Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje talks ‘Thor’ sequel, ‘Bullet to the Head’

Feb. 02, 2013 | 9:15 a.m.
bullettothehead 4 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Sylvester Stallone, left, and Jason Momoa in a scene from "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.)

bullettothehead 12 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Director Walter Hill, left, and Sylvester Stallone on the set of "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.)

bullettothehead 13 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Director Walter Hill, left, Sylvester Stallone and Sung Kang on the set of "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.)

bullettothehead 1 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Sarah Shahi and Sylvester Stallone star in "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.)

bullettothehead 5 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Sylvester Stallone, left, and Jason Momoa in a scene from "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.)

bullettothehead 6 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Christian Slater, left, and Sylvester Stallone in a scene from "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.)

bullettothehead 7 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Sylvester Stallone, left, and Sung Kang in a scene from "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.)

bullettothehead 14 Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje talks Thor sequel, Bullet to the Head

Director Walter Hill attends the premiere of "Bullet to the Head" on Jan. 29 in New York. (Jason Szenes / European Pressphoto Agency)

Amid the narrowing concentric circles of corruption, murder and big city racketeering featured in the shoot-‘em-up action caper “Bullet to the Head,” which arrived in theaters Friday, British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s character, crime kingpin Robert Nkomo Morel, occupies the center ring.

He’s the movie’s heavy: a smooth-talking, African-born arch manipulator, all wide smiles, tailored tuxedos and silken menace with an outsize physicality that can recall Geoffrey Holder’s James Bond nemesis in “Live and Let Die.”

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. (Courtesy of Dave Wise)

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. (Courtesy of Dave Wise)

But in “Bullet,” Akinnuoye-Agbaje comes up against the immovable force of Sylvester Stallone, portraying old-school hit man for hire James “Jimmy Bobo” Bonamo; he’s hellbent on taking an eye for an eye when his partner is murdered after carrying out a mob hit.

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A son of Nigerian immigrants who earned a law degree from King’s College in London, Akinnuoye-Agbaje is primarily known Stateside for his television roles, playing such imposing men of musculature as the guerrilla fighter-come-priest Mr. Eko in “Lost” and murderous convict Simon Adebisi in HBO’s “Oz.”

The actor relished the chance to put his more cerebral side on display in “Bullet.”

“Morel’s the epitome of greed and obsessed with money and power,” Akinnuoye-Agbaje noted. “Unlike some of the villains that audiences may be used to me playing, here is a character who’s more of a chess player, the orchestrator of criminal activity. He’s the brains behind the setup as opposed to the brawn.”

The coming months will find Akinnuoye-Agbaje featured in a trifecta of villainous roles. In addition to “Bullet,” he portrays a crusading truancy officer who doggedly pursues two preteen boys riding out a Brooklyn summer living on their own, surviving by their wits without parents, in the indie drama “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

And come November, the actor will be showcased in the splashy dual role of Algrim/Kurse in Marvel’s mega-budget superhero sequel “Thor: The Dark World.”

Still, Akinnuoye-Agbaje says he never approaches antihero parts with anything other than the characters’ internal compass points in mind.

“If you step into it thinking you’re playing a ‘baddie,’ it becomes caricature,” he said. “What I’ve always tried to do is show the human side: what’s flawed.”

Akinnuoye-Agbaje added: “I have to admit, I’m lavishing the opportunity to portray such a diverse range of baddies in such a diverse genre of films: indies, massive blockbusters to mid-size hit-‘em-hard action movies opposite legends. I’m really enjoying it.”

Adewale Akinnuoye–Agbaje, right, and Marc John Jefferies in a scene from "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." (Michael Gibson / Paramount Pictures)

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, right, and Marc John Jefferies in a scene from “Get Rich or Die Tryin.'” (Michael Gibson / Paramount Pictures)

Although details concerning plot points in “Thor: The Dark World” are still on lockdown, comic connoisseurs will be familiar with the Algrim-Kurse character arc. Algrim the Strong stands as the most powerful warrior among the title’s fictional race of Dark Elves. He’s compelled to fight Thor (portrayed by Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth in the films) by Elf overlord Malekith, who double-crosses Algrim, resulting in a life-threatening plunge into astro-lava.

However, Algrim survives – albeit wiped of his memory and transformed into a rampaging lava creature possessed of nearly infinite power — and sets out to exact revenge on Thor.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje often had to pull double duty as both characters in a single day – each characterization requiring around three hours in the makeup chair. And then there was the actor’s encasement in heavy-duty prosthetic padding to portray Kurse.

“The outfit weighed about 40 pounds. I’m sure there will be a certain amount of CGI but a good 80% was me in that suit,” said Akinnuoye-Agbaje. “The outfit informed how I was going to move – the horns – his fighting style as well. It’s almost like he’s made out of stone.”

Reluctant to reveal too much about “Thor: The Dark World” too early, the actor nonetheless shed a few rays of light on what fans can expect of Kurse.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is photographed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2006. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is photographed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2006. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s an amalgamation of a bull and a lava-like creature,” he said. “He has very animalistic tendencies but with this insatiable and unstoppable power. As an actor, that’s one of the hardest things to embody. You have to realize you are probably the most powerful thing you could imagine. And you have to be that. You can’t pretend, so that when you face Thor, it’s real.”

For all his big and small-screen accomplishments, the actor is most frequently recognized for – and chatted up about –his portrayal of “Lost’s” Mr. Eko.

“I’m amazed: When I go abroad, everywhere, people who can’t even speak English come up and recite half my lines as Mr. Eko,” said Akinnuoye-Agbaje. “ ‘Lost’ was a phenomenon and Mr. Eko was a part of that. A lot of people seem to identify with his journey and his struggle. The good, the bad, what necessarily looks good could be bad, and what looks bad could be a good means to a noble end. It just seems to be one of those shows and characters that resonates deeply.”

– Chris Lee

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Comments


One Response to Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje talks ‘Thor’ sequel, ‘Bullet to the Head’

  1. dopper0189 says:

    The story line with Kurse was some of the best ever from the comics. Walt Simonson was a comic genius!

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