While most of you don’t know who Oliver Jackson-Cohen is, if you see Dwayne Johnson’s Faster, that’ll change. That’s because Jackson-Cohen plays a bi-polar, very well dressed, killer who is after Johnson’s character. If you saw the green or red band trailers, you might have seen Johnson firing his gun at him in the hallway. I know this because I watched the scene get filmed earlier this year.
Anyway, while on set, during a break in filming, I was able to participate in a group interview with Jackson-Cohen. He talked to us about his character, preparing for the role, working with Maggie Grace, Dwayne Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton, as well as how he got the part and what it was like to work on his first big Hollywood movie. Hit the jump to either read or listen to what he had to say:
Like we always do for on set interviews, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. Finally, if you missed the the first clip from Faster that we premiered yesterday, click the link. Faster hits theaters November 24. Expect a lot more interviews soon.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen: Yeah. You catch him just as his whole life has changed. Right from the beginning, George and I started talking about his backstory. He asked me where he was from. We went backwards and forwards with quite a lot of ideas, but fundamentally, all of his problems stem from when he was a child.
Is your character one of the ones who kills Driver’s brother, or are you a different Killer?
Jackson-Cohen: No, I’m completely separate to all of that. I am hired to come in, and I find myself in this chaos. All three of us – Dwayne, me and Billy Bob – have our own demons that we’re dealing with, and the whole situation of what happens makes us have to deal with them. The backstory, and all of the stuff from the past, is coming up, right from the beginning of the film. It’s fascinating to draw on something like that, that you’ve created.
Do you have a connection with one of the female leads?
Jackson-Cohen: Yes. Maggie Grace plays my wife. Basically, it’s just me and her, in our own little world. Her character is called Lilly. We don’t have any connection to anyone else. All three of us have our own separate lives, and then we all meet.
Is your wife a killer, too?
Jackson-Cohen: She’s not, no. I met her in Japan on a shoot-out, one night. There’s nothing sane or normal about this man, and the same with her, and they work together. The Killer has sold a software company and made a huge amount of money. Because he’s bi-polar and he’s never been very stable, there’s this need to find something that’s going to thrill and excite him, and he finds it in this. She’s very supportive and knows how to look after and deal with him.
Nothing turns a woman on like seeing a guy kill somebody?
Jackson-Cohen: Exactly! Everyone wants that. Everyone wants to see someone shoot someone in the head.
What was driving school like?
Jackson-Cohen: Oh, that was amazing! When I first got the movie, it was the one thing I said I wanted to do. I was like, “Great! When do I go to driving school?,” and they took me out for a day. I’m 23 and I’ve never driven a car that, when you go passed 60, didn’t start to shake. So, it was nice to actually get in a car that didn’t do that.
What did you get to drive?
Jackson-Cohen: I got to drive a silver Ferrari. No one really knows what kind it is. But, driving school was incredible. The stunt coordinator taught me how to do these flips. It was incredible.
How much driving do you get to do for yourself in the movie?
Jackson-Cohen: Absolutely none! I’m on a biscuit for most of it, and I pull into frame and out of frame. I don’t think they trust me, insurance wise. Next week, we have quite a lot of driving that we’re shooting, so I don’t know whether or not they are going to trust me and actually allow me to drive the car, but hopefully they do.
What about weapons training?
Jackson-Cohen: Yeah, I’ve been doing eight weeks of training. At the beginning, it was every day. I’m from London. We don’t have guns there, like you guys have guns here. It’s insane. They have this guy who’s incredible, as one of the consultants on the film. He worked with Tom Cruise for Collateral. He’s very patient. We took it in baby steps and did it indoors. You have to learn how to hold it. At any minute, you can shoot yourself in the foot ‘cause we were using live rounds. And then, you step back from a target. It gets bigger and bigger. We started going outside, to a range in Santa Clarita. And then, I had to shoot from a moving car and shoot on the run. We did lots and lots of shooting.
Jackson-Cohen: Of course! Any minute now, I think I’m going to get fired. Every single day, I’m like, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to get fired today.” But, I couldn’t really ask for a nicer bunch of people to be working with. When I met the producers and George, for the first time, we got together with Dwayne and did this fake, mock-up scene, and he was just one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And, Billy Bob as well. I was so nervous meeting him. We’re all helping each other out, really. I don’t know how I’m here, but everyone is really helping me through it. It’s incredibly nerve-wracking when you’re got to hold that up. It’s three stories and they all run consecutively, and you don’t want your story to suck. But, hopefully it’s going well.
