Interview with ‘Hitman: Agent 47’ Stars Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto and Director Aleksander Bach

 Hitman Agent47 Zachary Quinto, Rupert Friend and Hannah Ware

The bestselling video game comes to life in vivid detail in HITMAN: AGENT 47.  The action thriller stars Rupert Friend ("Homeland") as the title character, a genetically engineered assassin. When a deadly corporation plans to create an army of killers even more powerful than he is, 47 teams up with a young woman (Hannah Ware) who may hold the key to defeating them.  

At a recent NY press day for the film, Friend, Ware, Zachary Quinto and the film’s director Alexander Bach, spoke about preparing for their roles and the intense training they went through.

Q: What were some of  the challenges of translating a video game into a film?

Bach: I think to make this successful, if you do game adaptation, what you need first of all – it doesn’t matter if it’s a video game or not – you need a great story, and you need great characters, and you need great actors to bring it to life. When you have this and you combine it with great action and something which feels fresh, then you have a chance to put the puzzle together in a very nice way and that you create something which feels right.

I think that’s the most important thing that you have great characters that you care for. When it’s based on this game, on Hitman, and you have this cold assassin Agent 47, you also need to care for this guy. When he’s just too cold, it doesn’t work.


Q: What’s it like doing a challenging physical movie like this in regular clothes?

Quinto: With that stuff it’s all about taking care of yourself. We all trained a fair amount before we got to Berlin and we continued to train through production and that was a key element. Just making sure you’re on top of it and honing your skills and challenging yourself every day. With a movie like this, that becomes really important.


Q: Did you all feel that having a woman have powers and kick ass made it stand out from these other genre films?

Ware: When you’re immersed in the story and what drew me to it was she’s not just a strong female character, I hate using that term, it’s so annoying, it shouldn’t exist. But when you’re making a movie and immersed in things you’re not thinking “are we doing anything different?” or monitoring and gauging where it fits in terms of what’s going on in the current mode of movie making. That’s why I did it and I’m pleased that it stands out.

Quinto: It’s also what Hannah brings to the role. Yeah, she kicks ass, but she’s also operating on these emotional levels which are really complex and magnetic and for her first big studio movie it’s such an impressive feat to watch it evolve and watch the finished product.

Hitman Agent 47 Rupert Friend

Q: Did you play the video game that the film is based on?

Friend: I found the games very useful, particularly the later Absolution game. The game-makers have clearly used an actor for the character because there was a motion-capture thing I could feel. The way that the character moved was very interesting to me. There was something very graceful about him. This is a guy who takes such pride in his clothes – the iconic suit and tie. And yet, he’s able to fight very efficiently in a very inefficient kind of uniform. That deadly grace, if you like, was at the center of something very physical for me.


Qunito: I never played the games, so for me it was about figuring out a point of entry from a creative standpoint and engaging my imagination to inhabit the character in the world. I know it’s derived from the history of the games, but that to me wasn’t the most effective way in and I know for Rupert, he can attest to this, it was different. Training was about six weeks of conditioning after I got the job but before I started shooting and once we were in Berlin it was about focusing on the fights themselves and working with the stunt team to build ourselves up to speed so we could do this together and make sure we were where we needed to be for the cameras. It was much more traditional once we were over there. Rupert did some really fun stuff and I joined him in the boxing gym for the six weeks before we went over there.
Bach: I was studying the game from the very start because I knew it was my job to bring this character to life in a great way, especially when there’s such a big fan base for Agent 47. I learned from the game that the DNA is his intelligence and the way he does things. It’s not about random killing, he’s killing because he needs to make the next step. We tried to capture this to bring this to life from the very beginning, that 47 is probably smarter than all of us. When it’s about random killing it’s boring.


Q: What was the fight training process like?

Friend: When I got the role, I began training with Zachary in a boxing gym with a great guy and then the Krav Maga Academy here in New York, so I was doing this very brutal, efficient, Israeli self-defense technique and trying to marry that with something a lot more balletic.


