Named after a word that sounds similar in Korean to both “spring” and “tiger,” Pom Klementieff has appropriately showcased ebullience and viciousness throughout her career — and especially in the past few months. In May, she reprised her role as Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” empathetically shepherding her fellow outcasts through an adventure to save Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) from unapologetic MCU villain the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). She also appears in “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” as Paris, a ruthless assassin who will stop at nothing to kill Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and anyone else who gets in her way.
Ahead of “Dead Reckoning Part One,” Klementieff spoke to Variety about her character in the film, whose backstory she worked closely with Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie to develop. In addition to talking about how she “manifested” the opportunity to be a part of the franchise, she revealed the panorama of influences — from Jean-Paul Belmondo to animal videos on YouTube — she enlisted to ensure that audiences never forget Paris.
“She’s a pretty mysterious character that doesn’t speak much, but the beauty of it is that when she speaks, everyone listens,” says Klementieff.
Paris possesses an almost sociopathic glee as she works for Gabriel [Esai Morales]. What was her backstory?
My character, I think, is on a path of destruction and she’s a very skilled fighter, and she enjoys to fight and to kill people. But there is also an underlying feeling of betrayal and of loneliness from being an orphan, so there’s a deep wound underneath. There’s a lot of things that I came up with myself, because what Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise do is cast the actors, and then they build the character around the actor’s abilities.
Tom Cruise is famous for performing his own stunts. Which of your own stunts did you request to do?
We trained very hard with [stunt coordinator] Wade Eastwood. But I had been training for years with a martial artist who taught me how to punch, how to kick, so I had been doing kickboxing, boxing, taekwondo. It was my dream to be part of “Mission: Impossible.” When I was training years ago, sometimes in my schedule, instead of writing “martial arts” or “stunt training,” I would write “Mission: Impossible,” because I wanted to manifest it.
What films did you watch for inspiration ahead of being in an action scene?
Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite directors, so of course I always watch “Kill Bill.” I watched movies with Bruce Lee, with Jackie Chan and some French movies as well, because it was not just about the fight and the physicality — it was also the way the character walks. I was inspired by movies with Jean-Paul Belmondo to find a cockiness to the character. And movies with Clint Eastwood, Takeshi Kitano, all these beautiful characters that barely speak but convey so many emotions as well.
There’s a physicality to so many of your roles. How intentional has that been?
I think it just happened. I’m not a Method actor. It comes naturally. For this movie, I would watch videos of animals, and I was inspired by a bird — the shoebill stork — for the physicality of the character, [the way it] turns slowly and stares, and I thought that it looked like me a little bit.
How much do you want action to be a cornerstone of your career going forward?
I’m dying to do more action, but it has to be the right project and the right director. That’s the beauty of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise — it’s not just an action movie. It’s beautiful storytelling with incredible filmmakers. Recently I shot something that I’m really proud of, a short movie with BMW called “The Calm.” Sam Hargrave, who did “Extraction,” directed it, and I was shooting this fight scene inside a car. I love doing very intricate things. And when there’s limitations, it’s even more exciting.