Aaron Taylor-Johnson: ‘Bullet Train’ Was Originally a ‘Dark,’ ‘Vicious Action Piece’ Before Comedy

"But we hammed it up and made it fun," said Taylor-Johnson, star of the assassin comedy directed by former stuntman David Leitch.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson arrives at the 2016 Governors Awards on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

With a title like “Bullet Train,” it’s only fair to expect a straight-up, hardcore action flick. Add in former stuntman turned director David Leitch, whose “John Wick” films arguably redefined the shoot ’em up genre, and Brad Pitt doing 95 percent of his stunts, and “Bullet Train” is right on track to be…a comedy?

“Originally this thing was quite a dark, R-rated, vicious action piece, but we hammed it up and made it fun,” star Aaron Taylor-Johnson told HERO Magazine in conversation with Andrew Garfield. “I don’t know what happened, but it became a comedy!”

“Bullet Train” stars Pitt, Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Sandra Bullock, Joey King, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, and Benito A Martínez Ocasio (aka Bad Bunny) in the ensemble cast.

“Bullet Train” is about a group of assassins who quickly learn that their respective missions are a little too similar, albeit with different objectives. The movie was shot during the COVID-19 pandemic, which Taylor-Johnson called a “blessing” to be able to work during quarantine.

“But it was the most bizarre film set I’ve ever been on because of that,” the “Kraven the Hunter” star added. “We got tested every day, we had masks and then the plastic visor over the top, and then weren’t allowed to interact with one another, you physically can’t shake a hand or, at the end of the day, give your mates a hug. That was an odd atmosphere, when you’ve been lucky enough to have had that intimacy in the past and that collaboration you feed off.”

The “Kick-Ass” alum credited co-star Tyree Henry for channeling his comedic chops both in front of and behind the camera. “I think it’s because the atmosphere was just surrounded by a cloud of fear and ultimately Brian and I felt it was our job to bring light and laughter to set, so if we made the crew laugh it was a good day,” Taylor-Johnson said, calling Tyree Henry a “phenomenal actor” with the “sweetest heart ever.”

“We all just had a laugh,” Taylor-Johnson continued, calling out co-stars Pitt, King, and Shannon. “[Director] David was really open to playing and exploring, it felt like a big breath of fresh air — we had a fantastic time.”

Leitch previously told Vulture that the timing for “Bullet Train” led to the star-studded casting.

“We were fortunate to be shooting in L.A. during a time when artists were ready to get back to work and having Brad on the project — hot off an Oscar win and having a great script by Zak Olkewicz — really did attract the best people,” Leitch said. “We were able to get people back to work safely during a pandemic, which is pretty amazing.”

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