Jai Courtney Says 'The Suicide Squad' Is a 'Whole New Thing' (Exclusive)

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Jai Courtney, Semper Fi, Suicide Squad
Courtesy of Lionsgate / Warner Bros. Pictures

Jai Courtney calls from Atlanta, where he's currently filming The Suicide Squad. "I'm on night shoots at the moment, so I'm a little dusty," he warns. The movie is writer-director James Gunn's semi-sequel, semi-reboot of 2016's Suicide Squad and will see Courtney reprise his role as bogan jewel thief Captain Boomerang opposite a few familiar faces (including Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn) and a squad of new recruits. (Idris Elba, Pete Davidson, Taika Waititi.)

Before that, he will appear onscreen in Semper Fi, director Henry-Alex Rubin's drama about a by-the-books police officer who hatches a plan to break his younger brother (Nat Wolff) out of prison. "We're very, very proud of the movie," Courtney says. Ahead of Semper Fi's release, ET spoke with the actor about bonding with his co-stars in New Orleans, his real-life best mates and Captain Boomerang's new supersuit.

ET: You get the script for Semper Fi, obviously you were keen to the story, but was there one moment or something you saw in this character, specifically, that you said, "I'm in. I'm doing this."

It was about the desires for those relationships, and the brotherhood atmosphere that's so integral to the story is something I'm pretty familiar with. I have that kind of relationship -- almost identically -- in the real world with my oldest friends. We all grew up together, I've known 'em 20 plus years and there's a code there that is indestructible and a real, unconditional love. Even though we're all in different corners of the globe these days and lead different lives, they're still my closest, closest, mates and brothers and support unit. So I thought there was a chance to do something with this that examines those kinds of relationships in a way that didn't feel cliché, that felt fresh and real. There was a chance to display real vulnerability between these guys and struggle and wrestle with the ideas of loyalty and love. I didn't think it was, like, a bro film, in that sense. I thought it was more sophisticated than that, and if we got the balance right and found some great actors -- which we did -- pitched things at the right temperature then I thought it could be something really special.

This group of guys have a very lived-in relationship from the jump. Are you tapping into that well of what you have with your own friends to pull from? Is that something you had to find along the way? Or did you have time to bond beforehand to figure out these dynamics?

It's all the above. In a way, we can all relate to that world, you know? But at the same time, it was something that we had to find between us, for sure. There's no way it pays off in the end if you don't buy that relationship. And we got lucky in a way, man. I'll be honest, there were grand plans to set up a month-long boot camp and all be hanging out in the same town together for a bit. Maybe we'd go away for the weekend and really create some experience to give this new relationship between four actors some real fabric. And we didn't have the time. In the end, schedules were really tight, budget was tight. The nature of independent cinema kind of boned us in a way.

We wound up meeting on a Saturday and then we rolled cameras on the Tuesday. So we had a couple days to define 20 years of history between us. I was a little terrified -- I'll be honest -- going in with that because I know how much is needed to hinge on it. I knew Finn [Wittrock] -- we worked together years ago on a film called Unbroken and had remained really good mate -- so I knew what he was going to be bringing to it. But I hadn't met the other guys before. Nat and I had hooked up once, but Beau [Knapp] and Arturo [Castro] were complete strangers. We just felt so lucky, because it's such an amazing group of humans and such talented actors, as well. And we just found this almost immediate love and trust for each other. I feel really lucky to have had those guys, because I think we were pulled some really great performance out of each other and I can't imagine doing it with anyone else.

When you look back on filming with them, do you have a memory that encompasses your Semper Fi experience?

I think the process, just a built a ton of those memories. We were in New Orleans, which is a city that kind of caters to that. We managed to find some fun and get into a bit of trouble. And it was essential. That had to happen. It felt like we were in the trenches together. Everyone was there, everyone was about the work, there was none of this flying in and out, shooting your stuff, trying to get out. It was good, dirty work. There was no ego. We were all there to make the best film possible, and we were in a great town for, like, six weeks together. New Orleans nearly killed us, because we just kept bonding the whole time. [Laughs]

And then Keanu Reeves was at your premiere to support his sister [producer Karina Miller]. Did you get to hear his review of the film?

I didn't! I didn't see him afterwards! It was too packed out, but I'd be curious to hear his thoughts, that's for sure. Obviously I'm a big fan.

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You know I have to talk a little DC while I have you. Did you catch the trailer for Birds of Prey this week?

Yeah, I did! I think it looks rowdy. I'm really excited to see it and I'm super proud of Margot [Robbie] and what she's doing with this character, how she's really kind of spreading her wings. I can't wait. It looks awesome.

As you're heading into production on The Suicide Squad, is it feeling like a continuation of what you did before -- like coming back for a sequel -- or does it feel like a new, different experience?

It's a bit of both. I mean, there's some familiar faces and some old friends and a whole bunch of new people as well. It's a cool, big cast. It's a great group of people. James Gunn has an amazing energy and I really trust him and what he's going to do with this. I guess those feelings of comparing it to the first thing and everything have sort of subsided now. It was such a long time between drinks, and we were never really sure what the plan was going to be or how it was going to come together, if it was going to come together. So it's great to be back in the saddle again, but it's going to be a whole new thing at the same time. I don't know, man. I guess in that sense, it's great to revive the role but on a fresh adventure and just embracing that.

Are you approaching playing Captain Boomerang the same? Or also putting a fresh spin on him?

Tonally, there are going to be things in James' touch with stuff which evolves somewhat from where we were at. But I'm not reinventing Boomerang, by any means. He's definitely the same dude. He might have a little bit of a different costume or something, but I think the essence of him is a well and truly alive.

How is the vibe different with James?

He keeps it really light. He makes sure everyone's having a good time, but he's very in control and knows what he wants. That's cool to be around.

James shared a photo of the cast seeing Joker together. How has it been bonding with this new gang? Who were you excited to work with? Who are you excited to cross paths with in the movie?

Aww, man! Everyone, dude! There's a lot of fresh faces, obviously. You know, Idris and those guys are involved and I'm pumped for out. It's cool to see Joel [Kinnaman] and Margs again. I can't wait to see what these guys do. John Cena's here. I'm feeling really good about it.

Who do you think is going to surprise fans most?

I don't know… [Laughs] I'm going to stop talking, because I'm going to walk into something I don't want to talk about and f**k it up!

Semper Fi is in theaters and On Demand on Oct. 4. The Suicide Squad is out Aug. 6, 2021.

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