, you do a rendition of Lionel Ritchie’s Hello.
Jackson: Yeah, I actually asked for that song. I called Lionel and he said, “Great, yeah, go ahead.” I didn’t tell him that there’s a big-ass bar fight going on behind it where you are seeing a woman [Salma Hayek] kicking ass while singing, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”
What was it like teaming up? Jackson: It was as much fun as I thought it would be.
Reynolds: [To Jackson] You went with the nice answer. It was fun. Chemistry is not something you can manufacture. It’s either there or it’s not.
Clockwise from here: Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson buddy up for The Hitman’s
Bodyguard; Reynolds as bodyguard Michael Bryce; Jackson’s hitman Darius Kincaid with wife Sonia (Salma Hayek); The pair indulging in some nun fun; Darius mid-boat chase in Amsterdam.