The nation’s slow recovery from the 2016 Presidential Election has reminded us about the deep divisions in the United States. But the election and its preceding campaign gave me many thought-provoking conversations with friends, family, and colleagues. One such conversation came with Tom Hopper, star of the new action thriller Kill Ratio.
Kill Ratio is a departure for the English actor, best known for his roles in the the drama Black Sails and the fantasy-adventure Merlin. In the Paul Danter-directed Kill Ratio, Tom takes on the role of James Henderson, a lone wolf protecting a small European country from a military coup as it transitions to a democratic government. Four days before the election, Tom and I discussed the importance of democratic government, his personal political journey, and how he just can’t stop sword fighting. He even clued me in on a new passion project close to his heart. I was captivated by Tom’s insight and wit. I hope you will be, too.
CMR: Hi Tom. How are you?
TH: I’m good, man. How are you?
CMR: I’m good. I appreciate you taking the time to talk today.
TH: No problem. No problem.
CMR: Cool. So I know we only have 10 minutes, do you mind if I jump right into the questions?
TH: Go for it.
CMR: Okay. So, for many of the readers and viewers [of Cinephellas] you’re best known for your roles in Black Sails and Merlin. I was curious, what drew you to more of an action-thriller like Kill Ratio?
TH: Well, a few things, really. When I got the script sent through to me, I needed the want to do it. Like you said, the things I’m mainly known for are Black Sails and Merlin. I find myself very often in some kind of chain now, in some kind of uncomfortable footwear running around a forest or running across ships or being dunked in water.
TH: But [Kill Ratio] was a modern action film. I really wanted to do a modern one. So when it came through, I was like, “Yes, absolutely.” And also it had lots of elements of comedy in it, as well. It had lighter elements and the character didn’t take things too seriously. He didn’t take himself too seriously. That was quite a lot of fun to play. So those were the main elements, really. And also, I got to go and shoot a lot of guns for a few weeks.
CMR and TH: [laugh]
CMR: I definitely recognize that there’s a lot of humor in this film, and it sets the film apart from a lot of other thrillers.
TH: Yeah, we tried to bring that out. We really wanted to make the characters real, and also not make it too serious. Make it watchable, you know? There was a lot of room in the script to have some lighter elements. We wanted it to be a fun watch. We wanted it to be something people would enjoy watching.
CMR: James is a really fun character. He’s in this middle point, where he has to fend off a military coup and protect this European country as it transitions into a democratic government. Do you consider yourself a political person, and did any of your personal beliefs make their way into the character?
TH: To a certain degree. Certainly I’ve become more political over the past few years. There have been a lot of changes in the world. I certainly believe in democracy. So I brought that part of myself to it. In Turkey recently, when they had that coup, it was quite interesting, and that failed. For me, after making the film, and seeing that happen, I just took a bigger interest than I would have normally. I did a lot of research into what it would be like to experience a coup. All the people in those countries are at the mercy of those staging the coup, and they don’t know what is held for them around the corner. So, for me, it’s an interesting story, for sure.
CMR: I recognized a lot of references to post-World War II Russia —
CMR: And I think it’s really interesting to think about this movie in relationship to our current moment, in which, you know, we have these fears over countries like North Korea and still Russia. I was wondering how you feel that this movie relates to those larger realities, especially because we have this really tense Presidential Election coming up in the United States next week.
TH: Yes, absolutely it relates to those things. It’s a good time for Kill Ratio to come out. Like you mentioned, North Korea — that’s what the guys in the film want to achieve: a perfect dictatorship. It’s a [country] that’s transitioning to democracy, so, for a country that’s never seen that, there are many people that feel very strongly about putting a stop to it. They feel it’s the wrong way to live. The situation in the States at the moment, I think there’s a lot of things you can relate to that, in terms of what could be around the corner.
CMR and TH: [laugh]
TH: I think there could be potential backlash [in America]. The country is almost in a state of emotional civil war, and it’s interesting to see where that’s going to go in the coming weeks and years.
CMR: Emotional civil war is really a perfect way to put it. Absolutely.
TH: It’s a scary thought, but it’s kind of like what the U.K. has gone through with Brexit. It turned families against one another. Deep political views mean so much to people now.
CMR: The same forces that led to the Brexit vote are the same forces in the United States that are giving Donald Trump this push behind him.
TH: Yeah…yeah. And there are people that are trying to — even with Brexit — there are people that are trying to vote for the right reasons, thinking it would be better for the country in the long run. Not just through immigration, but through many other policies without the European Union (EU). I think there are a lot of people in America that — I think it would be wrong to assume that all of the people in America voting for Trump are uneducated and naive. You know, I think the people are associating some things in what he’s saying and some things he’s promising with things that might be better for the country. They’re trying to vote for the right reasons. It’s not just all based on aggression, even though his whole campaign is based on aggression. You know?
CMR: And it’s really interesting that in the film, your character James takes the nation on his back. He’s really the last hope for the citizens. For me that manifests in the scene where you have the sword fight with General Lasar. How was that moment for you, and what was it like to choreograph that scene?
TH: It was pretty quick, actually. We were shooting, while we were trying to choreograph it. So we were shooting other scenes and then every time we had a spare minute, we would go and choreograph the sword fight. It was quite an elaborate sword fight, really. And obviously it gets pretty physical towards the end. It becomes more hand-to-hand combat. Choreographing a sword fight is always a little bit more complicated than any other fight because you’ve got two big metal pieces of equipment in your hands that you’re swiping around and aiming for each other’s heads and stuff. So you’ve got to know exactly where you’re going. I always find it’s very important to prioritize sword fight choreography because it’s usually more dangerous, you know? But it was a lot of fun. Like I was saying, it’s funny that I end up doing a sword fight in the movie because, like, when I read the script I was thinking, “Oh. This is great. It’s the first thing I’m gonna do without a sword fight.” And then I get to the end of the script and I see there’s a sword fight!
CMR: [laughs] That was interesting. It was that one element that carried through [from Black Sails].
TH: Yeah, exactly right.
CMR: Well, we’re almost up on 10 minutes. It’s been great talking to you, and I wanted to give you a few moments to talk about any projects you are working on or something you’d like to do in your career that you haven’t had the chance to do yet.
TH: I’d love to do some comedy. I always say that I’m very open-minded about what I do. I’d give anything a go. I’d love to do a World War II movie, and I’d love to do a comedy, as well. I really enjoy comedy, and there’s a little bit of that element in Kill Ratio. There’s an enjoyable factor to that.
TH: I’d also like to talk about a film called Leopard, which has just come out in the States. It’s an independent film that myself and my friend Eion Macken got crowdfunding for and produced. And, as everyone in the industry knows, it’s incredibly hard to get films made these days. One thing led to another and we managed to get a U.S. release for it. The film is called Leopard, and it’s out now on Amazon and iTunes.
CMR: Cool. I look forward to checking it out.
TH: Yeah, it’s a good movie. It definitely paints me in a different light. You know, I’m very proud of what I did in that movie because it’s so different from what myself and Eion Macken normally do. It’s a good watch. We’re very proud of it.
CMR: Like I said, I look forward to checking it out. And, again, I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to have a conversation today.
TH: Thanks a lot, man. I really appreciate your time.
CMR: Thanks, man. Have a good day.
TH: Thanks, and you.
Kill Ratio opens in the United States on December 9th. It was written by Steven Palmer Peterson and co-stars Amy Huberman. Leopard is available now on Amazon and iTunes.