‘Red Notice’ promises to be a high-octane action film with a lot of humor. What makes this genre so popular amongst all age groups?
I don’t know specifically what it is about this genre that makes it popular among all age groups. A lot of people love action-comedy adventures and find it easy to engage themselves. I love treasure hunts, which is part of this movie… it’s a part of the DNA of this movie.
Dwayne (Johnson), Gal (Gadot) and you seem to share a fun banter. What was the experience of working with them? Was it as funny as we see on screen?
There’s a lot that was left on the cutting room floor. Most of the time we spent just trying to make each other laugh. I was frankly surprised at how many lines ended up in the movie that I wasn’t intending to use in the movie. I was just trying to make Dwayne laugh, and make him ruin a take and, delay us (laughs). But yeah, it was an exceptional experience, because it’s working with people you know.
Dwayne and I have been friends for 21 years, but I’ve known Gal for a little less than 10 years. It’s like going to work with your best buddies. And that’s the best way you could go to work; I didn’t take that for granted. I loved the experience.
Despite being a thief, your character is good at heart, embraces his independence, and has a constant need to prove himself worthy. How do you think a character like Nolan would have affected you, if you had met him at a time when you were growing up?
Well, a guy like Nolan Booth has an unquenchable thirst for validation, that he’s probably never going to figure out (laughs). I mean, he’s a fundamentally broken person. I think there are parts of my personality that are pretty broken as well, where I find it relatable, and I use them or exploit them to work in genres like this.
I don’t know that he would teach me anything, but Nolan is a cautionary tale for not resolving some of your past childhood issues before you become a grown-ass adult. He hasn’t figured that stuff out, which is sort of what makes him amusing, but it’s also what makes him kind of a low-life thief.
Can you share with us the method to your comedic madness?
Well, I generally try to create 5-6 or 10 jokes–all alternate versions for each joke, I write them out in advance, and then I just sort of fire them up. I do some that are clean and family-friendly, and then I make jokes, that are somewhere in the middle. In the film, I left it to Rawson (Marshall Thurber, director) to choose that stuff.
What do you think are the markers of a great buddy cop-comedy? Is it a ‘marriage of convenience’ as a scene describes it in the film or is it going to work with your best buddies as you described it?
I would say it’s none of the above. It’s chemistry more than anything. You have to have great chemistry. If you don’t have that, you’re kind of screwed. Now you can have bad chemistry with your friends. I’m just really lucky and so are Gal and Dwayne that we have pretty good chemistry together because it’s not something you can invent.
You have actors that aren’t necessarily trying to win in every scene as much as they are trying to play. Dwayne is very good at listening in scenes, I love to listen, and Gal does that as well. And I think that’s why we work well together as we’re performing.
In the past, you have worked in buddy cop films and there are certain elements that recur specifically in the hero pairing… generally people of different races that team up for law enforcement and so on…
Yeah, I don’t know that I could compare it to buddy cop kind of stuff. But it’s much more of a proper three-hander — you’re trying to create or shine a light on each character there, and they each have a moment. That’s when you want some unexpected twists-and-turns kind of stuff. But in terms of buddy cop thing, I haven’t done a lot of that other than maybe ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’.
You had earlier shared that doing action and hand-to-hand combat was more exciting than challenging. How has the working setup on an action film set changed during the pandemic?
There’s a tremendous host of hurdles, especially health hurdles that everyone needs to clear before they can ever even enter a room on a set like this. So, the protocols were incredibly strict. The protocols were so strict that I wasn’t ever really concerned. I mean, we made sure everybody was testing out every day and following every single rule to make sure that the set stayed healthy as well. Because if one of the three of us went down, the whole movie shuts down and, you know, 400 people lose a job. And we didn’t want to see us being responsible for that. So, we were very careful.
Every time you come on the screen you up your own game. Does that ever get pressurising for you?
There’s a little bit of pressure, but the next movie that I have coming out is called ‘The Adam Project’. And it’s a blockbuster kind of movie, but it’s a much more personal story. It’s far more emotionally grounded than something like this.
There’s no intense sarcasm or pop culture references or any of that stuff. It’s very specific. It was inspired a little bit by ‘ET’, and some of those movies that I used to love as a kid and in its tone, not necessarily the subject matter.
So yeah, I don’t have pressure; I’m excited to tell different kinds of stories. And, hopefully, work in films that are surprising. I think ‘Free Guy’ was quite surprising for people. And I think ‘The Adam Project’ will feel like that as well.
Comedy, as a genre, is really difficult but you do it over and over again. How do you make sure that it’s refreshing and doesn’t get boring?
I think, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone you know, who works in the genre to not find variations on a theme. You’re always repeating aspects of things and sort of changing them up. But to keep it fresh, it’s mostly about the content. You’re trying to make sure that you’re doing stuff that I might find funny. That’s the only kind of barometer I have. I don’t work with someone who would tell me, ‘No, don’t do that’, or, ‘Yes, do this’.
And I’ve mostly used writing as a tool to get myself out of trouble on movies over the last 10 years or so. And that’s been a huge asset of mine. It’s something I don’t take for granted. I’m really lucky that I’m able to do that. But when it’s starting to feel like it’s not quite coming as easily, that’s when you go, switch it up, and dive into a different genre.
How do you, as an actor, differentiate between those comedy roles? And how much of yourself do you put into a character like this?
I don’t think of it as much like that. I mean, I look at the people I love — Steve Martin, John Candy, Eddie Murphy, and a lot of guys who have worked in similar ways. Gene Wilder was another one that was big for me like that.
You are part of it. It is a subscription to a personality that you like or identify with, for me at least. And then the other thing is—scarcity and surprise—these are the two valuable assets in this industry. So that’s part of why I’m taking a sabbatical now and stepping away from films for a while because it’s exactly what you need to allow yourself to get creative and excited again.