Q: Were there any exercises you all did to build camaraderie?
Quinto:  Hannah and I knew each other before we started shooting the movie, so that was a great extension of our already budding friendship to bring it to work and that’s always a cool thing when you know somebody and find an occasion to work with them. Because I’ve seen Rupert’s work and really admire it, I got a sense of who he was as an actor and we both came to this with a real sense of openness. And to play adversaries and come at this with an open mind and open spirit actually helps. That’s something I felt in our connection as we were working together. 

When you have to fight so much and be there for somebody you have to be eye to eye and show up in a way when it’s so physical, so we had a lot of time in the training process to build that foundation.

Q:  Rupert how did you prepare to take on such a dark character?

Rupert: Yeah, I went on a killing spree. [Laughs] I get this question a lot – what is it about you and people who kill people for money because I seem to do it a fair bit? The answer is I don’t know. I think the world we’re lucky enough to work in is a world of wonderful make believe, and when you’re really given an opportunity to stretch your imagination, as we were with this movie, it tests what I think is the most limitless muscle we have as creative people, which is: Can you imagine it? And if the answer to that is yes, then can you do it? And that’s our challenge. All of us actors do that on a daily basis. Special effects people do it, and photographers do it. And it’s the single most fascinating element of the job for me. You can’t really literally prepare to play an assassin unless you want to be thrown in prison. There’s a few things you can’t prepare for in that way other than in your mind, and in that respect, it’s a leap of imagination.


Q:  How and why did you choose to forego a romantic subplot?

Bach: First of all, I was thinking a lot about Agent 47 and there’s no romance for this character. It’s a very very thin line. The question to answer was how much humanity is left and you have to do it very… I knew that when it’s too much, you don’t buy it, because he’s a killer, he’s a clone, he’s stone cold. The interesting part was Hannah’s role, Katia, who was triggering this, she’s challenging him, and this is why we feel like there is something left, especially when you see the scene in the hotel room and asking questions and “I don’t believe you can get rid of love, or get rid of fear” and he doesn’t answer, he just stares with these cold eyes. I knew if you put in some romance there, the audience is smart and wouldn’t buy it.

Zachary Quinto in HITMAN: AGENT 47

Q:  How was shooting on location in Berlin and Singapore?

Quinto: That was one of the most appealing things for me, taking a genre from a video game past and drawing that fan base into a larger narrative and exploring the characters and giving them a shade of complexity and dynamic interaction. I remember the first conversation I had with Ali, that really solidified where we were coming from as a creative team behind this project and that went a long way in drawing me in. And the fact that it was shooting in Berlin, which is probably my favorite city after New York, and that was an incredible experience to be in a city that I’ve known so well for such a long time. I’ve been going there a while. I have friends that live there and stuff. So, to work there, to live there, and to use the city as a kind of playground for this film.
And then, the architecture of Singapore. This is the first Hollywood studio film to shoot in Singapore. That was a real milestone, I think, for all of us involved. It’s an incredibly, stunningly beautiful architectural city. And the way that Ali [Aleksander Bach] and Óttar Guðnason, our incredible DP [Director of Photography], brought that to life and put it on the screen is really sleek and dynamic and goes a long way to satisfy the appetite of gaming fans who are really used to this cinematic immersion. I think the movie brings that into focus.


Q: Katia is asked to take on some rather challenging tasks, which she is initially reluctant to do. Can you speak about her transition?

Ware: Katia is introduced as a girl who’s seemingly normal and not genetically modified, so the human component is there from the outset. For me, personally, I always want to see films where it reflects some universal feelings and themes. Which writer says you need to know you’re not alone in the world? I think people watch movies to, in some way, identify with the characters. So, if there was no human component, you would be left cold, and you wouldn’t be compelled to watch.


Q: Rupert, what about finding the humanity in your character?

Friend: I was particularly interested by the notion that this guy, who’s been genetically engineered to be “perfect” and that the flaw in that perfection might be his humanity and that his makers might consider that to be a real rogue bit of programming. And yet, if you look at it from the paradigm shift from the other side, that could also be his greatest strength. The idea that this guy who’s not supposed to have feelings or vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams, any human relations might indeed have them, and they would be considered flaws by some and actually be his greatest strength. That was interesting to me because it opens up real wonderful questions about what humanity is.

HITMAN: AGENT 47 opens Friday, August 21st.

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