Joel Kinnaman was certainly able to take care of himself in Easy Money and RoboCop, but in Run All Night, he needs a little help from Liam Neeson. Kinnaman plays Michael Conlon, the son of Jimmy Colon (Liam Neeson), a notorious hitman known as The Gravedigger. Michael holds a serious grudge against Jimmy for his long list of kills and for being an absent dad, but when he inadvertently becomes a target for mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), Michael’s got no choice, but to let Jimmy back into his life if he wants to stay alive.
With Run All Night due in theaters on March 13th, Kinnaman hit New York City to participate in a brief roundtable interview with a handful of journalists. Again, some of the questions are a little unconventional so we spent a good deal of time talking about his hair before discussing the training he had to do to sell Michael as a former professional boxer, what it was like working with Neeson, what he’s busy doing to prep for Suicide Squad and more. You can catch it all in the interview below.
JOEL KINNAMAN: Yeah, that was my scalp. [Laughs]
You look really sexy either way.
KINNAMAN: Oh, thank you.
Had you been clean-shaven before?
KINNAMAN: Yeah, yeah, I’ve done a couple of movies where I’ve shaved it off.
Do you think that another character emerges hairless versus with hair?
KINNAMAN: I always get sort of an image of what the character is gonna look like and then I kind of go with it. And, you know, he’s a boxer in and out of the gym all the time. It’s just easier to have no hair.
You were kind of bald in RoboCop.
KINNAMAN: [Laughs] Bald cap.
We were just talking with Common about…
KINNAMAN: We’re just talking about hair now, so I hope you have a hair question.
[Laughs] I’m gonna transition away from it. How was it working with guys like Liam Neeson and Ed Harris? They’re in their 60s and they’re still kicking ass.
KINNAMAN: It’s super cool. It’s great to get to work with your idols. Both Ed and Liam, and Nick Nolte, these are people that I’ve looked up to and just revered their work so it’s amazing to get to work with them. And I think it’s kinda cool though that these old farts run around kicking ass, killing people. But I think with Liam also, he has that innate goodness, like a real pathos in him, and so even when he’s a bad guy or does bad things, I think people still feel like he comes from a good place. And then he’s so physically capable. You know, he’s an old boxer, so when he knocks somebody out in the movie, you believe it.
KINNAMAN: I’d totally take him. I’d take him without a doubt. I’d just run in circles, one jab and run around. He’s too slow.
I believe it! Are there specific fighting techniques that are his versus yours to highlight the difference?
KINNAMAN: When I got the script, I loved the script. Brad Ingelsby did a fantastic job, but I had some thoughts on my character. In the initial version, he was even more of a contrast to his father. He was like a clean-cut guy, he had a Caucasian wife with two blonde children and he was very much sort of a victim of the circumstances and wasn’t able to do anything himself. He wasn’t proactive really. So I wanted you to feel that he grew up in the same neighborhood, like it’s a rough New York neighborhood, and he had a father that was a gangster and an alcoholic that was there. It was almost worse when he was home. And even though Mike has done a very respectable thing and created a life for himself that is the opposite of his father and determined to create a life for his children that he didn’t get, you still wanted to feel the consequences of coming from where he came from, and that’s why I wanted him to be physically able so we put in that he had a run as a professional fighter. It didn’t work out, but that’s a place where he could unleash some of the anger that he had inside of him. And then when the movie goes along, you feel that he has anger issues, he’s physically capable and that he’s a street guy, too.
KINNAMAN: It was cool. I got in the car and I was like, ‘Okay, so how are we shooting this?’ They were like, ‘Yeah, so you’re gonna drive here and then that car is gonna like smash into your car. You’re gonna be crashing the whole way.’ I was like, ‘Oh, really? That sounds very analog.’ [Laughs] And then that’s what happened. The cars were really crashing into each other for real while we were sitting in them.
Liam seems like a great driver, too.
KINNAMAN: He didn’t drive though. Those are the stunts. Liam [didn’t] drive. Especially when it comes to car driving, then everybody’s really cautious and you really want an expert on that. He does his own fight sequences and when he’s running and doing stuff like that, but the car chases, you have to have professional drivers for that, and I was very happy about that because, I don’t know, Liam getting angry in a car, carried away, I don’t wanna be in a car that gets crashed into.
One of the things I noticed about your character is that there’s something in him that wants to just unleash the fury, but Gabriela represents that divide between chaos and control.
