Any actor - well, any actor without his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - who received a phone call informing him he had an audition for a major part in a new Die Hard movie would scream "Yippee-ki-yay" then do what it takes to get there (plane, train, automobile, crawl over hot coals, Star Trek teleporter, whatever).
Not the ice-cool Australian superstar-in-waiting Jai Courtney, who was about to board a plane at LAX and determined to fly home when he received news about the Die Hard audition.
"It's hard to believe but when I got the call to go and do a read through with Bruce Willis my initial reaction was one of disappointment," Courtney recalls over the phone from Melbourne where he was doing his part to promote A Good Day to Die Hard.
Courtney had spent the previous six months slogging away in the US, first hustling for work, then playing an evil mercenary in the Tom Cruise action flick Jack Reacher. So he was anxious to get back to Sydney and enjoy his modest success.
"I was literally walking on to the plane. I'd been away for so long and I didn't want to gamble on another audition. Then I thought 'Shit, it's Bruce Willis' and I quickly snapped out of it," Courtney laughs.
While other action stars of the 1980s have become parodies of their former selves - see Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme - Willis has retained his cool because of his acting chops and his work in movies such as The Sixth Sense, Pulp Fiction, Moonrise Kingdom and Looper.
So it was not surprising that the part of Willis' son in this fifth of the long-running franchise that has grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide was hotly contested, with Hunger Games co-star and fellow Australian Liam Hemsworth, Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul and DJ Cotrona (GI Joe: Retaliation) reportedly in serious contention.
There was a screen test, some gunplay in front of a camera crew. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the pair struck up an instant rapport, so much so that Willis claimed it was like looking in the mirror (albeit an earlier more hirsute version of himself).
"He sounded like me," Willis, 57, explained recently. "He got the character, got what he had to do and just seemed like family."
You don't need to be a Hollywood insider to know what happened between Willis and the 26-year-old electrician's son from the Sydney suburb of Cherrybrook who graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2007.
The chemistry between the pair on the screen is palpable, with Courtney's bull-headed CIA agent Jack McClane going blow for blow, quip for quip with Willis' hard-boiled paterfamilias John, who in Die Hard number five travels to Moscow to get his son out of trouble.
Courtney says working with Willis was as pleasurable as you would imagine from one of the most liked and enduring stars in film history.
"What you see is what you get with Bruce. He's a cool dude. He's a bit of a hero of mine so it was a thrill to get the chance to work alongside him. And to play his son was even better," Courtney says.
Which is about as excited as the tall, powerfully built one-time rugby league prospect gets about acting alongside Willis and Cruise.
Even though he has had one of the most remarkable rises in recent memory - his CV before his Hollywood breakthrough startlingly slender, with a couple of episodes of Packed to the Rafters and All Saints and a bigger role in Spartacus: Blood and Sand - Courtney speaks with remarkable sangfroid of co-starring with a pair of screen legends
"You can be the biggest actor in the world but at the end of the day you still have to do your job - block out a scene, talk to other actors about how you're going to move and hold your gun, stand on your mark and say your line."
He also appreciated the trust that Cruise and Willis put in him even though his experience was minimal before he signed on to Jack Reacher and A Good Day to Die Hard.
"Actors have a code," he says.
"It doesn't really matter about your experience. There's a time when you help each other and there's a time when you want your own process. They certainly put a lot of trust in me to fulfil the roles, which is why the auditioning process is so exacting," he explains.
Courtney is not far removed from the toil of getting a job and grateful for his big break.
"I hadn't worked for a couple of years so it was a huge relief to get the job (on Jack Reacher). It is very taxing going back and forth from Australia to the US and getting on the rollercoaster," Courtney recalls.
"You feel really confident at times, you doubt yourself at other times. And you have to get money together. It is not an easy thing to do. So I was really hungry at that point and it was really welcomed."
Even though Courtney is now based in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and fellow WAAPA graduate Gemma Pranita, who made her name playing Jade Mitchell on Neighbours, he will continue moving between Hollywood and the Australian film industry.
He has just completed the Sydney-set crime drama Felony, written by his co-star Joel Edgerton and directed by the respected Matt Saville (Cloudstreet), and he also had a role in I, Frankenstein, a US/Australian horror thriller shot in Melbourne and directed by Stuart Beattie of Tomorrow, When the War Began fame.
While Courtney knows he will get plenty of offers for big-budget action movies on the back of Jack Reacher and A Good Day to Die Hard, he says he wants to mix it up creatively, indeed to have a career that matches the diversity of fellow WAAPA graduate Hugh Jackman (one minute Wolverine, the next warbling in Les Mis)."For me it is not about cashing in or chasing projects that are super commercial. At the end of the day you have to remain creatively fulfilled. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I only worked on large-scale projects. There is a different level of satisfaction working on a quality drama," Courtney says.
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