Alfie Allen and Michael Nyqvist are no strangers to dark or villainous roles. Allen, of course, is most famous for his role as Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones – a complicated character who’s done some despicable things – while Nyqvist’s biggest role is perhaps that of the protagonist in the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films. He also played the villains in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and the Taylor Lautner film Abduction.
In John Wick, Alfie and Nyqvist play father and son, Iosef and Viggo Tarasov (one, a spoiled, monstrous rich kid, and the other, a psychopathic Russian gangster). In the film, Iosef randomly runs into John Wick at a gas station – he doesn’t know who John is at the time – and asks if he can purchase his car. When John turns Iosef down, he’s offended. So he follows John home, beats him senseless, kills his dog, and steals his car. And thus you have the impetus for the story of John Wick.When word gets back to Viggo that his son has assaulted John Wick and killed his dog, it’s not good news. Though normally this would be no big deal, Viggo and John used to work together. In fact, John was perhaps the most famous assassin the world has ever known before he left killing behind to have a normal life. “He’s not the boogeyman, he’s the guy you send to kill the boogeyman.” And now he wants to kill Iosef Tarasov – and he’ll kill anybody else who gets in his way.
Recently, we sat down to talk to Alfie Allen and Michael Nyqvist – the father/son villain duo of John Wick – to chat with them about the film, what drew them to these roles, the appeal of playing a villain, and more.
Screen Rant: Both of you guys have played not so good guys before. Michael, you played the bad guy in Mission: Impossible 4. And Alfie, you played Theon Greyjoy, who’s obviously not a bad guy, but he’s complicated, he’s done some bad things –
Alfie Allen: Reek.
SR: [Laughter] Exactly. I’m curious what drew you to these roles?
AA: I mean, Chad and Dave, they seemed really enthusiastic about the project. Not so much the role, but to the project as a whole, I just thought the cast was fantastic from the start. And, you know, a film with a lot of action with two ex-stuntmen at the helm was very interesting to me. I know they were going to be quite hands on, and they were.
But with the role, I really liked the idea of getting into the Russian side of things and really concentrating on that. Also, getting into the sort of New York side of things, I found that quite attractive.
There is a kind of crazy relationship between a father and son, as well, and that was something I really wanted to get to grips with.
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Michael Nyqvist: I love to play a character who, if you have a chocolate box, they always pick the bad chocolate. I don’t understand why they do that. That is very interesting. Viggo is a little bit like that. “I’ll take that chocolate with herring, please.” You know, something like that. It’s a world you don’t understand, you have to work with it.
SR: Do you prefer that? You prefer more villainous, weird roles?
MN: I do, yeah.
SR: [To Alfie] What about you?
AA: I just take things as they come. I definitely find – it’s interesting playing these sorts of roles. I’d say it’s more fun to play a bad guy, to be honest.
MN: I played Romeo once, it was so boring. And then I played Mercutio, it was so fun.
SR: You had a really great action scene at the end of the movie. Did you have to go through rigorous training for that or – ?
MN: I did. A lot, a lot, a lot.
SR: What was that like?
MN: I did this Russian style of jiu-jitsu called Sambo a lot. I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing a lot. Also, to get closer to the character. And also, the guys I worked with, back home in Stockholme, were Russians, so [I] got closer to them. It was a little bit like doing a method.
SR: Speaking of action – [to Alfie] you didn’t do a lot of action yourself, but a lot of people, basically everybody in this movie, punched you in the face or in the stomach. And it kind of reminded me of your role in Game of Thrones. You know, you get a lot of punishment. Is there something that draws you to that kind of role? Do you gravitate toward that kind of experience?
AA: Well, I mean, with ‘Game of Thrones,’ it wasn’t from the start. You know, it kind of came three seasons in, so I didn’t really have a choice in that. I didn’t know about that until they kind of let me know about it.
I wouldn’t say it’s something that I gravitate towards, but it’s definitely interesting to play. Trying to sort of gauge that kind of pain threshold. Like, where can you get that from? I mean, I’ve never been tortured. The most amount of pain I’ve had is I broke a couple of bones. Then obviously there’s the sort of mental side of it, and it’s – it’s tough, it’s interesting, but you have to keep things light in between. For sure, it’s interesting. I definitely – there’s aspects of enjoyment to it.
SR: And finally, what projects do you [guys] have lined up?
MN: This is so difficult, you’re not supposed to talk about it. But I have…some films I’m going to shoot. [Laughter]
SR: You can’t say what they are?
MN: [Pause] One is a bad boy, the other one is not. [Laughter] One is like a – yeah, really, I’m not supposed to talk about it, I’m so sorry.
SR: That’s okay.
MN: Everybody gets angry if I do that.
SR: [To Alfie] What about you?
AA: I have…something maybe happening. It’s in the pipeline. And it’s sort of a road trip movie across America and – actually, it’s not across America, it’s into Mexico. It’s funny. It’s a dark comedy, but it’s heart-wrenching, very, very sad, but very, very funny at the same time.
John Wick hits theaters October 24th, 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.