Hitman is based on a videogame of the same name. The story revolves around Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant). He has been educated to become a professional assassin for hire. His most powerful weapons are his nerve and a resolute pride in his work. 47 is both the last two digits of the barcode tattooed on the nape of his neck, and his only name.
This Thanksgiving, Hitman will open across the country. Earlier today, we got a chance to sit down with its star Timothy Olyphant and discuss the film at length. He confirmed that Xavier Gens has been fired from the project, and that Luc Besson hasn't been as hands on with the film as some of his other projects.
Here is our conversation with Timothy Olyphant. He is the Hitman.
So, is this all of the hair that has grown back since you finished filming, or is it short for another role?
Timothy Olyphant: This is all that has grown back. I've done a lot of reshoots.
Can you talk about the reshoots and what all they entailed?
Timothy Olyphant: Yeah, we did this kick ass little action sequence in there. Some touch ups, and stuff. Little bits, little inserts. We are lucky to have that luxury. Then we also had an action sequence that we sort of added to.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Timothy Olyphant: Agent 47 is based on this videogame character. He is the type of guy that was born and bred for the purpose of killing. The story is essentially about a guy that was hired to do a job. He does it as seemingly well as he has done any other. But then he is told by the people he works for that there was a witness. And he needs to go clean that up. But something is not right. She is a woman, played by Olga Kurylenko. She was just fantastic. She did a very lovely job. But there appears to be no recognition when she sees me. Which obviously means something is not right. And the next thing you know, someone is trying to kill me. I thought I saw the killer on television, and nothing makes sense anymore. This guy's world is turned upside down.
Did you play the videogame to try and get a feel for it?
Timothy Olyphant: I did read about it. The lovely thing about the internet is that there is a wealth of information there. However factual, I am not sure. But there was a wealth of information. And it felt like we were doing a good job honoring the videogame. That's what I understood from what I read. This is a good tribute to the game, but at the same time, we weren't really a slave to it. Which was a nice place to work from. Xavier, the director, was a big fan of the game. He is a big gamer in general, and he loved the game. He was really adamant that certain things were reflected from the game. Other than the imagery I saw, there were things that Xavier and I both saw eye to eye on. That was obvious once we got the script. It was hard to tell what came first. Were there things that came from the game that inspired our choices, or were they choices that we wanted to do that weren't necessarily reflected in the game? We were conscious of the game the entire time.
Have you given your likeness over to future versions of the game?
Timothy Olyphant: That is a lawyer question. I'm honestly not sure how they will work that out, there. I don't think so.
How was it feeling the air on your freshly shaved head?
Timothy Olyphant: It was a little chilly. But, you know, it came with the part.
Did Xavier work on the reshoots? We heard that he was no longer with the project.
Timothy Olyphant: He is involved. He is very involved. He was there. He did not direct the reshoots. I don't know what Fox's position is on that, by the way. Maybe he did direct the reshoots. I heard the talk that he was fired. I'd been trying to get that guy fired for months. They finally fired him? What the fuck? I've been saying it forever. He doesn't speak English. Doesn't anybody see that is a problem?
I've heard that the film is really, really violent. And that Fox got a little bit scared, and is pulling back the level of violence that was originally shot.
Timothy Olyphant: I'm aware of that too. I know that was being talked about. I have no information that supports that. At all. I have had conversations. They don't have to have them with me at all. They have kept me in the loop here at the studio. There was never a conversation that was about fear of being too violent. The only conversations we've had have been creative conversations about the kind of violence. And where it hurts or helps the story. There is no way that it is not a violent film. We wouldn't have a film. It would be forty-five minutes long. They can't take out a lot of that stuff. We shot a very violent film. If there is any truth to that rumor at all, its that there is always a conversation about what you are trying to illicit in the audience. There is a difference between violence in a James Bond film, especially the ones made in the past, as opposed to violence in a Quentin Tarantino film, as opposed to violence in a horror film. They are all different. Look at something that is designed to make you uncomfortable. I think, as far as I know, the conversation was about finding the right tone. It wasn't about toning it down or making it anything less than an R rated film.
What is the tone of the violence?
Timothy Olyphant: I thought what we were making was reminiscent of the old John Woo films, the films that have come out of South Korea. There is a certain elegance to the film, but the violence was there as well. It wasn't comical. We aren't making something where fifty guys die, and you barely notice. It wasn't that kind of thing. As the movie changed, Xavier and I had a lot of conversations about how the violence changed as the character changed throughout the film. Xavier was every thoughtful guy, and a very smart guy. He really is the main reason why I was enthusiastic about this project. Its not lost on me that Fox offered me a project like this. It was quite the opportunity, and it was quite flattering. I had never done anything like this before. I had a certain type of responsibility. That was all well and good. But Xavier had a real enthusiasm for the material. He was aiming high. I thought that was impressive.
