Hugh Grant & Josh Hartnett on ‘Operation Fortune’ & Who Ruined Most Takes
Mar 5, 2023
After some delays, director Guy Ritchie’s (Sherlock, The Gentleman) new action-packed comedy, Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre, is finally in theaters. The spy-thriller reunites the director with Jason Statham as the titular super spy, as well as an ensemble assortment of characters, from comedy queen Aubrey Plaza, to Hollywood heartthrobs Hugh Grant and Josh Hartnett.
In Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre, Jason Statham is Orson Fortune, a super spy with a distinct set of skills, who must partner with a highly skilled team of operatives in order to take down Greg Simmonds (played by Grant), a billionaire arms broker whose new weapons technology poses a threat to the world order. As a means to obtain the information they need to take Simmonds down, the team will employ his favorite movie star, Danny Francesco (Hartnett), to take advantage of the proximity Simmonds allows. With the help of his expert team, which also includes Cary Elwes and Bugzy Malone, Fortune blackmails the actor into aiding their mission to track down the dealer. High stakes, fast cars, killers on a yacht, and lots and lots of weapons – what could go wrong?
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Before Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre’s theatrical release, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Grant and Hartnett about their time on set. During their interview, the pair discusses why “working commando” with Guy Ritchie was “alarming,” charming spinoff ideas, working with 10 different Aubrey Plaza’s, and “marinating” in characters and scenes. You can watch the interview in the player above, or read the full transcript below.
Image via Miramax
COLLIDER: Before we get started. I do this every time I get to talk to Hugh, I want to remind everyone watching this interview that Cloud Atlas is a masterpiece, and you need to watch it if you have never seen it. It is a phenomenal movie. I just have to say that every time because I love that movie so much. Now we can talk about anything else you wanna guys wanna talk about.
JOSH HARTNETT: I think it’s a fantastic movie myself.
HUGH GRANT: Thanks, Steve. I’ve come to really love you in the last 24 hours.
For both of you guys, if someone has never seen anything that you’ve done before, what is the first thing you’d like them to watch, and why?
HARTNETT: I don’t know. I’d like them to see this film. I mean, that’s so self-serving, but I do. I only like the movies that I’ve just done. I’ve never liked the ones that I’ve done previously. I always think of the things that went wrong, you know? The one that I’ve not seen yet, that I’ve just finished, I know is gonna be brilliant. And then I see it and I don’t know if it lives up to expectations or not, but I think this one does.
That was a very philosophical answer, but not very clear. This one’s great.
I’ve heard this from a lot of actors though. I can assume that you’re not a fan of watching yourself on screen?
HARTNETT: Not particularly, no.
Hugh, do you have a film or project?
GRANT: On the contrary, I love to watch myself, and in fact, I insist that my children watch me every night. If they don’t, they don’t get fed. They can watch a film, but they have to watch a Daddy film every night.
Image via Miramax
You guys have both worked with (director) Guy [Ritchie] before, and what’s fascinating about Guy as a filmmaker is he likes to rework the script on the day of filming. He’s very spontaneous, which is unlike many other directors. Can you talk about collaborating with him, and what it’s really like on set each day?
GRANT: Well, it’s alarming. That is alarming up to a point, and I have had tense moments with him about it because… I don’t know why, I like very, very deep, thorough preparation. It makes me marginally less terrified on the day, but actually, there is another way to go about the whole acting business, which is to think, “Well, I have no preparation, let’s just wing it.”
In a way, that takes pressure off because you think, “If there was no script and I didn’t have to learn it, and there’s no expectation here…” So it can work in your favor, but it’s alarming. It’s alarming to act commando the whole time.
HARTNETT: Acting commando is about exactly the way you have to put it. It’s scary at first, but once you rip the Band-Aid off, I think it’s comforting knowing that the director is not exactly certain what he wants until he sees it, and then when he sees it it’s locked in. That, to me, means that he’s really paying attention and that he’s sculpting something in the moment.
GRANT: Yes, I agree with that. And it’s odd how many directors – really good directors, I’ve found – are like this. They’re not script-orientated very much, they are not forever looking at the script, they don’t have a preconceived notion of how a line should sound, or how a scene should sound.
