“Water Baby” Michael B. Jordan Dives into Iconic Action Hero Role in ‘Without Remorse’

(l-r) Jodie Turner-Smith and Michael B. Jordan star in TOM CLANCY’S WITHOUT REMORSE. ©Amazon Studios. CR: Nadja Klier.


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Tom Clancy’s second most well-known fictional hero (after Jack Ryan) is John Clark, a Navy SEAL turned secret government operative. The popular and prolific author described the character as “Jack Ryan’s dark side” and was featured in many of the Ryan-verse novels. On screen, he’s been portrayed by Willem Dafoe (“Clear and Present Danger”), Liev Schreiber (“The Sum of All Fears”), and now in the origins story, “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse,” by marquee star Michael B. Jordan.

Best known for his starring role in the acclaimed drama “Fruitvale Station,” the Santa Ana, Calif., native has also made his mark appearing on several TV series and he co-starred with Chadwick Boseman in “Black Panther” as well as in 2015’s “Creed” alongside Sylvester Stallone. The actor jumped at the chance to play Clancy’s iconic literary character in the high-octane action movie directed by Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima (“Gomorrah,” “ZeroZeroZero”).

Jordan stars alongside Jodie Turner-Smith, as well as Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce, Brett Gelman, Colman Domingo and Lauren London.

In the film, Sr. Chief John Kelly (John Clark’s birth name) uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for (SPOILER ALERT) the murder of his pregnant wife, Pam (London).

When a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret operation, Kelly (Jordan) pursues the assassins at all costs. Joining forces with a fellow SEAL (Turner-Smith) and a shadowy CIA agent (Bell), Kelly’s mission unwittingly exposes a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war. Torn between personal honor and loyalty to his country, Kelly must fight his enemies without remorse if he hopes to avert disaster and reveal the powerful figures behind the conspiracy.

During a recent online press conference, Jordan, director Sollima, and other members of the cast spoke about being part of this exciting and action-packed reboot, that is slated to debut on Amazon Prime Video Friday April 30. Originally set to open in theaters, “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse,” with its extraordinary fight sequences, remarkable stunts above and below the water’s surface, pivoted toward the premium streaming service due to theaters being shuttered by the pandemic. Just like the film’s hero, “Tom Clancys Without Remorse” had to adapt and adjust to present circumstances. Jordan, who also is one of the film’s producers, spoke during the press conference about doing several mind-blowing underwater action scenes, which are sure to wow viewers.

Q: Michael, this is the first action movie from your production company, Outlier Society. What can you say about producing this compared to the previous features?

Michael B. Jordan: Just being involved from the absolute beginning to the end, it was very hands on, (like) how to build out stunts and what the process would be and having experienced producers like Akiva (Goldsman) and (former Paramount production chief) Liz Raposo—people who have been through the process before on high-stakes action movies, and really following their lead on packaging together these big actions scenes like the airplane crash, and working with the visual effects supervisor, to work out that sequence and how we’re going to practically shoot it. We’re going to use a crane on this shot, and we’re going to need water tanks. So, it was just going through the process of building that out. It was a learning curve for me, and I walked away from this movie with more knowledge and experience of how to put those kinds of movies together. I know when to shut up and listen and learn, and I was a sponge on this one.

Q: Michael and Jodie, can you talk about the relationship between John Kelly and Karen Greer? It’s not a romantic relationship but a professional one.

Jodie Turner-Smith: I think it’s really wonderful and brave where you have a relationship which is platonic love. These two are deeply bound by that.

Jordan: Finding the balance was important. Stefano, Akiva and I tried to find the balance between that camaraderie and that brother-and-sister-like relationship they had. I didn’t want people to misunderstand. They love each other, but it’s more about “I got your back through thick and thin, and I’m not going to leave you behind. This might get me in trouble, but I’m going to look out for your best interests because you’re not thinking clearly at this moment.” We wanted to define those dynamics in the relationship but also be very respectful to John’s relationship to his (wife) Pam. We didn’t want anybody to assume or forward-think that their relationship would go down a road that it wasn’t supposed to. We wanted to make sure we honored John’s motivation throughout this movie. That was something we kept a close eye on as we developed those scenes. I think we found a pretty good balance.

Q: Michael, there are multiple intense sequences of your character underwater. Can you talk about the preparation for those scenes? And, how can long can you hold your breath underwater?

Jordan: Right now? At least (the length of) a song. Your breath and breathing are a matter of training and exercise. If you stop training and exercising that muscle, you can definitely lose it. Underwater training was definitely something we spent a lot of time on. We knew we were going to have these sequences early in the script-development phase. Stefano looked at me and asked, “Mike, you know you’re going to have to do all this, right?” and I said, “Yeah, of course. Easy. No problem.” So, we hooked up with some military divers and spent time in the tanks, and put ourselves under stressful situations where we’d have to problem-solve, work through malfunctions, gear-failure, work through military rebreathers, which are these machines that soldiers wear to suppress all the bubbles so they can breathe underwater without leaving any physical traces. I don’t know how many pounds they were but they were so heavy. We also had this floatation bag that you’d have to manipulate the pressure so you could be buoyant enough to stay underwater but not buoyant enough to float to the surface.  So, it was a lot of detailed training we went through with the water exercises. I can hold my breath for about three minutes.

Turner-Smith: Let me tell you, Michael would put this song on and he’d be underwater the entire time.

Stefano Sollima: As soon as I’d say cut, there was dancing.