How quickly did this all come together for you?
Timothy Olyphant: It was quick. Yeah. That's apparently the way they do things around here. With Live Free or Die, I wasn't as much a part of it, obviously, but it felt similar. Just in its scale and how fast it was shot. I was shooting Live Free or Die in January, and its coming out on DVD in a couple of weeks. That's impressive. I think at that time, there were conversations. But nothing was set in stone. I hadn't met Xavier at that time. I didn't commit to the film until Xavier and I talked. It all happened pretty fast.
Is there any humor in the film, or is it all pretty serious?
Timothy Olyphant: We tried to find some moments. We did. We definitely did. Perhaps not enough. I don't know. I haven't seen the whole thing. But it's always nice when you can find those little moments.
Is it a sort of gallows, dark humor?
Timothy Olyphant: Yeah, we are not yucking it up by any means. We were trying to make a serious film.
How involved was Luc Besson on the project?
Timothy Olyphant: You know, I don't know. I can tell you that I had very little interaction with him while I was making the film. I met him. He was there for a day or two. I don't know how involved he was other than that. I didn't have that much interaction with him.
Can you talk about working on the action set pieces and being the leader on an action film?
Timothy Olyphant: It was great. I really enjoyed it. It was very challenging. For a couple of reasons. One, it was a big responsibility and I hadn't had it before. I haven't been the lead in this type of film. And that was all amplified by the fact that the director was French, and the crew was Bulgarian. That adds all sorts of additional challenges. But that being said, I really enjoyed it. Like I said, Xavier was a very smart guy. It was very rewarding engaging with him creatively. Fighting the fight, if you will. Day in and day out. How can we make this seem smarter? How much of a character film can we make? Given the source material, can we still get to the heart of something here.
What sort of acting tools did you have, playing this guy this is about nothing but killing?
Timothy Olyphant: I think the angle I take is, you trust that it takes care of itself. You trust that if you kill a bunch of guys in an elevator, and you walk out the only guy without a scratch on you, that defines who you are. You trust that. You leave that alone. You say, "Well, I don't really need to convince everybody that I'm a bad ass, because I just walked into that situation, and I'm the one that comes out without a scratch." You put that aside. Then you ask, "What else is there? How many other angles can I look at this? Where is the humanity in it all?" You start with a guy who goes from job, to job, to job. You just assume that it's sort of a lonely existence. It's a salesman sort of thing. I thought it was interesting to sort of look at his job prior to the events that start to happen. It is kind of mundane, job-to-job. He is pretty good at what he does. It's probably pretty easy. He is not engaging with a lot of people. And there is a detachment to it. Then that starts to get kind of interesting. When you look at something that is so special, you try to find what is so pedestrian about it. You know? Then you take what happens when this guy's world turns completely upside down. You have this sense of a soldier whose job is, "You point and I'll shoot." That's essentially his job. The assassin doesn't choose who dies. Someone gives him a target and he goes and takes it out. What happens when there is no trust. There is no boss. The target is not being given to you. Who do you not take out? What starts to happen is, it forces him to examine, in some small way, "What else is there? If I'm not that guy, do I have any other job skills?" You start looking at it that way. Those are very human experiences. Everyone can relate to the carpet being pulled out from under you. Everyone can relate to the idea of asking yourself, "Is this who I am? Or am I capable of being something else?" Not necessarily something better, but something else. Those are interesting things to try and explore.
Is this something the studio sees as a franchise?
Timothy Olyphant: You would have to ask the studio. These days, it seems like everything is being considered a franchise. If it's successful, you know there is another one coming. It is hard to find a movie these days that doesn't have franchise potential. Someone was telling me the other day, ""The Game Plane. Sequel." I was like, "Really? It's a franchise? I didn't see that." But it did great, so why the fuck not? I don't know.
Are you signed for multiple films?
Timothy Olyphant: Yes. Yeah.
Does this film with a cliffhanger or a natural set-up for a sequel?
Timothy Olyphant: It is certainly rich with that possibility. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
You don't die in the film, then?
Timothy Olyphant: Hey, there are plenty of other bald guys running around. They could have an Agent 48.
Hitman opens this Thanksgiving, November 21st, 2007.