Q: Is your character this well-dressed throughout the entire film?
Jackson-Cohen: Throughout the entire film, yes. The costume department has spent huge amounts of money on my clothing, which is very, very nice of them. They had everything tailor made, and it’s just incredible. The shit thing is that I don’t get to keep anything. On every piece of clothing, it has written, “Hand made for Oliver Jackson-Cohen,” and I don’t get to keep any of it. We got together, right at the beginning, and started talking about different looks. We took where I was coming from and where George was coming from, and put together this ridiculous GQ look, which was fitted to where he was at, really.
So, he’s a bi-polar, GQ killer?
Jackson-Cohen: There’s a huge part to him that’s OCD, so everything about him has to be perfect, down to his hair. If something is out of line, everything starts to crumble for him.
Besides shooting at each other, do you and Dwayne have any hand-to-hand combat fight scenes?
Jackson-Cohen: Let’s not reveal too much. You’ll have to go and watch the movie. We make lots and lots of faces at each other. He’s hilarious. When we first stepped on set, he’s giant and the first time I met him I thought, “Oh, fuck, there’s no way I’m going to be able to shoot this man!” But, they shoved me into a gym for two months, so that I could try to match him.
What was the audition process like for you?
Jackson-Cohen: It was very long. It was great. The first time I got sent the script by my agent, I had just moved here. I was here for two weeks. I was like, “Yeah, I’m moving to L.A.!” So, I got here and it was one of the first couple of scripts I had read. I remember someone saying to me, “Oh, it’s about a hit man,” and I thought, “Oh, all right.” And, I read it and, right from the beginning, I realized that what everyone on this has done is give these characters heart. They’ve made them people that you actually can relate to. That’s what really drew me to it. There’s this man who is falling apart, and you can’t not have the compassion for him. So, I read it and then I went in to meet (director) George [Tillman], and the first audition was awful. He didn’t say anything to me, and he’s brilliant like that. He’ll just sit there and go, “Thanks.” I left and I thought, “Oh, no. What am I going to do?” So, I drove home in a real panic and I called my girlfriend and said, “Baby, we’re going to tape it. I’m going to redo it and tape it, and we’re going to send it off.” And then, I got home about a half an hour later, and they called and said, “You’re coming back in tomorrow.” So, I went back in the next day, and then went back in again, and then I flew back to London and got a phone call about two days later. This was over Christmas, so Christmas was nice and tense. And then, they called me and said that they wanted me to go to Miami to meet Dwayne, and then that changed and I ended up flying back to L.A. on New Year’s Eve. Me and Dwayne did a screen test, and then I flew back on New Year’s Eve and landed in London on New Year’s Day. So, I spent New Year’s Eve on the plane. It was great. But, it was totally worth it.
What’s the transition from London to L.A. been like for you?
Jackson-Cohen: It’s been amazing. We see [the sun] for about three days a year, so it’s very, very nice. And, everyone is just so friendly. It makes me feel so ashamed of the Brits. We walk around on high horses all the time, thinking that we’re so bloody cultured, but actually we’re really not. There’s nothing nice about us. So, it’s been a very nice change to come here. I don’t want to leave.
How much research did you do for a role like this?
Jackson-Cohen: It was a huge amount. When I first got the script and I started to audition for it, I started researching. He also has a leg deformity, from when he was a child, and someone in my family actually had the same thing. When you have a trauma that’s that bad, it affects you in certain ways, so I started reading up about that. And then, when George and I first started getting together to sit down and talk about it, we wrote a big file that covered every single part of him. There’s so much to him and his mind races so fast. There’s quite a lot of hurt and there’s quite a lot of stuff that he’s trying to keep bottled up. In order to understand him, you have to be able to throw yourself into it and understand it yourself, so I made a point of trying to get to grips with all that stuff, as much as I could. And, the make-up department have done an incredible job. They do these huge surgical scars from past surgeries, and it’s really quite remarkable. The minute they put them on, you feel yourself completely changing and you become this insecure, hyper-active weirdo.
As an actor coming into this role, were you able to take that nervous energy you had and apply it to the character? Did that help your performance, at all?
Jackson-Cohen: I think they’re totally separate. I used to be so laid-back and easy-going, and this kind of character has [affected me]. I get home and I find myself counting grapes, and then I’ll put them aside and go and switch the lights on and off. It just creeps in.
So, you’re going to need therapy after you’re done with this role?
Jackson-Cohen: Probably. I’ll probably turn into an alcoholic after this.