Zachary Quinto is a multi-talented actor and producer who needs very little introduction. In fact, there’s a Quinto role for every taste, from his barnstorming turn as Spock in JJ Abrams two feature-film adaptations of Star Trek, to his role as Sylar in Heroes and the part of Dr. Oliver Thredson in American Horror Story.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Quinto’s career was that his first appearance of Spock, in 2009’s Star Trek, marked his feature film debut. So assured and fully-formed was the role that it earned him a People’s Choice Awards nomination for Best Breakout Movie Actor and confirmed Quinto as a star in the making.
On television, Quinto played key recurring roles in 24 and So Notorious before being cast as Sylar in Tim Kring’s network hit Heroes, in which he starred between 2006 and 2010.
As a producer, and one of the partners in Before the Door Pictures, Quinto is responsible for bringing the work of J.C. Chandor to the big screen, resulting in the release of Margin Call, All Is Lost and A Most Violent Year.
Today, Quinto’s diary is fit to bursting, with roles in production on Oliver Stone’s Snowden, Star Trek 3 and the NBC miniseries The Slap. His production company has recently wrapped production on you Were Never Here, starring Mireille Enos and Sam Shepard.
But right now, he’s to be found at a tool factory just outside Berlin, where he’s hard at work completing additional photography on Hitman: Agent 47. He sits down to discuss the film and his role.
HITMAN AGENT 47 is out on Blu Ray and DVD now.
You’re playing a character named John Smith. That doesn’t tell us very much.
I can’t tell you very much more either. [laughs] You know, it’s interesting. The structure of the film is such that you meet Katia, who is both in pursuit of something and also in retreat from something, and there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what the details of that are. My character intervenes in her life and tries to steer her in a specific direction, ostensibly away from Agent 47. And then other things become clearer as the story unfolds… How was that?
Cryptic. You’ve been fight training today. What has that involved?
Right now a lot of stunt choreography, reinforcing this fight that we’re going to shoot tomorrow. We’re back here now for this additional photography, and one of the things that we’re doing is reconfiguring one of the main fights in the movie. So I’ve been mostly working on choreography. That’s sort of the primary focus, to get the fight in our bodies and that way tomorrow, when we’re in front of the cameras, it’s just easier to pick up and break it down and get through it.
You’re back more than a year after principal photography, to shoot additional action sequences. How has it felt to reprise this character before the film is finished?
It’s not an ideal situation in terms of continuity, but it has actually been quite fun, I have to say. I’ve never gone back to a film so far after completing principal photography on it, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. But it was great to come back to Berlin, and the whole process has been been pretty smooth. I have the least amount of work to do of any of the three of us, so for me it’s been a little bit more about focusing on preparation.
You’re working with the team behind John Wick – Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – on these Second Unit sequences. How have they been?
There’s a really excellent dynamic between them, melding action and tension, which I really appreciate. There’s efficiency to the way that they create their sequences that really serves the film as we’re trying to flesh it out.
Working with Aleksander Bach, our film’s director, last year was amazing, and I really enjoyed him and his process and it was very different. I feel like these guys are serving a very specific purpose that benefits all of us in the movie, so I’m happy to have the other kind of energy. They’re really cool and easy to work with. And I loved John Wick. I thought it was really great.
What was your first reaction to the script? Were you familiar with the games?
No, not at all. I read the script and liked it. I’m not a gamer, so I didn’t have the burden of that comparison. For me it was just about responding to a character and the world of a studio action movie, which I was interested in exploring. I’d done a little bit with Star Trek, but it had other elements to it, so for me this was an interesting and different opportunity.
Why were you interested in exploring the world of action movies?
I just had never done it to this degree. I was interested in expanding my experience and my exposure and all of those things that factor into decision making when you’re in the position that I’m in, but ultimately it came down to my response to the creative team; to Ali, and to Rupert who had already been cast. I had never met him, but had admired his work.
How much did you enjoy playing with the weapons?
Yeah, the gun training was pretty fun, actually. I’m not a huge gun nut but it was fun to get to roll around and shoot at things. There was one fight in particular where there was some really close range gunfire between Rupert’s character and my character and that was a little bit intimidating. And, for me anyway, there was some tension around that. [laughs] I was getting shot from a very close range and dodging bullets, and that was fun, but it was practical gunfire in like a tiny little room with the two of us and the camera crew, and that was our biggest fight until tomorrow. So the weapons were fun, but scary.
Tell us about the scene tomorrow.
It’s a pivotal turning point in the film. I would say things have come to a head and Katia and Agent 47 have been evading John Smith, and this is sort of where they all come back together for the first time in a while, so it’s a moment of weakness for John Smith in that he’s driven by this need to feel more powerful than Agent 47. And ultimately that’s his downfall. So tomorrow’s the beginning. The sequence that we’re doing is the beginning of that expression.
How have you found the experience of working with Rupert and Hannah?
I’ve really enjoyed it. I knew Hannah a little bit before this actually, just personally. We never worked together but I had known her slightly, so I feel like we’ve deepened our friendship. Rupert I’d never met, but I really enjoy working with him. He’s a consummate professional and we’ve developed a shorthand that allows us to work really easily and efficiently together, which in an action movie is really important. By and large you learn your part of the fight with the stunt team on your own and then you get plugged in with the other actor through rehearsal as much as you can, but he’s been so busy and I had to take a trip this week, so we haven’t had a lot of time to work together. But when we do work together it’s really easy and efficient, which makes it a lot smoother and more pleasant for everybody.
What do you think Ali’s brought to the film and what is his vision?
I really like his aesthetic. I think he and Óttar Guðnason, our DP, have worked together beautifully, and really captured both a sense and scope of the world, but also a depth of character that all of us are trying to bring. So there’s a bit of a balance; it’s not just one thing or another thing. My sense of when we were shooting last year is that they had a real understanding of what they wanted from each other and how to get that.
How did you feel when you watched the trailer?
I loved the trailer. I thought it was amazing, actually. I thought it extracted a lot of the most dynamic parts of what we had shot last year and then added a lot of effects like I’d never seen before. I remember shooting all the helicopter stuff, and we were in Bad Driburg – this little tiny town a couple of hours away – and I remember that felt so monotonous, those sequences of seeing the helicopter that was just a green screen. And then to see it actually fully executed out… I always marvel at the ability of special effects designers and the post-production process to affect the evolution of a film, even though I’m in it. I’ll always look at stuff and be like, “How did they do that?” But that was really impressive to me and I thought if I saw that trailer in a movie theatre, I’d be like, “Oh, I want to see that movie.” So that was cool. I don’t always feel that way!