Harry Melling Does His Own Stunts in Netflix’s “The Old Guard”
Harry Melling has etched himself into our memories in the Harry Potter fandom as Dudley Dursley, Harry’s spoiled cousin and bully. While the actor has had varied roles in both film and theater, he has returned to his villain roots, this time as a merciless entrepreneur in search of immortality. No, he is not looking for the Sorcerer’s Stone, but his performance in Netflix’s recent release The Old Guard arguably surpasses even Lord Voldemort’s tendencies toward evil.
Melling plays Steven Merrick, “the youngest CEO in pharma,” as he introduces himself suavely before he sets out to ruthlessly capture a group of warrior immortals to use for his research: Andy (Charlize Theron), Nile (KiKi Layne), Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). Completing this fierce cast is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Copley, an ex-CIA agent who has been following the crew’s actions throughout history. The movie is based on Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez’s comic novel of the same title, and it is available now on Netflix. Watch the trailer below – fair warning, it’s a bit gruesome due to the nature of the story.
Melling spoke to Screen Rant rather sympathetically about his character’s morally questionable motivations for “the greater good,” a term that may ring dubious to Harry Potter fans:
In terms of Merrick, I think we want to believe at the beginning that he wants to find the cure. He wants to work out their [the immortals’] genetic code and help the greater good, to help end all the disease in the world. And then of course, as the story goes along, it goes a bit pear-shaped for Merrick.
Although The Old Guard was originally a comic book, Merrick is far from a cartoon villain. Aside from praising Theron and her work ethic, as well as the whole, brilliant cast, Melling talked about the subject matter of immortality, why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and why it still intrigues us in 2020:
One of the things that really excited me, certainly when reading it and then seeing the film, was this idea of immortality. Obviously, that’s been around forever, no pun intended. But it does that in such a way where you really feel the weight of the world on these characters’ shoulders. It’s not necessarily a gift; it’s something that is a burden. I think the [sic] every single character in The Old Guard, the way that individually they explore that pain, that loss, that loneliness, that whatever you want to call it – I think it’s really, really special. Alongside the action. I think it’s that combination that makes the film so thrilling.
Without spoiling the movie, Melling’s character gets more retaliation for his ruthlessness than a Ton-Tongue Toffee. Talking to the Evening Standard, he revealed that he did his own stunts:
I say this with a huge amount of pride because often on this shoot I was sort of watching all the other actors do their amazing choreography bits and being exploded and all sorts. And actually at the end, without giving too much away, let’s just say I was sort of on a whole wire system levitating in the air. That was pretty exciting. You know, I don’t usually get to do stunts. So for me that was a very exciting moment.
Switching from stunts to “Netflix-ing” while the entertainment industry has been put on hold due to lockdowns, Melling also reflected on today’s viewing experience:
The irony is… certainly the theatre, in terms of that communal experience all watching one thing, and the cinema, the sense of being around people watching something, that’s the thing that’s been snatched away. And we don’t really know when it’s really, properly going [to be] up again. So it’s a very strange time.
So who does “the greater good” better: Melling or Grindelwald? Watch him in The Old Guard and leave your verdict in the comments below.