Jason Isaacs Chats About the Magical Child’s Play of Physical Stunts
First, Isaacs described his work in Skyfire (2019), a volcano rescue movie, as a huge learning experience in Chinese culture. Every emotion is said and expressed very differently. And whereas Western movies focus heavily on romantic love stories, Chinese culture focuses more on intergenerational relationships, in this case, father and daughter. He made fun of himself trying to learn the language (mimicking and always saying things wrong) and described his inability to speak Mandarin or Cantonese as akin to being deaf.
I don’t speak Mandarin. So when they’re all screaming, ‘Watch out on your left, it’s going on your right,’ I don’t know what they’re talking about. I also quite liked the chaos of trusting that they weren’t going to blow me up, so dodging things when they appeared through walls of flame and ash and stuff. But for a lot of it, as you’ll see it, I’m holding a little seven-year-old girl in my arms at the end. And she had not volunteered to be running through walls of flame and dropped in piles of burning ash and stuff. So I felt very protective of her, but I also wanted to get as close to the flames so it looked real and scary.
Isaacs even reminisced about the time he hurt himself doing a small stunt in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Dobby blasts Lucius down a corridor after he unwillingly gave Dobby a sock. A stunt man stood in as Lucius and was pulled back onto a mattress. Isaacs’s stunt was just the last little bit showing his reaction.
So they do it with the stunt guy, and I only have to do the last little bit when my head hits the ground so you can see my eyes open stunned, and they built rubber flooring so that it’s on rubber. And I’m only moving my head this much, but I’m embarrased that I didn’t get to do the stunt. So I put a bit too much effort in and knocked myself out.
When reflecting on the stunts and costumes involved in his career, Isaacs described his job as something he feels guilty about when talking to those around him not in the industry.
I’m lucky enough to work with various charities. I’m speaking to lots of people who are making a huge difference out in the world, working in the health sector or working with refugees or working with homeless people. I get to do this insane, selfish, childhood indulgent thing of putting on costumes [and] makeup and running around pretending to be other people, having vicarious emotions. It’s absurd that I get to do this child’s play thing and get rewarded for it and get social status that I don’t deserve from it at all.
But it’s not all silliness and fun – Isaacs relishes the smaller films he’s done. His latest at the Sundance Film Festival this year, Mass, follows just four people in a room – one set of parents have lost their child in a school shooting and the other, the parents of the shooter.
That’s where the real actor stuff comes in. I’m not joking about the other things being fun. But I get to do this very emotional thing for a living too. And it’s a very interesting thing to be diving deep into what it means to be a human being and how we relate to each other.
When speaking to the success of Harry Potter, Isaacs had a nonconventional take on its rise to a phenomenon.
People ask why the Potter books are successful, why the Potter films are successful. And I’ve heard all the other actors and directors go, ‘Well, the thing is, they’re about loyalty and love and-‘ It’s bulls***. There are whole bookshops full of books about those things. Nobody knows why. Something happened, their ley lines met, and it captured the world’s imagination.
You can view the full interview with Collider below.