Originally posted by USA Today. Interview by Bryan Alexander. August 19th, 2015
Rupert Friend says he encountered road rage recently driving in Germany, when an aggressive motorist cut him off, pulled over and angrily jumped out of his car before recognizing the actor.
“It was like ‘OK, here we go.’ The driver came walking over to start a fight,” Friend says. “But he got one look inside my car and just went right back to his.”
Despite the Brit’s non-threatening last name, 6-foot-2 Friend has become the go-to actor for smoldering danger as CIA black ops agent Peter Quinn in Showtime’s Homeland. He has just turned it up a notch on the big screen as a genetically engineered killing machine in Hitman: Agent 47 (in theaters Friday).
“I really wouldn’t know what to do in those (road rage) situations, but I do play these characters,” the self-deprecating Friend, 33, insists. “People say I have a scary face. I find that to be a mixed compliment.“
Most focused on Friend’s clearly handsome features after his breakout Mr. Wickham character in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice alongside Keira Knightley, his girlfriend until 2011. Friend also starred as the dashing Prince Albert alongside Emily Blunt’s Queen Victoria in the 2009 period drama The Young Victoria.
But Friend took a lethal career turn after being offered a scene in the second season of Homeland as the mysterious Quinn.
“I didn’t know if I was going home after that one scene and here we are four years later,” Friend says. “It might look like some incredibly complicated map to get from English period films to American action anti-heroes, but it’s about not having a plan. That’s the honest answer.“
Agent 47 director Aleksander Bach says the Quinn character’s lethalness made Friend a natural fit for Hitman, the film adaptation of the video game series, in which he attempts to stop a corporation from making even more effective killing machines. “But the most important thing is that with Rupert you feel the intelligence,” Bach says.
Friend studied the Krav Maga fighting style, trained with a world champion boxer, learned Filipino knife fighting and “a little judo.” He gave himself the closest possible buzz cut each morning and performed many of the film’s stunts. Friend is particularly proud of a scene from the trailer, where he thigh-snaps a Marine guard’s neck, a feat he performed “like 65,000 times for the camera.”
“I literally had to climb up the guy. There’s not a cheat,” Friend says. “You get pretty familiar with someone because you’re thrusting your crotch into his face multiple times.”
There will be more action in Homeland’s fifth season, which jumps forward two years from the Season 4 finale, after Quinn has completed his service in Syria. The new season is still shooting in Germany, so local drivers beware: Friend says his Krav Maga instructor recently had him spar a guy the size of Rocky’s Apollo Creed.
“It was this enormous guy carved out of wood. We went toe-to-toe. I got a beautiful, big black eye and good bruises,” Friend says. “But I put him on his back, that’s the main thing.”