ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with The Covenant stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim about the upcoming military action thriller. The duo discussed their characters’ relationship and filming while acting lifeless.
“Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant follows US Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Afghan interpreter Ahmed (Dar Salim),” reads the film’s synopsis. “After an ambush, Ahmed goes to Herculean lengths to save Kinley’s life. When Kinley learns that Ahmed and his family were not given safe passage to America as promised, he must repay his debt by returning to the war zone to retrieve them before the Taliban hunts them down first.”
Check out our The Covenant interview below (watch and read more interviews):
Tyler Treese: Jake, you previously discussed being told not to memorize lines for this, and Guy Richie would work with you for your scenes on the set. Can you discuss that unusual process? I feel like as a veteran, it had to be refreshing to have a new type of shooting experience.
Jake Gyllenhaal: It absolutely was. I mean, in a lot of ways, movies are the filmmakers who make them, right? And their style is what influences everyone. I love people who think outside the box, who know who they are. Particularly because Guy is so agile as a filmmaker, he asks for that agility from his performers as well and from his whole crew. He has so many incredible techniques and weapons at his disposal because he’s been working for so long, and he’s so proficient that it was all about discovery on a daily basis. We knew this story we were telling, he definitely did, but he didn’t know which of the elements was going to really shine and come out and what he could add to it. The process was just an incredible process of discovery. I loved doing it that way, and I loved working with him.
Dar, I love your character, Ahmed. He’s very intelligent, capable, and he’s willing to make his own decisions, and that leads to some conflict between the two of you at first, but it earns him that mutual respect. What did you like most about this bond that is really developed over actions?
Dar Salim: Well, you said it. it’s a bond developed over actions. It’s not a sentimental bond. It’s not a natural bond that you’d expect between, let’s say, two American soldiers or two Afghan soldiers. You [Jake] called it an arranged marriage, which I really liked, and these guys … they don’t necessarily even like each other to begin with, but they’re just thrown into this situation together.
What I like about it is that the relationship grows out of necessity and then it highlights the fact that so much unites us more than divides us. That you can actually relate to a guy like Ahmed even though you’re a European or even though you’re American. It shows that at the end of the day, people just want the same thing, man. People just want to be able to provide for their families and give their children some opportunities. At the end of the day, most of us will do the right thing. Most of us.
This is a film which is very entertaining. It’s big cinema, it’s big action, but at the heart of it is the truth that all interpreters did put their lives at stake every day to help the American soldiers, and all American soldiers did put their lives at stake every day to do the right thing. But told in this unsentimental way … is probably my favorite part of the film.
Jake, there’s a large section of this movie where you’re being dragged around by Dar’s character. How is it, filming those scenes and acting lifeless? Because it’s almost a challenge to be non-responsive when you’re being dragged around.
Jake Gyllenhaal: [Laugh]. Yeah, acting is is a sometimes a funny thing, the places you find yourself … even if it’s upside down, covered in itchy blankets in a cart with two wheels in the middle of the desert. But the thing that I really found most difficult about it was I was always followed whenever we were in closeups by three people: one with dust, another with water, and the other with fake blood.
Guy would just throw, without a combination being told to me, any one of those elements at my face for a good 15 minute take, you know? He’d be shouting, “Keep your eyes open!” Just throwing fake blood at my face. So that was quite an experience. And we shot a lot of that, which I was surprised by. I thought, “One and done and away,” you know? How many times [have] you got to cut to it? We cut to it a lot, didn’t we?
Dar Salim: A lot, yeah.