As military man Rick Flag, Joel Kinnaman babysits some of DC Comics’ baddest villains as they band together for an unlikely world-saving mission in Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad. While the film’s blockbuster earnings and often-scathing reviews have inspired endless chatter, the 36-year-old actor is out to spread the word about another film he stars in that’s coming to theaters this Friday. Edge of Winter is a tense psychological thriller in which Kinnaman plays a divorced, increasingly unstable father whose hunting trip with his two sons — played by Tom Holland (aka, Marvel’s newest Spider-Man) and Percy Hynes-White — quickly goes off the rails. In anticipation of its debut, we chatted with Kinnaman about Suicide Squad’s negative reviews, what drew him to Edge of Winter, and how his big-screen roles tend to involve firearms.
What’s been your reaction to Suicide Squad‘s negative critical reception?
Of course, you want to get great reviews. But the existence of an actor is basically, 95% of the time, we’re being told that, no, that wasn’t quite right. You have to develop pretty thick skin, and make yourself not completely dependent on what other people think.
In a film like Suicide Squad, the main ambition is to entertain. It doesn’t have any political aspirations. It doesn’t really dig deep, other than to portray these characters honestly. So with that kind of ambition, it becomes even more important what the fans think. I was disappointed, and I thought it was unjust the way that we were reviewed in some of the magazines. But at the same time, I was really happy, and actually a bit blown away, by the fans’ response. I don’t remember ever seeing a bigger split between what the critics and the audience thought of a film. It was a pretty big difference.
Would you be up for a sequel?
For sure. We had so much fun making this film. We really became a little family. So if nothing else, I want to do another one just so I can hang out with all of my friends again. I definitely think that, if this film is successful, then they’re going to do another one.
Did you film Edge of Winter before or after Suicide Squad?
Before. I finished Edge of Winter eight days before my first shooting day on Suicide Squad. It was fortunate that they were both sort of in the same neck of the woods. I shot Edge of Winter in Sudbury, Canada, which is a 4- to 5-hour drive from Toronto. So on a couple of the weekends that I had on Edge, I went down to Toronto and did some stunt training and stuff like that.
I would have loved a little bit more time in between them, but you don’t get that luxury. I had five days between Suicide Squad and House of Cards after that, so it was a pretty hectic year.
How do you manage such a transition, especially between such varied projects?
You just flip that switch, and you focus on what’s ahead of you. Edge of Winter was such a short shoot. We shot it in 19 days, and probably with a smaller budget than the catering department had on Suicide Squad [laughs]. But at the same time, every day on a film like this, you’re doing something substantial. And this character was one of the most challenging I’ve ever done. That’s what drew me to the film, was the opportunity to try to portray and give an understanding to a man, and to a type of man — you know, it’s so hard to find a redeeming quality about a man that becomes a threat to the life of his own children. I’m drawn to a lot of different kinds of characters, but I felt that this was a really unique opportunity. A character like this, he can say a lot about our whole society. Because some people are wired in a certain way where they’re just not quite able to function in society if they don’t get a very special attention, or if they fall under certain circumstances.
I found that really intriguing — and not just to do a villain; to give an audience an understanding of what’s behind this kind of behavior. Because I think that understanding is the key. When we just rule somebody out as crazy, that’s when we can’t learn from our mistakes, and that’s when we can’t prevent [bad choices] from happening again. There are a lot of films made about revenge and these primal emotions, which I have a lot of understanding for. But it’s also really important to make films where somebody that has done something incomprehensible — you can at least see what kind of person he is, and where he came from. I think it makes us more whole, to get that kind of understanding. I think this was an opportunity to do that, but in a film that’s also a very exciting, heart-thumping psychological thriller.
In the taut wilderness thriller Edge of Winter, Joel Kinnaman plays an unemployed, single dad with seething personal issues and more than a bit of a mean streak. It’s another complex character in an increasingly long line of layered performances by Kinnaman, who always manages to bring humanity to his roles, no matter how flawed the characters may be.
After his breakout role in the Swedish crime thriller Easy Money (aka Snabba Cash), Kinnaman came to widespread attention for his portrayal of detective Holder in AMC’s The Killing. Now, like many actors these days, he seems comfortable sliding between Hollywood tentpoles like Robocop and Suicide Squad, independent productions like Edge of Winter and even television with roles on House of Cards and the streaming service’s upcoming cyberpunk show Altered Carbon.
