Making it ‘big’ in Hollywood has never been a more lucrative goal for any TV or film actor, but it’s also never been a less predictable path. Take a look at the biggest stars on the small and big screens, and you’ll see newcomers whose stars skyrocket overnight, stage actors from overseas snatching superhero roles, and middle-aged character actors made leading men or women in the right property (and with the right fan base). But just as often, actors and actresses who seem set to explode can fail to find the perfect project at the perfect time. With Suicide Squad, director David Ayer has assembled a variety of said stars for his motley crew – but one among them seems particularly poised to finally cement his place in movie fandom.
Sure, the character ‘Captain Boomerang’ may be hard to take seriously – his comic book counterpart sports a silk scarf emblazoned with boomerangs, and his weapon of choice isn’t as threatening as a blade or firearm. But once actor Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys) was cast in the part, we knew Ayer was up to something. And from our time speaking with the cast and crew on the movie's set, it seems that not only will Boomerang be a hit with fans, but it may be the high-profile breakout role the Aussie actor has been waiting for.
Courtney was known to fans of the cult hit Spartacus long before appearing as the villain in Jack Reacher, but a role opposite Tom Cruise is the kind of job an actor dreams of – and holding your own in not just fight scenes, but dramatic standoffs can be a one-way ticket to bigger and bolder roles. It was so with Courtney, who soon found himself cast in high-profile roles like John McClane’s son in A Good Day to Die Hard and John Connor’s father Kyle Reese in Terminator: Genisys.
Two roles that, on paper, no working actor would ever turn down. But in practice, they proved to be the kind of critical flops that have killed promising young stars before (and, to be fair, Courtney was rarely if ever cited as the main problem with either).
Despite the disappointments, and despite having performed both roles in an affected American accent, Courtney impressed David Ayer enough to become his first choice for the smart-mouthed, beer-drinking, line-crossing Captain Boomerang. And speaking with producers Richard Suckle and Andy Horwitz, they couldn’t praise Courtney’s performance enough:
Richard Suckle: A great actor and a great guy. One of the fun things about this character is that I've not seen every film Jai has made but I've probably seen most of them and I don't think he's ever been able to play a role that allows him to really be funny and he's incredibly funny.
Andy: It's funny because I think it’s the first time he’s gotten to use his real accent in a movie. And we always say this, that Jai is playing Jai in the movie. He really is. His character is very similar to how he is in real life. He's a whole lot of fun in real life and he's a jokester and he's constantly stirring things up.
Watching a scene from the film being shot confirmed the producers' claims, with Courtney's Boomerang not just offering a hesitant one-liner or two, but eliciting laughs from the crew (who seemed to have recognized such was par for the course). Whether talking with publicists, costume designers, or his cast members, an utterance of Courtney's name brought with it a sly smirk - in hindsight, likely the memories of punchlines and false(?) bravado being brought to mind after a few months' shooting.
It's not a case of an actor being squarely in his comfort zone, either: following the scene, he spoke openly about his ignorance of comic books, having neither grown up reading them, or even frequenting their billion-dollar film adaptations. Which means it wasn't a shot at a comic book franchise or paycheck that led Courtney to sign onto the Squad - just a director who convinced him that this movie - and hopefully, this high-profile role - would be different.
When we asked Courtney whether he agreed with his producers’ descriptions, he wasn’t exactly eager to confirm the claim that a loud, aggressive, beer-drinking, foul-mouthed brawler is closer to his own personality than his previous roles. Luckily, co-star (and fellow Aussie) Margot Robbie was on hand to offer her own thoughts:
We got to hear from your producers saying ‘this is Jai just begin Jai’ for maybe the first time in your film career. Do you have a comment?
Margot Robbie: [Laughs] Do you think you’re playing yourself? Well you’re playing yourself a bit.
It was when the beer holster [on Boomerang's belt, visible in promo photos] was pointed out, I think.
Margot Robbie: There’s a lot you can draw on…
Jai Courtney: Maybe Jai Courtney the actor is actually the character that I put on and Boomerang… I’m finally been able to unleash him. It’s probably…Yeah, no there’s definitely some truth to that.
Margot Robbie: Your accent gets just a little bit stronger when you’re acting as Boomer. Jai Courtney: Definitely. It’s funny because, yeah, I mean there’s something kind of interesting… I feel closer to this than anything else [I’ve played]. But from a sort of performance perspective, it’s more of a ‘character’ than anything I’ve had the opportunity to take on. But it‘s actually closer to myself than any other role I’ve ever played... [trails off]
Because he’s Australian, or…?
Jai Courtney: Because I’m a bogan piece of s***! [Everyone laughs]
Only time will tell if the finished product will do justice to Courtney’s “piece of s***” villain, but judging by the laughs won on set, the glimpses of punchlines and smartass one-liners in the film’s many trailers is just the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully, the same will be true of the actor's blockbuster prospects.
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman is slated for release on June 2, 2017; followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash is currently without a release date.