Elektra’ star Goran Visnjic waxes poetic on his movie role, kung fu and…wolves?
Talk about range. 32-year-old Goran Visnjic stars as a doctor on TV’s “ER.” He recently played the title role in a remake of the testosterone-filled “Spartacus.” Now, he’s set to play a man in distress in Marvel Studios’ “Daredevil” spin-off flick, “Elektra,” starring opposite Jennifer Garner, who reprises her role as a highly trained assassin. Not bad for a former Croatian army paratrooper who fought in the war with Yugoslavia.
WIZARD: How did you get involved with “Elektra”?
I read the script, I liked it and I told my agent I’d like to meet the director or do an audition or whatever, and I did exactly that. I auditioned with [director] Rob Bowman and apparently he was happy with what I did, so I got the film.
Do you read comics, or have you read any Elektra comics? I know that your character, Mark Miller, is based on the character from an actual Elektra story (Elektra & Wolverine: The Redeemer).
I was not reading Elektra in Croatia when I was a kid because it’s quite a relatively new comic book. I’ve been reading Daredevil, Superman and other American comics, you know, but Europe has a huge comic book market that is completely different. I know when I would talk to people here, they have never heard of some of the comic books that are very popular in Europe. But yeah, I was a big comic fan. In my library, I have a collection of Prince Valiant, probably everything that was ever published, and a couple of other European comic books. I’ve got a couple of shelves just filled up with comic books as if I were kid! But I just love that stuff.
Did “Elektra” require anything of you that you’ve never done before as an actor? This is a pretty action-heavy movie.
It was pretty mellow for me until the last couple of days of filming when we had real wolves on set. It was really intense and really great. The people who trained them were really awesome professionals, I mean, we were not afraid of the beasts. But you know, you needed to have respect for them. The wolves were behaving like dogs almost, but when you come close to them and then they start “acting,” you’re like “Okay, this is a real wolf. This is a real wild animal, be careful.” That was like the payoff for the whole movie, as far as my action stuff on my part. Because when your face is, like, a couple of inches from a wolf and he’s growling and spitting at you, it’s really intense. That was something I’ve never done before in my life, definitely.
What else can you tell us about the character you play?
I’m basically the only character that doesn’t have any special skills. He’s basically trying to protect his daughter and he’s doing the best job that he can. You’ll find out my daughter has some special skills, and the bad guys have a mix of magic and martial arts at the same time—they’re going to be a really interesting bunch of people to see—but Mark’s biggest strength is his love for his daughter. And that’s what keeps him going. He knows he’ll to have to fight somebody, and that he’ll lose the fight immediately, but he’s going to do it anyway because he loves his daughter.
Aren’t you the love interest in this movie?
Yeah, but we can’t talk about that because we did a couple of versions and I don’t know what’s going to end up in the final version.
Well, if you are, you’ll be stealing Daredevil’s woman. That’s pretty dangerous, man.
I don’t know about that, you know. All I can tell you is that Elektra is helping my character, Mark, and his daughter, Abby, to escape from the bad guys in the second half of the movie. In the beginning, she’s one of the bad guys who want to assassinate us. But some things develop along the way, that’s all I’m going to tell you [laughs].
Would you rather hook up with a hot assassin or two hot doctors on your TV show “ER”? You’ve got some hot doctors working there.
You know what, if an assassin tries to help me instead of wanting to kill me, I’d go with the assassin.
You must be pretty charming to make Elektra decide not to kill you.
Yeah, I hope so.
Is it true you practice kung fu in real life?
Did they give you a chance to use any of it in the movie? Did you kick any wolves?
My character is the only one in the whole film who is, like, a normal guy. He’s more like a street fighter. So when we were doing exercises with stunt guys, before we started filming, while working on choreographies for the fight scenes, I would do my kung fu stuff and they’d be like “Sh--! That’s really cool, but we just can’t use this.” And I was like, “Oh man, come on!” After four years of doing kung fu, now I suddenly get a chance to finally use it—because on “ER,” of course, I can’t do it—and I can’t even use it in a big, action, comic book movie? This sucks! But Rob Bowman, our director, explained to me that my character had a funny way of fighting, which is basically taking anything which is not screwed down to the ground, garbage cans or whatever is around, and fighting with that. That made it interesting.
I also heard you like windsurfing, but that doesn’t work too well in Canada I guess…
Actually, believe it or not, my first windsurf in my life was in Canada! I went to windsurfing school up there and, of course, I’ve been surfing in a wetsuit which was quite thick, but that’s where I did it for the first time.
How was Bowman to work with?
He is the coolest guy. We had so much fun working on it and he was always open to our ideas. He’s just one of those guys. We had a lot of fun on our days off driving mountain bikes on crazy slopes and stuff like that.
Crazy! So what was it like hanging out with Jennifer Garner? Did Ben Affleck drop by? Did Colin Farrell appear?
I was in L.A. quite often because I had a lot of holes in my schedule, so I don’t know what was happening those days, but I haven’t seen any of those guys. But working with Jennifer was just awesome. She’s such an amazing person to work with, really.
Was it a strange dynamic? Because usually in an action movie, you’ll see the guy cast as the “assassin” and the girl will be the one in distress. But, in “Elektra,” this is all switched around.
Once you see what Jennifer can do, and what’s she capable of, you’ll say, “Ok, I’m perfectly fine with this.” [Laughs] Trust me. She spent so many hours working out with our stunt guys that she was really capable of doing some nasty stuff by the end of the movie. She really worked hard and you can really see it in the film. She did an amazing job, especially with the choreography and martial arts stuff, that any guy is going to be like, “Okay, this is really cool.” So, there are no ego issues there, with the male and female thing, trust me on that.
Are you interested in doing any other comic book roles? If you’re a comic fan, this is the perfect time to do it.
Honestly, I never think of this job as “doing this, doing that,” when talking about genres. I’m, first of all, interested in a good script. It can be drama, comedy, sci-fi or history. I don’t care. If it’s a good script and good people are involved in it, I really don’t care. But I’m a fan of sci-fi or history stuff. “Braveheart” is one of my favorite movies of all time.
And you starred in the “Spartacus” remake recently. You were Spartacus!
Yes, that was fun.
Do you think you’ll get an “Elektra” action figure made of your character?
I don’t know about that. I’ve only been on “ER” and a couple of different kinds of movies so that would be a question for the producers.
Hey, whatever. I’d buy one.
[Laughs] Thank you.
Well, I was going to ask you about your most memorable moment on the set, but it sounds like dealing with the wolves was pretty crazy.
Yeah, when I had one part of my jacket in my hand, and the other part of my jacket was filled with dead chicken for the wolves—that was quite intense.