Since Edge of Winter sees release tomorrow (Friday, August 12), ScreenAnarchy caught up with Kinnaman to discuss what drew him to the project.
Screen Anarchy: First of all, congratulations on EDGE OF WINTER and your superb performance. I’m wondering what appealed to you about the project?
Joel Kinnaman: It was this character that really drew me in. It felt like there was an opportunity here to play a very complex character, a very difficult character, in a film that could also be a very exciting and horiffying psychological thriller.
I saw an opportunity to give nuance and perhaps some kind of understanding to a father that becomes a threat to his children’s lives — which is about as low as you can go. I saw a big challenge to humanize him in some way and get an understanding of where that kind of incomprehensible behaviour could come from.
I get the sense that you’re drawn to these types of complicated characters that push you into really dark places. One of my favourites is Holder on THE KILLING and it seems to be a theme in your career. What is it about this specifically that appeals to you?
If we were honest with ourselves, none of us are perfect in any way. And that’s why I’m drawn to the flaws. I don’t think it’s particularly interesting to watch a perfect human behave in a perfect way. It’s much more interesting to see why it doesn’t work and how you can still love somebody who has been damaged.
I think that even though we often want to distance ourselves from flawed people — people who perhaps didn’t receive the help they needed through life — really, they’re a symbol of what we all carry.
Is it hard for you to leave that mental space shen you finish shooting at the end of the day? Or do you carry some of that with you? Is it inevitable?
Sometimes it lingers, especially when you’ve gone to some personal places. In playing these kinds of roles and in acting in general, I feel that what I do is, I don’t really let my wounds heal. Things in my life that I’ve actually overcome already, that I no longer feel insecrure or sad about, I try to leave those wounds a little bit open and it does leave me open to feeling a little more anxiety at times, but it’s an important tool that helps me connect with, particularly, these kinds of characters.
You worked with a couple of young actors in this movie, including Tom Holland. I wonder if you passed on any of this wisdom to your young co-stars.
We would talk a lot and they were both very impressive. They really blew me away in how easily they could access deep emotion. And they really came to play. A lot of time with younger actors they want to do the fun stuff, like the action or the running, but they really wanted to dig deep. There was a vibe on set between us where the underline was, “We are really all going for it here. We’re not playing around.” And they were so game for it. So we had a lot of conversations about the work.
I really loved playing with young actors. It’s one of the most rewarding things because they’re so much closer to their original source of our profession, of playing. Becasue it’s a version of playing like we did when we were kids. And most adults forget what that is. They don’t have that in them anymore. Whereas if you’re an actor that’s good, that’s what you do. And that’s your job. So when you get into with a couple of kids, or young actors that are really talented, they tap into that so quickly and it becomes really inspiring.
So you’re team DC, Tom Holland is team Marvel. Was there any animosity between the two of you?
Well I actually helped Tommy with his audition. He was actually auditioning for Spider-Man while we were shooting Edge of Winter.
So you’re responsible!
It’s my fault!
Hey, that’s a-okay by us! Back to EDGE OF WINTER, what was the hardest part of making it?
The most difficult aspect, but the thing that was also at the core of the film, was the elements. It was below minus 30 and we were only shooting nights out in the woods. So it was very cold. So it was that, but at the same time we were really going for it with this one.
It’s really obvious in the fim. You can almost taste how cold it was. It really comes through.
Before I let you go, is there anything you can tell us about your new [cyberpunk] project, ALTERED CARBON?
Well, I’m coming back to Canada! I’m hoping to get that citizenship because I spend more time there than I do in the US.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a project than Altered Carbon. It’s just something that’s never been done before. It’s a sci-fi show that has a hard R rating and at the same time has a very high budget. It’s going to be 10 hours, but it’s like five decent-sized films in terms of budget.
We’re really going to be able to tell the story how it’s supposed to be told. It’s a sci-fi noir, Blade Runner-ish story that is just really fascinating and will give us all a take on what 500 years in the future could be like where techology has changed what the perception of life is and what the human body is and what the meaning of life is. And we do this through a detective story.
The ambition is so high from Netflix and Skydance, everybody involved in this project is the best in the game so it’s really going to be really fucking cool.
SA: Thanks Joel, it was a pleasure speaking with you. We’ll be sure to look for you around town in Vancouver when you begin shooting.
Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU) got off to a shaky start this spring with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was universally panned by critics (27% on Rotten Tomatoes), but still put up decent numbers at the box office ($872.6 million worldwide). While many fans, and the studio itself, had higher hopes for Suicide Squad, it’s in roughly the same boat as its predecessor, with an identical 27% rating on RT and a $465.3 million worldwide take after just two weeks in theaters. Today we have word that one of the film’s stars is speaking out against the negative reviews.
Vulture caught up with Joel Kinnaman, who plays Rick Flagg in Suicide Squad and stars in the new indie thriller Edge of Winter, which debuted in limited release this weekend. The actor was asked if he read any of the reviews, with the actor revealing that he can’t remember seeing a “bigger disparity” between the reviews and the fans’ reactions. The movie received a B+ on CinemaScore, slightly higher than Batman v Superman’s B score. Here’s what the actor had to say when asked if he read any of the reviews, but he thinks the critical drubbing might actually be good for the movie, since it lowers expectations.
“I read a couple, but I didn’t enjoy reading them, so I stopped. They were not kind. You always hope to get good reviews. It’s always nicer when people say nice things about you. But on a film like Suicide Squad, it really only has an ambition to entertain. There’s no big political aspirations about the film; it doesn’t take itself that seriously. The only way it takes itself seriously is portraying these characters in an honest way. I really think we did that, and I’m proud of my work and everyone else’s work in that film, too. So, on a film like this, that has those kinds of ambitions; it becomes even more important what the fans think. We made this film for the fans. I can’t remember ever seeing a bigger disparity between reviewers’ and fans’ response to a film. It really was night and day. We’ve just been showered with love and appreciation for this, so it’s been pretty phenomenal. Sure, the film is not perfect. But the kind of vitriol that it got? [Laughs.] It sure as hell didn’t deserve that. I think it actually might’ve been good for the film. Now people don’t have too-high expectations for it. It reset that a little bit, and people went into the theaters and just got entertained by what they saw. So I was really happy with how that whole thing turned out.”
The actor says was happy with how the fans responded after the movie critics chimed in. The film has currently earned $224.8 million domestically and $465.3 million worldwide from a massive $175 million budget. While the super villain ensemble did come out on top for the second weekend in a row, it dropped a massive 67.3%, just slightly better than the huge 69.1% drop suffered by Batman v Superman this spring.
Even before the movie was released, there was talk of Suicide Squad 2, which may even be R-rated. Warner Bros. has yet to confirm whether or not this sequel will happen, but there have been rumors that the studio wants director David Ayer to start shooting in early 2017. Given the critical response, we’re not if the studio is still willing to move forward on the sequel. We’ll be sure to keep you posted with more updates on Suicide Squad 2 and the box office performance of Suicide Squad in the weeks and months ahead.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the team of supervillains who make up the Suicide Squad of the upcoming DC film but there’s more going on, including those who aren’t quite so villainous.
Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is one of that number. He’s a very special soldier with a huge amount of training who is more or less operating on the side of law and order. He’s tasked by Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller with keeping the Squad in check, and that means going into some seriously dangerous territory.
Here’s an interview with Kinnaman where he talks about the character and how he works together with Waller, as well as getting into the tone of the new film.
It sounds like Flag is going to be plenty busy in this film and if it proves to be a hit we could be seeing more of Kinnaman’s character. Who knows with his military expertise he might even show up in future DC movies to give a helping hand to the side of good.
Suicide Squad is in Irish cinemas on the 5th of August, 2016.
Mr Joel Kinnaman is hungry. As soon as MR PORTER’s photoshoot has wrapped, the 6ft 2in Swede jaywalks across Main Street in Downtown LA and straight into the first restaurant he sees. “Bäco Mercat? Fine. Table for two, please. And I’ll have the steak medium-rare, the Hamachi crudo, the shrimp and the lentil salad.”
The waitress smiles. “OK, then, that’s plenty for two. You know that everything here is meant to be shared?”
“No, that’s just for me,” says Mr Kinnaman, giving her a blank stare. “I’m really hungry.”
He’s not kidding. Mr Kinnaman is bulking up right now. So much so, that MR PORTER’s stylist had to go up a size on the Ermenegildo Zegna collection he is modelling to mark the brand’s arrival on site.
