IN CONVERSATION WITH JACK REYNOR
interview by JANA and TIMOTEJ LETONJA
Jack Reynor is an award-winning Irish actor who has been steadily building his credits with critically-acclaimed performances in auteur director projects. He gained global recognition as the star of Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’, which grossed over $1B worldwide. This Fall, he is the lead star in Amazon’s forthcoming drama/sci-fi series ‘The Peripheral’, which premiered on 21 October.
Jack, this Fall we’re able to watch you in Amazon’s drama/sci-fi series ‘The Peripheral’. Set in the future when technology has subtly altered society, a woman discovers a secret connection to an alternate reality as well as a dark future of her own. Tell us more on what can we expect to see in this series and how it differs from the book?
I think first and foremost for lovers of science fiction and particularly of speculative fiction, which is a unique brand of sci-fi, people are gonna be pretty tantalized by this show. William Gibson, the creator, is obviously known for his work in the genre. He’s the person who coined the term cyberspace and he conceptualized the internet before it even existed. He’s kind of a fascinating guy and his work has obviously influenced so much popular culture that we all know and love. So I think for people that are fans of that, this’ll be a really stimulating show for them. There’s some really high concepts in it, but it’s also a really action packed show and it has some great drama in it too.
I think it differs from the source material in that Gibson as prolific of a writer as he is, he can also be quite difficult to penetrate and to sort of get into his work because it can be very complex. And I think that what the show has managed to do quite well is to refine a lot of stuff that is in the book and sort of package it in a way that is a little bit more accessible for an audience. And that’s actually really helpful with a show of this size and of this scale, because it gives people an opportunity to stay invested in it, even if the genre is not necessarily their passion.
You and Chloë Grace Moretz play a brother-sister duo in the series. Did you two also build such a close relationship off the set?
Yeah, we did. Me and Chloë became very good friends right away. It was kind of uncanny actually. She had signed onto the show a long time before I did, I think it was even before the pandemic. Chloë and I got on FaceTime with each other right away, basically once I signed onto the show. And right from the outset, we we realized that we had a huge amount in common with one another and that we have a lot of the same interests and that we have similar kind of relationships in our lives and things like that. So we just really hit it off right away. And we did a lot of prep work before we came to shoot the show over FaceTime. It was still the middle of the pandemic, so we kind of had to do all our prep on these FaceTime calls together and we would just spend hours and hours going through the scripts and just talking about other things outside of the work. And by the time we met each other in person, it was like we had known each other forever and people were actually really surprised by how familiar Chloë and I were with one another. We built a great relationship right at the get go. You know, the shoot is long and at times it can be arduous and it’s just good to have somebody on set with you who’s an ally and who’s gonna be your mate and who’s gonna support you through all that stuff. And I think that we definitely fulfilled that for one another. We’re great friends.
You star as Burton Fisher, Flynne’s brother and a US Marine Corp veteran who served in the Haptic Recon unit. With what words would you describe your character? Do you see and similarities between Burton and yourself? What is the biggest difference between you two?
I think Burton’s a very interesting character and he’s a little bit of an anti-hero. As loyal as he is and as judicious as he is, I don’t think he always necessarily wants to do the right thing. He kind of just wants to get the job done his way, whatever that means. And that’s a really fun character to play.
One of the things that’s really interesting about Burton is that he has this very close knit community around him. He has his friends who he served in the military with and they’re a bunch of country boys basically. They really identify with where they’re from and you can feel sort of pride in the community within this group of guys. And that’s something that I can definitely really relate to, being from a small little town in rural Ireland and having grown up here and this being the place where I spend the majority of my time. I understand that sort of small town mentality and the positives and the negatives of that, so that’s actually been a really nice thing to be able to bring to the performance.
How do independent Irish productions compare to big budget Hollywood productions in your opinion?
I’ve had numerous experiences of both and I have to say probably the most fulfilling and the most gratifying work that I’ve done in my career has been the smaller independent Irish stuff. Only because it’s the world that I’m from and it’s the world that I know so well. And I guess because the Irish film industry is very small and it is actually a very close knit community, you work with the same people over and over again. So it’s this really nice experience whenever I do a film at home in Ireland, sort of coming back and seeing people that I know and working with people I know again. It never feels like a job when I’m working in Ireland. It always just feels like it’s kind of a celebration or something, that we’re all still here and that we’re all still able to do this, we’re all still making movies. And I love that so much. It’s so special.
But then on the other side of the coin, some of those big budget Hollywood productions are amazing and they’re so much fun and it’s a scale that you really can’t experience anywhere else. There’s nothing as much fun as going to work and shooting car chases or like gun fights and explosions and all that stuff. It’s exciting and it’s just stimulating and it puts a smile on your face.
How was this shift for you, going from independent films to starring in huge Hollywood productions?
It was very intense. I mean, my first big blockbuster thing that I was on was a ‘Transformers’ movie. I had come off this independent Irish film that I think the budget was something around a million Euros and then all of a sudden I’m on this huge $150 million event movie. And it’s a completely different style of performance. I think it’s as far away from being an actor as being a model is, or being a singer is. It’s an entirely different set of skills that you need to deploy to be able to do that job effectively. And it was definitely a baptism of fire. I really jumped into the deep end there and I wouldn’t like to say whether or not I was prepared for it at the time, at 21 years of age, but I think that subsequently over the past decade of my career I’ve become better equipped to deal with that kind of shift.
