She might be a superstar on TV’s Killing Eve but Jodie Comer was plenty intimidated at the prospect of her new movie.
Jodie Comer seems to have come out of nowhere fast, but the young British actor had been a steady presence on UK television for some years.
When Killing Eve premiered in 2018, it propelled her profile into the international stratosphere. Who is this vixen that embodied the enigmatic, charismatic and deadly Villanelle, a cunning assassin who could be anyone at any time?
Comer had the chops to slip into Villanelle’s different characters and accents, but also give her enough charm that we, the audience, are unable to resist her wiles, thus becoming sort of complicit in her crimes.
Comer’s rise has been so assured, it’s surprising to realise Free Guy is her first lead role in a movie. She had a cameo in The Rise of Skywalker and a supporting role in the Morrisey biopic, England is Mine, but Free Guy is a different ball game.
The Ryan Reynolds action-comedy-cum-stealthy-rom-com has a big budget and even bigger effects. Set mostly within a free world video game, it’s the story of a non-playable character who learns his existence is merely zeros and ones, and Comer’s Milly/Molotov Girl is the one who wakes him up.
Free Guy has a touch of The Matrix, a dash of The Lego Movie and a huge helping of The Truman Show, and the rest of its cast includes Taika Waititi, Stranger Things’ Joe Keery and Get Out’s Lil Rey Howery.
Comer talked to news.com.au about being intimidated by her first feature, the challenge of stunt work and chaffing in the Boston heat.
This is your first lead role in a film, and a huge American production at that. It’s very different to working on TV in the UK, I imagine. It must be such a huge change from BBC productions in the UK to these blockbusters that have everything going on?
Completely. I was so intimidated coming onto Free Guy, I was just like, “whoa”. Before I’d done film, I always had this narrative in my head that I was a TV actor and there was a big difference between TV acting and film acting.
And, of course, there isn’t, and I’ve learned that now.
The biggest difference is the size of it. A film like Free Guy, it’s a monster. There are so many components, and everything has to be approved by so many people before a decision can be made.
Seeing the sets and working with the green screen and being on locations, I was like, “Whoa, this is just massive”. TV is more intimate in a way.
But I’m really glad to learn and shake off that insecurity. It’s the same, but different.
This movie looked like a lot of fun to make, what was your favourite scene to shoot?
For me, because I had to really work quite hard with the stunt department to really create Molotov, I feel like any of the action scenes. When I see them now, all finalised and edited together, I’m always like, “oh, that’s pretty cool”.
So much goes into them, you spend a few good days on those scenes. They’re the hardest but also the most fulfilling.
Did you find the stunts challenging to start with?
I’ve never really done stunts before. We do them in Killing Eve every now and then but it’s not very heavy on the physicality. When I flew to Boston [where the production was based], I’d work with the stunt department three hours a day.
Which is quite a lot, considering I have to force myself to do an hour in the gym on a good day. But they were incredibly patient. I told them I want to do as much as I can.
Many of the stunts were gravity-defying because video games are not limited by physics. And you have scenes where you end up flying. Was there a lot of harness work?
There was harness work. Another scene where I was on a stationary bike and we had a gigantic wind machine behind me blowing this way to make my hair look like we were moving through the sky.
There were many moments like that, of really having to summon your acting from a different place, which took a little bit of getting used to. Being suspended from mid-air in the Boston heat, in my leather pants, was glorious as I’m sure you can imagine.
Leather and heat equals chaffing?
Yeah, it was not nice.
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Ryan Reynolds has had so much stunt experience, especially in front of green screens. Did he give you any advice?
He was always telling me, “Do what I’m doing”. He would always encourage me to be myself and be like, “You’ve got this”. But he was also like, “I’m not in a position to give you advice”, which I thought was sweet of him.
I learned more from just watching him, in the way he carries himself on set, the way he approaches his work, how much he cares about it. I think that’s what’s so amazing about Ryan, he’s so aware of his body, even his physical comedy is just so on point.
When we had all those stunts, they all seemed very second nature to him, but I imagine that’s because he’s worked so hard, and he’s done a couple of these movies now.
What I loved about your character is while she’s totally kick-arse, she’s undeniably a good person. Was that a bit of a palate cleanser for you?
Yes, definitely. It’s funny because I deliberately felt like I had to figure out Milly a bit more. And I don’t know if that’s because when I auditioned, I did the Molotov scene, so I felt like I’d done a little bit of groundwork there.
What I loved about her was her drive and her determination for what she deserves, and what’s right. I really appreciated that about her.
All these characters have their own little journeys, everyone comes to their own self-realisation.
Milly has a theme song, “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. If you could have a theme song, what would it be?
It would be upbeat, catchy and instantly puts you in a good mood. “Lovefool” by The Cardigans would be my go-to. As soon as you hear the intro, you can’t help but move a little. I think that would be quite good.
Free Guy is in cinemas (excluding lockdown areas) from Thursday, August 12
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Originally published as Free Guy’s Jodie Comer on overcoming the intimidation of her first big movie