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A Spy, His Family, and His Boss
"Vivi is digital in a digital world and Ethan is decidedly analog." - McG

In a film with several relationship dynamics at play, often simultaneously, it was important to find the right combination of talent to bring these characters to life. McG and Costner found their way to the project around the same time, which led to a number of discussions about the film and the character. McG jumped at the chance to work with Costner seeing it as a tremendous opportunity to work with an Academy Award winning director and to elevate his own work. "He is a beloved character who has had an established, long standing career." McG saw Ethan as a strong American presence, much like Costner. "It is a tip of the cap to Kevin in regards to how much the global film audience appreciates him."

Filling out Ethan's family meant finding two women who would have unique chemistry with Costner. Ethan's daughter Zooey is your typical American teenager living in Paris, France. The key for McG was finding an actress who could convey all of the conflicting emotions Zooey feels about not understanding her father's life and someone who would be able to match Costner's presence on screen. McG found that in Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld. "Hailee was absolutely my first and only choice. She is one of the most natural actors in her age group. She just completely owns the dialogue; she makes difficult scenes go down very easily. It's not easy to emote and have it feel natural and she puts the audience at ease. That's a gift that can't be taught." McG further said of Steinfeld, "She is an extraordinary screen presence who we are lucky to have in this place in her career. She understands what it means to be young and alive; but, at the same time, she has an emotional complexity which is beyond her years. So it was a joy to turn the camera on and just watch her work."

Finding the other main woman in Ethan's life, his ex-wife Christine, provided its own challenges. Christine is an expatriate now living in Paris as a single mother who works for a museum. The character requires a certain worldliness that Ethan lacks and also provides a romantic ideal Ethan can strive for. "Connie Nielsen grounds the film and she's very compelling. Connie is very international in her path, as far as she's from Denmark but she has lived in America for a very long time. She brings an international understanding to the film."

When it came time to cast Vivi, the agency handler assigned to Ethan's last mission, McG needed to find someone who could motivate Ethan to do what he must while also maintaining an aura of mystery around her. Amber Heard came into the project ready to become Vivi. "She's someone who has lived this international life and has a deep understanding of what makes people do what they do" said McG. He aimed to have her be reminiscent of some of his favorite screen sirens of all time, such as Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner. The audience sees Vivi through Ethan's eyes and she is a larger than life character who has ways of getting what she wants.

That is part of what initially drew Amber Heard to the character. "Vivi exists in the world that she made for herself and she makes her own rules and you can't ask for a better platform as an actor. She gets to call the shots without actually having to fire the gun."

There was a lot about Heard that McG knew would be right for Vivi. "Amber is a girl from Texas. She's an accomplished marksman. I think that you need to have life experience to be able to draw upon that to be a great actor and she's lived a very, very interesting uninhibited life."

Once the core quartet of actors was in place, it was important to populate Ethan's world with a number of international characters. They exist to stop him from doing his assigned job while simultaneously assist him with his job as a father. Whether it is a Middle Eastern limo driver who shows Ethan the value of a family dinner with teenage daughters of his own or an Italian accountant who cooks the books for a crime syndicate while teaching Zooey how to make tomato sauce, every lackey turns into something more. "These are people that Ethan would traditionally be at odds with, frankly trying to kill, but in our film they are the teachers who educate him on what matters most in life and most particularly how to be a good father. So he is learning how to be a father from the most unorthodox sources - your adversaries."

With McG at the helm, the cast felt comfortable and free to explore the various facets of the characters. Steinfeld was effusive in her praise of McG saying, "He's with you every step of the way after every take. He trusts me and that makes me feel really confident in myself." The collaborative nature of McG's direction was something various members of the cast enjoyed on the set.

For Connie Nielsen, McG's supportive nature really helped her find her character. "Just, no matter what you do, he finds a way to make you feel good about it and no matter how little you've slept the night before or if you even screw up your line, it's all A-okay and great." For Nielsen, McG's desire to ground the film in reality was a huge asset on set. "He has a great understanding of how important truth is in a story like this. He really understands how we need to bind this fun, crazy romp of a story to real life; how important it is that real life is recognizable and that we talk about real things that people can relate to."

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