3 DAYS TO KILL
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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