Jai Courtney’s 2013 may have gotten off to a bad start thanks to A Good Day to Die Hard, but he’s bouncing back: the Australian actor has roles in the 2014 adaptation of YA novel Divergent as well as local thriller Felony (featuring Joel Edgerton) and just recently he’s been courted by Oscar-level talent for their own upcoming directorial projects. Courtney has signed on for roles in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner, which will mark Crowe’s first time sitting in the director’s chair.
By happy accident, these movies each revolve around one of the two World Wars, putting Courtney square in the midst of historical drama. Unbroken concerns itself with real-life former Olympian Louis Zamperini and his time spent as a POW during WWII, while The Water Diviner follows a father’s journey to recover the bodies of his three sons, all slain during WWI. Courtney will play supporting parts in both films; Jolie has chosen Jack O’Connell (who will show up in 2014’s 300: Rise of an Empire) as her lead in Unbroken, while Crowe will direct himself in the principal role for The Water Diviner.
Deadline made the announcement yesterday. At a glance, this looks like a meteoric leap forward for Courtney; genre fare has plenty of merit, no doubt, but Unbroken and The Water Diviner read as completely different animals from what we’re accustomed to seeing the young actor appear in. Jolie’s and Crowe’s pictures bear all the trappings of highbrow ambition on paper, and that sense of intention could easily vault Courtney into a whole different league of performance if the pair of productions are successful.
That said, it’s hard to say exactly in what capacity Courtney’s characters will influence the plots of either film. In Unbroken, he’s going to play Hugh “Cup” Cuppernell, a pilot who battles alongside Zamperini in a midair dogfight; in The Water Diviner, he’ll portray Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Hilton, the man in charge of coordinating the military’s endeavors to identify the countless soldiers who died in battle at Gallipoli. These outlines are so vague that guessing how much screen time he’ll get in these movies is nearly impossible; he could be either the major or minor kind of secondary.
It seems reasonable to assume, however, that he’ll have more to do in both movies than these descriptions suggest; Courtney’s an up-and-comer, and if the likes of Crowe and Jolie are knocking at his door considering his slim resume, it’s probably for good reason. Regardless of why, though, these are two plum opportunities for Courtney to expand his repertoire and prove his acting chops. Let’s see if he makes the most of them.
Unbroken arrives in theaters on December 25th, 2014; The Water Diviner has a tentative but unscheduled 2014 release date.