It’s 5.30pm, and time for his second lunch, just a couple of hours before his first dinner, which will be a pound of meat or fish. “I need to make 215lb by November,” he says. “That’s when we start shooting Altered Carbon. It’s Netflix’s biggest show so far, its answer to Game Of Thrones. I have to be ready. In my opening scene I come out in a loin cloth and fight six people.”
So he’s shaving, presumably, like a serious bodybuilder? “Totally. All about the shaving. And baby oil. I carry a jug with me just in case.”
Altered Carbon is a hard, R-rated sci-fi set 500 years in the future. Bodies are dispensable, our personalities are held in microchips and the rich are crushing the poor. A classic dystopia. “A lot of comparisons with Blade Runner,” he says, “but with lots more sex, violence and dismemberment.”
We’d never heard of Mr Kinnaman until his breakthrough role in The Killing in 2011. Movies followed, notably RoboCop, but also “a couple of others that didn’t pop”. And then last year, the tide turned. He made the indie thriller Edge Of Winter, in which he played an unstable and dangerous father. He joined the House Of Cards ensemble as the Republican candidate and biggest threat yet to President Underwood’s ambitions. And this August, he’ll star in Suicide Squad, a DC Comics extravaganza with nine leads, including Messrs Will Smith and Jared Leto. Mr Kinnaman plays Rick Flag, the head of a team of villains, a part that was originally meant for Mr Tom Hardy, but he was too busy making The Revenant.
“I’m happy to take Tom’s leftovers,” he says, tucking in to the skirt steak. “There’s a lot of tasty food on that floor.”
It’ll mean global fame, action figures, little kids chasing him down the street. But Mr Kinnaman is hungry metaphorically as well as literally, and happy to take whatever comes with it. “Oh I’m ready,” he says. “I’m going to go full colonial, and start saving people by touching their foreheads. I’m going to wear long white robes.”
Mr Kinnaman wasn’t born into acting. He doesn’t have one of those Mickey Mouse Club stories. Twenty years ago, when he was 16, he dropped out of school and was hanging out with a gang of petty criminals in what he jokingly calls “southside Stockholm”. He grew up in a sprawling, hippyish family. His American father was a military deserter in the Vietnam War, who sought refuge in Sweden, where he had a number of children by a number of women. Mr Kinnaman grew up with five sisters.
It was tough. Growing up, he had a difficult relationship with his father. “We’re good now. I’m working on a film about his life with a Swedish director. I’m going to play him. But see, he was beaten by his parents. And in my teenage years, I was definitely testing the boundaries, so…” He shrugs. “You know, hanging out and smoking weed. I had a lot of anger in me, and I was insecure. I was really skinny and I used to get bullied, so it felt good to bully other people. That made me feel stronger.”
The name Joel Kinnaman is likely to draw a blank from the average moviegoer.
He’s more “that tall, lanky guy from ‘The Killing,’” or the fellow who had the misfortune of playing “Robocop” in the ill-conceived 2014 reboot. However, his days of relative anonymity may be over. Kinnaman helps anchor “Suicide Squad” as Rick Flag, the field leader of the team of super villains and criminals. He’s a brusque military man, tasked with running herd over the baddest of the bad. The film co-stars Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Will Smith as Deadshot, and Jared Leto as the Joker. It’s expected to dominate the box office this weekend, opening to as much as $125 million.
Kinnaman spoke with Variety about his intense training regimen, “Suicide Squad” sequels, and the disgusting gifts he received from Leto.
Tom Hardy originally had your role, but he had to drop out to finish “The Revenant.” How did you get the part?
I was following this project very jealously from the sidelines. All these new cast members were being added, and nobody was calling me. Then I heard about Tommy dropping out. My reps called me and said they’d set up a meeting for me with [director] David Ayer. We sat down in a bar in Toronto and we hit it off. We understood where we were coming from.
In the audition, we just hit it off. The room was gelling. He proved he was an actor’s director. I come from the theater initially, so I respond very well to getting stuff thrown at you. It helps me show what I can do.
How did you prepare?
The first thing David told me was “get big.” So I did that. I gained 35 pounds in three months. Trained a lot. Ate a lot. I did gain a little too much on the belly, so I had to lose that.
I became close with our military advisers on the film. Two of them were former Navy SEALS who went on to become CIA operators. These guys were real life Rick Flags. We went through intense training. We’d go out in the woods and backpack with 50 pounds. They wanted to drain me physically and deprive me of sleep. For 60 hours we’d be doing these workouts. They’d show me videos of cartel beheadings and torture. The most awful things I’ve ever seen. The whole thing culminated with this six-hour exercise where they’d take over this abandoned meat locker — like this underground maze. They enlisted 15 to 20 Canadian military guys. We did these scenarios. Like hostage situations. We’d use blanks, but it was still crazy.
