I counted maybe three or four instances where you have to deliver these big exposition dumps in the middle of the action in “Dead Reckoning.” A lot of people consider exposition to be a necessary evil, but I feel like it takes a certain amount of skill for an actor to deliver that. How exactly do you approach that and make it sound so natural, too?
Well, I mean, as a writer, exposition is my least favorite thing to do. You have to make it part of the story, it can’t feel like entirely just information. I joke with McQ all the time about it, about Benji being the narrator of the story sometimes. But you just have to invest it with complete commitment. You can’t be wry and draw attention to the fact that you are basically explaining something to the audience. You have to make it part of the story. And what’s great about Benji is that, because he’s constantly reevaluating the situation he’s in, because he’s constantly reflecting on where he is and what he’s doing, it’s very, very like him to have to say, “Wait a minute, so we’re doing this, this, this, this, and this?” And it feels much more character-driven than just sort of lazy delivery of information.
One spoilery question I do have to ask you: There’s a moment when Benji is guiding Ethan along, telling him directions like he’s done a million times before, and their communications get hacked by the Entity, and that gives you the opportunity to be a spokesperson for the villain of the movie.
What kind of direction did you get from Chris about exactly how to deliver those lines, whether to go over-the-top and theatrical, or robotic and a little soft-spoken the way you do?
That’s a brilliant question actually, because that’s totally what we played with. And a lot of the stuff that we use in the film, I did on my phone. We were talking about it, I was at home, McQ was in the edit, and he’s saying, “Oh, we want to get this.” And so we started delivering the lines. I went to the edit and did some more ADR. But I think, in the end, we used what I did on my phone because it felt like the best pitched version of it. Because you’re right, it could have gone like HAL in “2001” or it could have gone a little bit silly. But the idea was, it’s just this thing recorded Benji’s voice when he was talking to the bomb and can now just become him. And the fact that the Entity possesses one of Ethan’s most trusted friends, it’s like a f***ing horror movie at that moment. It just chills me to the bone every time I watch it. And you just hear it making Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) go to the bridge. It’s giving me goosebumps talking about it.