Inception and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan's newest movie, Tenet, is now in theatres in Australia ahead of its premiere in the US on September 3. We recently had the chance to speak with the three main stars, John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki about their experience working on the film and more. We couldn't resist asking about their favorite video games, and they supplied some excellent responses.
Speaking about the movie first, though, John David Washington--who plays the lead character, known only as The Protagonist--said he was eager to take on a role that was physically demanding. In the movie, Washington constantly finds himself in the middle of a brawl, and he gets creative at times with the weaponry he uses. In one particularly memorable fight scene in a kitchen, Washington grabs the nearest object--a cheese grater--and uses it against a foe with great effect. Washington joked (we think!) that Nolan specifically asked for more cheese grater scenes--here's to hoping that makes it into the director's cut.
"It was great to be able to learn how to fight and train with [stunt coordinator] George Cottle and the stunt team and the fight coordinators. It's funny you talk about the cheese grater, because that's one of the notes that Christopher Nolan had, 'I need more cheese grater, John David. Really get it in there! [laughs].'"
The Protagonist is not just a robotic killing machine, however. He is a man who uses both his brawn and his brains to save the day. He cares about people, and he also becomes wrapped up in those close to him. Sometimes it leads to suffering and tribulations, but he pushes through and it informs his character.
"Really just the way he was physically, the arc of the character, really informs the audience of the kind of man he was. He is a weapon. He's a force to be reckoned with. That combination of vulnerability and sensitivity, I think was what actually gives him his powers," Washington said. "Because he cares so much about humankind, I think he gets really invested in the people he's working with. It informs how violent he has to get to protect them. To protect the mission. And so what you saw in the kitchen [with the cheese grater] was him just at work; what he does best."
"He is a weapon. He's a force to be reckoned with." -- John David Washington on his Tenet character, The Protagonist
Debicki, meanwhile, said she was excited for the opportunity to play a character, Kat, who is a "flesh and blood" human with deep complexities.
"When I first opened the script and I read her, I was so delighted to see what [Christopher Nolan] had poured into that character and the complexity of her and the contradictions that exist in her and the depth of her," she said. "It's rare, and in this genre as well, to be given a woman who has that kind of psychological trajectory to get to play that. So I was just really excited and in a way you feel relief. In a way it's like, 'Oh my gosh, there is a real flesh and blood human on that page.'"
The character Kat is the estranged wife of the villain, who is played by Kenneth Branagh. Without giving too much away, Kat is a central character in Tenet, and her storyline connects the entire film in unique and haunting ways.
Pattinson plays a character named Neil, who is perhaps not all he seems. The actor tells GameSpot that it was a challenge to play Neil, in part because he is a mysterious man holding many secrets.
"Even just the nature of time being inverted, I think most people would just want to step off the world if that happened." -- Robert Pattinson
"It was kind of surprisingly tough because you're having to hide things from other characters, but at the same time you're trying to present things to the audience at the same time," he said. "It's very much this weird push and pull. I think it added to what I thought the character was. He likes chaotic things. He likes things that most people would really, really struggle to deal with. He enjoys them. Even just the nature of time being inverted, I think most people would just want to step off the world if that happened. And I think Neil is one of those people who just likes the abstract nature of what happens."
We also asked Pattinson about how he might use his experience on Tenet to play another moody and broody character, Batman. Without giving too much away, Pattinson said part of the challenge of being an actor, at least in his experience, is that it is only at the very end of production that you begin to truly understand how to play a character.
"Bringing it to other characters, I think every character … at the end of every movie, you just feel like you just figured out how to play the character the day you finished playing it," he said. "And you think, 'Ah, I'll just play that last character in the new movie.' [laughs]."
Also in our conversation, we asked about video games because Tenet is sort of a video game movie in some capacities. John David Washington's character is known only as The Protagonist, after all, and the story is a high-stakes thrill ride not unlike a blockbuster action game.
Debicki said she doesn't play video games currently, but she was enamored with a Harry Potter game for PC when she was a child.
"I don't play video games, but when I was a kid, the closest thing I've ever come to becoming truly consumed and obsessed with a game was Harry Potter on my computer," she said. "Obsessed. Summer holidays just vanished, but that was a long time ago."
Pattinson, meanwhile, was quick to provide an example of a video game that impacted him deeply. "Mine, I think it's a lot people's favorite game--Final Fantasy VII. Probably one of the only times I've cried in my life was when Aerith dies. My first love," he said.
"Mine, I think it's a lot people's favorite game--Final Fantasy VII. Probably one of the only times I've cried in my life was when Aerith dies. My first love." -- Robert Pattinson on his favourite video game
John David Washington said Tenet is like a first-person shooter because the audience is getting pulled through the action and experiencing everything The Protagonist is. He doesn't necessarily have a single favorite video game, but he is clearly a fan of the medium.
"This gets me really excited because that's how I felt … even the name, The Protagonist, to me, it's like the protagonist is you, the audience members," he said. "It's almost like a first-person shooter. What he's going through, so is the audience. So you can put yourself into this character and experience everything that he is. So if you're confused, it's probably because he is. If he's feeling something, hopefully you're feeling something as well. Even with the violence, you don't know why he's kicking ass, but you just know that he needs to at this moment."
He added: "Video game wise, Red Dead Redemption was a big one. I'm a big fan of NBA 2K, all day long. And ESPN NFL 2K; they stopped making it back in 05. I think that was the best sports video game ever made. And I would actually love to campaign the NFL licensing to make another video game."
For more on Tenet, check out GameSpot's full interview with Pattinson and Debicki above, while you can watch our chat with Washington here.
GameSpot's Tenet review scored the film a 9/10. "Christopher Nolan's latest movie is a mind-melting stunner, with lots of action and memorable performances told through a non-linear time-travel story," we said in our review.
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