Unlikely action man Rupert Friend aims to make a hit of Hitman: Agent 47
Rupert Friend aims for the big league with new assignment Hitman: Agent 47, about half of which was shot in Singapore
WIN A 2D1N STAYCATION AT ONE OF THE HITMAN LOCATIONS.
There is much at stake for Hitman: Agent 47.
This reboot of the 2007 Timothy Olyphant action flick Hitman is the first episode of what could be a possible franchise.
It also kick-starts a string of film adaptations of popular video games that are making inroads into cinemas, such as Warcraft, Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect, all forthcoming, although traditionally, this genre has not met with much success, the exceptions being Tomb Raider and Resident Evil.
Most importantly, Hitman: Agent 47 is headlined by an actor whom you would not traditionally associate with action.
Throw dashing English actor Rupert Friend a Jane Austen book or put him in period costume and that would likely suit him to a T.
But guns and knives and hand-to-hand combat and putting him behind a wheel for some stunt driving?
Friend, 33, was not the first choice for the titular role of a genetically enhanced human clone engineered to be the ultimate killer.
Fast And Furious star Paul Walker was initially cast to play the chrome-domed killer in black suit and red tie.
However, due to Walker's sudden death in 2013, the role was handed to Friend. It will the first time he is shouldering a blockbuster on his own.
In the movie, which opens here tomorrow, 47's latest assignment is to take down a syndicate that plans to create an army of killers whose powers surpass even his own.
47, who has zero emotions, but heightened and unprecedented strength, speed, stamina and intelligence, is usually a one-man killing machine.
But he finds himself teaming up with a young woman Katia (Hannah Ware) who may hold the secret to overcoming their nemesis, particularly the formidable John Smith (Zachary Quinto).
The premise sounds like a stretch for the Brit, who is more known for films such as The Young Victoria (2009), Cherie (2009), Pride & Prejudice (2005) and The Libertine (2004).
But he is all geared up to quash stereotypes and it helps that he looks the part of a cold-blooded assassin, with his head shaved bald.
He has also played another hitman, CIA agent Peter Quinn in the acclaimed TV series Homeland, for the last three years, which earned him brownie points.
Casting a drama-trained actor meant that emotional depth could be explored, something that attracted Friend to Hitman: Agent 47 in the first place.
"I was intrigued by the idea of someone who has had his emotions genetically removed, whether that's even possible in the first place," he said.
"So if you're playing an assassin like 47, what is his human side? Certainly, on the surface, 47 seems indestructible and a complete killing machine. But in fact, he's an individual who bleeds and feels."
Friend threw himself into learning martial arts such as Krav Maga, Muay Thai and boxing.
He also trained with a weapon specialist so that he could convincingly handle 47's signature pair of Silverballer pistols.
He told Comic Book World: "I spent many weeks with a fantastic armourer who trained me to the point where I could put a bag over my head and could still take (the guns) apart and put them back together and then shoot them together without seeing."
Another plus point is that Friend is an avid gamer who immersed himself in the Hitman world as part of "research" to understand the character and to better translate him to the big screen, which should satisfy fans of the 15-year-old game.
"If you play the game, you'd know that 47 is not only a tactical fighter but also an improviser... you see how he could use anything around him to fight, as in the game."
In another interview with Crave, Friend elaborated on how he insisted on delivering more elements of the game such as 47's modus operandi.
"There are just some things that we have to get in there. I want to see more costume changes, more stealing clothes, more disguises... I want to make sure that we remember that this is about a guy who first and foremost relies on self and cunning."
Friend, who has signed on for multiple pictures for a possible Hitman franchise, is determined to make his 47 not just an all-out action guy like his predecessor.
"People love an anti-hero, it's the same reason why we might love a Han Solo," he told Crave.
According to a recent Forbes analysis, the movie is also gaining traction from it being shot mostly on location in Berlin and Singapore, enhancing its international appeal - which means Friend will be introduced to more parts of the world.
Another thing going for him is that while Hitman: Agent 47 is considered a summer flick, its budget is moderately low, at under US$50 million (S$70.4 million).
This means it does not need to open as big as, say, the US$150 million Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation to be labelled a success.
So the pressure is off. And judging from the decent buzz from fan sites, Friend just may pull off a hit.