KINNAMAN: Yeah, you know, you’re in a relationship with a tough Latin lady and it doesn’t matter that you have somebody bleeding on the floor. She will not be yelled at. [Laughs] I just love what she brought to the film. She’s very feminine, but she brought a real strength and an attitude that it just felt real between them. It’s not easy not having a lot of money, raising two kids. And, of course, they get into fights, but they’re really trying to make itwork and they do really love each other. I think it evokes something primal when your family gets threatened. I don’t have kids myself yet, but there were a couple of situations when we shot a scene like when we had the whole family in the bathtub and I’m grabbing two kids and my wife and I have a gun in my hand. [Laughs] Sometimes when you do movies, you have a scene and, ‘Okay, these are my lines,’ and you play, it’s a little bit of this feeling, but then sometimes you get put in situations that kind of evoke something in you. The idea is to sort of go there in your own mind and sometimes you just end up there, and it brings out feelings that you probably would have gotten in that situation, and that was one of those moments where it was like primal. ‘Don’t f*ck with my family. I’ll do anything.’
In the middle of all this violence, there’s a balance, there’s a family structure, there’s compassion. Was that on the page or did you have to evoke some of that?
KINNAMAN: A lot of it was on the page. It was a really good script. I mean, Brad did a fantastic job. But then there’s always – when you start filming a film, you have the script and the cast comes together, but then the film kind of takes over and you never know what it’s gonna be. And then some things get enhanced, you connect with another actor and you start improvising a little bit, and then all of a sudden the relationship changes and then you realize, ‘Okay, well then that scene has to change a little bit too’, and it just becomes something more that feels a little more deep rooted. And I felt like that with Legs (Aubrey Joseph). He was a fun kid that had a real honesty in him and we could joke around. It got to another level with him I thought.
You’re always in pretty great shape, but did you have to amp up your training at all for the boxing and the fighting in this one?
KINNAMAN: Yeah, I did. The fact that he’d had a run as a professional fighter, even though he wasn’t successful he’s still on a very high level, and I just box a little bit every now and then. That sort of became my main focus of the preparation, I trained boxing. One of my good friends from Sweden, he’s on the Mayweather Money Team, he’s actually just up for a title fight now. So I reached out to him and then he put me together with his old New York trainer, a guy called Don Saxby. I trained with him for a couple of months and Don helped me not look like I was a complete idiot anyway. [Laughs]
Are you a boxer or a scrapper?
KINNAMAN: I think I’m a boxer, but then when I get hurt, I’ll start scrapping.
I want to go back to the hair. Is the facial hair for anything specific?
KINNAMAN: Yeah. Yeah, I’m shooting a movie right now up in northern Ontario. It was minus 37 Celsius. I don’t wanna go back. [Laughs]
Is that going to have to be shaved off soon for a certain other movie?
KINNAMAN: Maybe, maybe not.
Are you studying up at all for that?
KINNAMAN: Yeah. Yeah, so I’m in northern Ontario shooting this movie and then I go down to Toronto on the weekends to prepare.
How excited are you for that? I think we’re all pretty excited about [Suicide Squad]. I mean, the lineup is incredible.
KINNAMAN: The story’s dope and David is just, he’s cool. You know, I think you’re always afraid when you go into like a big superhero movie that it’s gonna be kinda just action and you’re not gonna be able to just really go to the bottom of the characters, but I think he’s gonna be able to do both, really give it both depth and scale. Yeah, all the conversations that we’ve had so far have been like, ‘Wow. Okay, we’re really going there.’ So that’s fun.
Do you have a long schedule for that?
KINNAMAN: Yeah, it’s long.
Can you talk a little bit about shooting the train scene for this? I know you guys didn’t have control over the trains, so is it hard to stay in character while hitting all of your marks?
KINNAMAN: You know, I’m never very good with marks. [Laughs] They’re always like, ‘You’re not on your mark’. I was like, ‘Oh, it’s that thing you put on the ground? Yeah, I don’t pay attention to it.’ [Laughs] When I was shooting The Killing, the operators figured it out so they would be like, ‘Okay, Joel, so you’re here.’ I was like ‘What?’ And they put like desks all around, a whole circle, and then I’m just standing there, ‘Yeah, that’s where you’re standing’. So I was like, ‘Okay, so you boxed me in here?’ ‘Yeah, because you keep moving and wandering around all the time.’ But it’s always the thing when you’re shooting out and about with real people and you could get a couple of bogeys like sticking their face in front of the camera, like ‘Hey!’