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17th Feb 2013 10:49am | By Alasdair Morton
Sydney-born actor Jai Courtney is going to be big, and we mean seriously big – an A-lister in the making.
With two high profile roles in the last three months, first opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and now a lead part as Bruce Willis’s son Jack in A Good Day To Die Hard, he is rocketing towards action stardom.
“He is on his way,” Willis himself proclaimed only last week of his younger co-star. ”That guy is awesome!”
Ask the New South Welshman, though, and he reveals smash-bang-explosion is far from all he is about.
“Things have shifted these days,” he says of Hollywood’s propensity for an all-out action hero.
“There are a few people we could label as straight up and down action guys, but that’s not the path I want to head down.”
He’s not oblivious to the fact, however, that, currently, it’s something he does, and does very well.
“It is interesting that I’ve had the opportunity to work on some action-heavy projects, and if there is a strength for me that I need to play to then that’s great,” he says.
“You have to break in somehow. But I want to diversify.”
Courtney joined Perth’s Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in 2004 – an institution that counts Hugh Jackman and the late Heath Ledger among its alumni to make it big across the Pacific – and won a role in swords and sandals TV show Spartacus in 2010.
Shortly after he was cast as sniper villain Charlie in the big screen adaptation of Lee Childs’ impossibly successful military detective Jack Reacher saga, starring Tom Cruise, with whom he tangles in numerous scenes.
No sooner had he finished work on this, he got the call about the Die Hard gig.
“I‘d just wrapped [Reacher] in Pittsburgh and was going home to Sydney, literally,” Courtney remembers.
“I was walking down the jetway to my flight at LAX when my agent called and said don’t leave, they want you to read with Bruce. I went, we did a few scenes.
"They’d not found the right guy for the gig as they needed someone who had that chemistry with Bruce.”
A few screen tests and months later Courtney got the part, cast for the chemistry with his on-screen dad along with his rugged good looks and imposing physical presence.
The latter went against what the production team had been looking for initially, but they were convinced to go with the young Aussie purely on the strength of his audition.
Die Hard rewrote the rule book for action heroes back in the Eighties – Willis’s John McClane was a wise-cracking everyman when compared to muscled monsters such as Sly (Rambo) and Arnie (Terminator) – and A Good Day ... continues this against-the-grain approach.
It’s a far cry from a straight forward guns and explosions movie, too. While its McClanes vs the Russians set-up suggests Cold War traditionalism (John goes to Moscow to help his incarcerated son, only to find out he’s not a drug-dealing chump but a CIA operative), the film’s heart is their father-son dynamic.