Stephen Frears was the same. He could barely tell you what scene you’re shooting, but he sits there at the monitor and expects to be entertained. He knows when it’s entertaining and when it’s not. That’s his only criteria. I think that probably is good film directing because that’s the medium it is. You’ve got to entertain people through that screen, and nothing too pre-rehearsed.
Image via Miramax
I loved your characters in the film, and the way you both worked together on screen. It made me laugh a lot, especially the stuff in the third act. Can you talk about what you enjoyed about working with each other, and who was the one who made each other laugh the most from whatever they were doing?
HARTNETT: I can tell you Hugh made me laugh way more than I should have. I ruined a few takes.
GRANT: No, no, Josh. It is a charming subplot actually, you and me.
HARTNETT: It is, it is.
GRANT: I think that’s the spinoff.
HARTNETT: If there’s a spinoff from this movie, it will be Greg in Hollywood.
GRANT: Yeah, no, I think that you bring out the best in me, and I give up arms dealing, and we set up a little antique shop in Brighton.
HARTNETT: [Laughs] Brighton to Palm Springs. It’ll be great. Let’s do it.
GRANT: Yeah, we wobble a little, but we’re happy, basically happy.
HARTNETT: Yeah, basically. More than you can expect from most partnerships.
Aubrey [Plaza] is very funny, and I’m curious if you guys could talk a little bit about working with her. I know some of the things she says in the movie are things that she came up with, and I would imagine she caused many, many scenes to dissolve in laughter.
GRANT: Well, yeah, she’s a great comedian. You really, really don’t know which way she’s going to go at any moment, not only on the set, but off the set. I’ve had dinner with about 10 different Aubrey’s. They look the same, but…
HARTNETT: Yeah, Hey. I would agree with that. I think Aubrey is multitalented, and we had a lot of fun on set trying to figure out exactly who was going to get the snarky remark. It was always Hugh, I think. He ended up getting the brunt of it. From my perspective, being able to improvise with these guys was really intimidating. Aubrey’s great at it, Hugh was great at it. Jason is great. I mean, I was the only one who they had to help along with training wheels.
GRANT: That’s not true, Josh.
HARTNETT: I had one good one, and it made it into the film.
GRANT: What? What was it?
HARTNETT: The Lance Armstrong one. Well, not Lance Armstrong, but…
Image via Miramax
I think I know what joke you’re talking about.
HARTNETT: It’s not him, but you know.
This is obviously a film that, as we talked about, is more improvised in the moment and on set, but I’m always fascinated talking with actors about the way they prepare for a really tough scene, something that is scripted. So for both of you, if you have something on a Monday that you know is going to be tough to do, something that’s going to require more out of you, can you talk about how you’re getting ready for a sequence like that? Are you, really far out, thinking about it, or are you closer to the actual day of filming where you’re really getting into it?
GRANT: Well for me, it’s both. I’ll start panicking about that scene months before. I call it my tooth combing. I go through the script in unbelievably fine detail, and ask myself, “Why do you say that? Why did you do that? And how do you link the thoughts together?” Every day you come to it, you have a slightly different perspective on it, and you understand it a bit more.
I would call it marinating. You sort of marinade in the scene, you marinade in the character. Then on the day, hopefully, you throw away all your prep and try to just find it in the moment.
Sometimes you have to go away and get in the mood. It’s quite hard, especially if maybe everyone else is quite chipper that day and having a good time, having a laugh on the set, and you’ve got to do tears. Then, you know, that’s a nightmare. You gotta go and hide yourself away, listen to your sad playlist. It’s traumatic.
But anyway, I have found in old age, I cry at the drop of a hat. I now have to be asked not to cry in scenes rather than to cry. How about you, Josh?
HARTNETT: I’m going to say that I agree with you 100% on prep. But then, on a film like this where Guy is coming up with a new dialogue at the last minute, and maybe a new direction for your character entirely, you aren’t afforded that luxury. In a way that makes it better – when working with a director like Guy, it makes it better because it’s all about spontaneity, it’s all about listening and reacting, which really is what, as you said, Hugh, what the camera likes.
Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre is now in theaters. You can check out our interview with Aubrey Plaza below.
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