Jordan: I’m a water baby. I love being underwater. Honestly, if you’re calm and sitting still, you can hold your breath for a long time. They created an environment for us to really relax and be at peace. Without giving too much away, there’s a moment in the movie where you see me be at peace underwater, and that’s the (moment) everyone’s talking about.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the stunts?

Jordan: It was fun. I’m a play-fiend. I’m an action junkie. As a kid, these were the kinds of movies I watched and always wanted to be in. The fact that I actually had an opportunity to train and do a majority of my stunts and have an incredible stunt team was great. I still worked with stunt doubles and a stunt team that made sure the sequences were safe and taught us the proper way to handle ourselves in situations. Clay (Donahue, stunt double) and Doug (Coleman, stunt coordinator) and everybody there allowed us to train and prepare for what we had to do on the day. We got banged up during the process but it was worth it.

Q: Can films be helped to find an audience by going directly to Amazon Prime Video?

Jordan: It’s given access to films that (audiences) might not have an opportunity to go see. Some films are shot and meant to be played in a movie theater. But we’re in an evolution now, an evolving time, with the pandemic this past year, and the shift (from theaters to streaming). We were victims of that as well, in the sense of trying to figure out where we were going to pivot and how we were going to get our movie out to the masses so that everybody would have an opportunity to see it. Luckily, we were able to land in a place like Amazon (Prime Video) to house this film. So, it’s an evolution. I think it’s going to be a healthy balance between the two (theaters and home viewing). There’s something to be said for being at home and having instant access to movies you want to see but I think there’s also something to going to a theater and having that theater experience as well. I think it’s going to be a nice, healthy balance in the future.

Colman Domingo: As Michael said, I’m glad that people have the accessibility and people can watch it and view it when they want. People have been setting up their extra bedrooms as theater rooms. Especially for a film like this, you want to see Michael and Jodie in all their glory on the big screens. Now, you can do it on your own and I think that’s awesome.

Q: Stefano, what has this moment been like for you?

Sollima: At a time like this when the movie business is facing a crisis like never before, a solution like (streaming) may save a lot of things. It’s something of a gift to give audiences a film of such scope and cinematic complexity.

Turner-Smith: With everyone taking it in from the comfort of their own homes, that means many more eyes on it. It’s a way for us to be together more than ever. People are on Twitter talking about it and live-Tweeting.

Q: Lauren, your character, Pam (John Kelly’s wife), is at the heart of this film, and the relationship between her and her husband, John Kelly, is at the center of this film. How did you build that relationship to make it feel as natural and hold the emotional weight through the course of the film?

Lauren London: You bring your life experiences to your art. I try my best to be honest that way. As a mother and partner and to experience love to the degree that I was able to experience it, I brought that tenderness and vulnerability to that character. Michael, being a really good friend before we ever worked together, made it really comfortable and respectful, and gave me space to be able to feel vulnerable in this character at the time of my life that I was in.

Jordan: Yeah, as actors and artists, being able to have an opportunity to express ourselves through work sometimes, the only release we can get in that type of way. We were lucky as actors in this project as scene partners for Lauren to be so generous and help me, personally, get through and understand the state of mind and emotional beats of what a person like John would be going through. It added so many layers to the performance across the board, and it was my driving force throughout the movie as well. Sometimes you get those “X-factors” in movies—that special whatever it is—that just makes things pop, and Lauren, for us, was definitely one of those things.

London: We had very open conversations about grief and what it feels like to lose someone so tragically and so soon. Those conversations really helped in the movement of our characters and that relationship.

Q: Jodie, how was it pushing your body to the limit in the physicality of this film?

Turner-Smith: I was pregnant at the time. That definitely added a level of intensity to it that even I didn’t anticipate. I’m normally an athletic person so I felt like I was ready to through my body into it. But being pregnant and doing this film was unlikely anything I’ve done before. It was intense. I worked with a trainer. Michael was gracious enough to allow me to borrow his trainer (Corey Calliet) sometimes.

Also, as part of the production, I was working with (the stunt team) who made sure we had integrity with the way we were moving, the way we were moving in combat, the way we were using our weapons, the way we were working with each other in groups, because these are men that work together and become a unit. They become one. And we were trying to emulate that we had been working together for years and living this life, and throwing myself into all of it. The thing about (director) Stefano is that is that he wants to make it look really cool and interesting as possible by having us do as much of (our own stunt work) as we can. I saw what I was capable of because I was working twice as hard.

Q: Brett, what was it about this evil character, Viktor Rykov, that attracted you to the role?

Brett Gelman: I’ve played some not so great guys in the past. This was really kicking it to a whole other level of evil and sickness. And, the chance to work with Michael was a huge draw as was the chance to work with Stefano. I’m a big fan of these guys’ work. It was a no-brainer. Plus, the chance to go to Berlin (to film) was great. Everybody has a distinct code and it’s about willing to die for that code no matter what that code is, and believing that’s your whole belief system. That’s your whole mentality and soul. To be able to get into that with your character was fascinating to me. A lot of the times, the bad behavior of bad characters of mine were from desperation or loneliness, but that’s not where this guy was coming from. It was coming from a deep believe system that he has, as dark as it is. He also is a great villain because you not only experience his villainy but you ask who the true villain is. With the heroes, it’s also about complicated people, and Stefano was able to bring it out. There’s some sort of humanity there. To be a villain in an action movie is one of those childhood dreams.