Some time ago, you returned back home to Ireland, to Blessington. What is the best part about being ‘home’? Why did you decide to return home?
I moved back home seven or eight years ago. I had lived in Dublin for a long time and the last couple of years before I moved back here I traveled a lot around the world with work. And I think that I just reached a point where I felt that as exciting as the industry was and as exciting as my career was, as it was taking off in those earlier stages, I didn’t feel very grounded. I felt that my experiences were sort of compromising my mental health in a lot of ways. And what seemed most sensible to me was that I would find a place back home where I had grown up, in the countryside where there’s peace and there’s calm and people are not interested in me for my career. People are interested in me because they’ve known me since I was three years of age. So I came back down.
Just peace and serenity that I got then and which I still get now from looking out my bedroom window and just seeing the mountains and the lakes and the trees out there, that’s invaluable to me. And I would 100 % put my tools down and never work in the film industry again if it meant that I had to leave my home, if I had to live somewhere else. I just wouldn’t do it. I’d rather do anything else and live here than be in the film industry and not have the peace that I get from this place.
And I think what’s important as well is learning to have the balance in life that your entire sense of value isn’t embroiled in your career, in your job, whatever it may be. If you’re living for the release date, the next movie you have coming out or the next show you have coming out, it’s not gonna be a fulfilling life. You need to be able to understand that there are different avenues in your life that have to be explored and valued.
Your ability to portray the complex emotions of a character pushed to his limits, both with and, more impressively, without dialogue, dazzled critics. You’ve won many awards for your performances. Which award meant the most to you personally?
I’ve been very lucky in my career to have received some recognition from very prestigious institutions. And I’m hugely grateful for it. But I think the award that has honestly meant most to me was an award that I won for my short film down at the Galway Film Festival a few years ago. I wrote and directed a short with stoarring Will Poulter. I did it with Sky in the Irish Film Board and it’s an adaptation that I wrote of a Japanese ghost story. It was recorded back in the 19th century by an Irish writer named Lafcadio hearn, who lived in Japan and he was a fascinating guy. Masaki Kobayashi’s film ‘Kwaidan’ is an adaptation of four of the stories from Larcadio Hern’s book and it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. I love it so much. It’s a really influential piece of work for me to see.
I took another one of those short stories from Lafcadio’s books and adapted it. I set it in the famine in Ireland in the 19th century, in 1851, and shot it in black and white. And I was lucky enough to have a crew of people who I’ve worked with before, who I really love and respect. Will Poulter’s one of my best mates. And those five days that I had to showcase the landscape of my home, where I live and to just articulate my vision and bring it to life, were by far the best five working days I’ve ever had. I loved it so much and we were blessed enough to win an award for the film in Galway, which was so great. It was so gratifying.
What made you step into directing waters?
It was something that I really always wanted to do. It was always an ambition for me. And I think up until that point, I had invested all of my time into my performances as an actor, because of my ambitions as an actor. But it’s definitely always been something that’s been hugely important to me and that’s something that I really want to continue. I am developing other projects now to direct.
I think what was really interesting for that particular short, it was like being struck by lightning when I read that story. It was just one short paragraph and the moment I read it, I just knew I could see it in my mind and I just knew I have to make this, I have to do it. I can see it so clearly and I can see how it can be done. So that was the impetus. I always wanted to direct, but that was the moment that it was just like there was no other option.
Your role in ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ kind of boosted your profile in the industry. But, is this the role that you believe really set off your career internationally?
I think it did. I mean, when you’re part of a film that has the potential to make as much at the box office as that did, it brings currency to your involvement in other projects. And if I hadn’t been in ‘Transformers’, I don’t think I would’ve been in ‘Macbeth’, I don’t think I would’ve been necessarily in ‘Sing Street’, I don’t think I would’ve been in ‘Glassland’. These are all smaller projects that I’m so proud of and are like some of my best work. And definitely I know that all of those directors were interested in my career outside of ‘Transformers’, but I know that it was dependent for them on having somebody who had that currency. And certainly ‘Transformers’ brought that value. The great thing about it was I was able to capitalize on that value and I was able to go and do those movies and build a career for myself that I’m really proud of. So now I’ve kind of reached a point where I’m happy to start working on some bigger projects again, because I’ve got a lot of the stuff that I really wanted to do out of my system anyway.
What can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects? Where we’ll be seeing you next?
Well, the next thing that I have coming up that I can talk about is a film I did over the summer in Albany, New York with a brilliant director named Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. It’s a really cool sort of cop drama slash family drama and kind of a thriller. It’s myself and Hilary Swank and Olivia Cooke. It’s really exciting. I’m really looking forward to that one. I watched some stuff from it a couple of weeks ago and I think the visual aesthetic of it is really cool.
I think that’s gonna be a festivals movie, so we’ll just see once it’s finished where it finds its place. Hopefully somewhere on the festival circuit.
photography LEE MALONE
styling OLGA TIMOFEJEVA @ The Only Agency
styling assistant VERONICA WANG
groomer ALEXIS DAY USING 111SKIN AND BABYLISS PRO
editor TIMOTEJ LETONJA
Thanks to Guinea Grill for location