They showed me how you shoot or enter rooms. The most important part was the attitude. This guy isn’t just a top tier operator. He is a commander.
Did Jared Leto stay in character as the Joker throughout the shoot?
Yeah, he sure did. It was amazing to watch him work. I knew Jared before. I knew him personally. But I didn’t see that guy throughout the whole shoot. I met Mr. J. a couple of times. He was magnetic. He pulled off an amazing performance. The commitment and the concentration that he had was inspiring to watch.
He sent me some presents. He sent me a couple of used condoms. A couple of dildos. Some anal beads. Someone asked me, “Did you send him any presents back?” I’m like, “when someone sends you a used condom, I don’t want to play anymore. I don’t like your game, and I don’t want to play.”
Did the cast bond?
It was pretty much a love fest. When you look at what Jared did, sort of setting himself apart, it’s undeniable that concentration gets results. You look at what Daniel Day-Lewis does and it’s the same thing. The detail of his work and the amount of time he spent practicing with the character. It’s just awesome.
What I think you lose with working in that way is the creativity of the ensemble. You have all these artists, these great artists together, and when you are social and when you are playing around, there’s a sense of humor that you can build together. You understand each other’s idiosyncrasies. Even if there’s a contentious relationship between your characters, there’s a humor that you can put into things. You can build comedy into those relationships. That’s what we were after with the squad.
I heard you all got tattoos together?
Yes. That was a great life decision.
Are you signed for more “Suicide Squad” sequels? Will Rick Flag appear in other DC Comics movies?
We’ll see. Maybe we’ll make more “Suicide Squad” movies. Who knows? The audience will decide.
If there’s like military involved in one of the other films than maybe they’ll call me. You can definitely see how Amanda Waller [the government agent played by Viola Davis] has a place in the other films. Maybe I’ll tag along with her.
There were reportedly a lot of re-shoots to fix the tone of the film and make it funnier. Was that true?
No. We did 95% action. It was just added action. That was a constructed narrative. It surprised me that it gets traction with people who should understand the film business better. Any film with a $125 or $135 million budget always has a block of re-shoots. Some do a week and some do a full month. It’s built into it. When you do a regular film the editor and the director will put together the movie and think, “Oh man, if we just had a little beat. It would elevate that.” But they have to work around it and work with what they have. On these big films they always have the luxury of going back and getting that beat and elevating it even more.
We’re all scheduled for a re-shoot period before we start the film. They put so much money into the shooting of these films and the marketing that to them it’s always worth getting it right.
Have you seen your “Suicide Squad” action figure yet?
I’m pretty much a veteran in the action figure game. I got my “RoboCop.” I got my “Suicide Squad.” It’s what I do.
You seem to do a lot of different types of projects. Indie films, television, big budget adventures. Do you fear typecasting?
That’s the main challenge. I try to do as many roles as I can. My favorite actors play very different kinds of parts. If I were ever to be so lucky to have an audience that was anticipating a film that I was going to do, I would love for them to have a feeling when my film was coming out to be thinking, “I wonder what he’s going to do with this role.”
Suicide Squad Comic Con 2016 panel with Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara & David Ayer. Watch more Comic Con 2016 Panels & Interviews
The pranks from the “Suicide Squad” set have been well documented ― specifically in regard to Jared Leto ― but this is definitely a new one.
While the cast was visiting Conan O’Brien this weekend (following their Comic-Con appearance), Joel Kinnaman, who plays Rick Flag in the upcoming supervillain flick, revealed how one prank by Will Smith took an unexpected turn for the erotic.
“They had rain towers that they took from the ground water in Toronto. It was icy cold. We were miserable. And Will had a brilliant idea of getting this bucket of steaming hot water,” Kinnaman explained. “He’d get this little bucket and sneak up to people that were standing, shivering to death, and pour it down their necks. You could see people standing there and then they were like, ahhhhh.”
“It was sensual,” he added, “It turned a little weird.”
Then Smith chimed in, creating a perfect image in our heads of just how erotic the prank turned out to be. Watch the whole interaction above.
“Suicide Squad” is set to hit theaters on Aug. 5.