Jumping In: Hayden Christensen And Jamie Bell Become Jumpers
At the heart of JUMPER's mythology is David Rice, whose mother left him when he was five, who grew up in an unhappy home life and has all kinds of problems he'd like to escape from -- until he discovers he possesses the amazing ability to do just that: escape from it all whenever, and wherever, he chooses. At first, David believes he is completely alone in his powers of teleportation, but as he comes of age and tests the limits of his skills, he makes a chilling discovery that he is part of a long line of people just like him -- and is about to be relentlessly hunted down because of it.
To play David Rice, the filmmakers turned to one of today's fastest rising leading men: Hayden Christensen. Christensen came to international fame when he was cast by George Lucas as in the sought-after role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episodes II & III. He has garnered equal acclaim in dramatic roles, including Life as a House and Shattered Glass. Christensen's mix of charisma and emotional veracity made him the entire team's standout choice.
"As soon as Hayden expressed an interest in playing the role, we didn't really look any further," recalls Foster. "He's perfect for the character of David Rice. Besides being a very intuitive actor he's just such a compelling and earnest guy, and I think those qualities come across on screen."
Doug Liman concurs: "I've become a huge fan of Hayden Christensen. He's incredibly talented and hard-working, and I've made him do some crazy things. He been physically and emotionally pushed in this role, yet he's given us one thousand percent. I think people are going to say, `wow, we haven't seen that guy do anything like that before.' He's a great David Rice."
Christensen knew the role would be unlike anything else he's done on screen so far, and that was a huge draw for an actor who thrives on taking risks. "The character of David Rice isn't like anyone I've played before and it was exciting to get the chance to explore something entirely new," says Christensen. "He has a really interesting journey, and the whole concept of teleportation is just so cool. I loved that the story presents a whole sort of Pandora's Box of fantasy `what-ifs?' It's the kind of movie I'd like to see as an audience member."
In addition to taking boxing and deep-sea diving lessons, Hayden began his preparation by contemplating many of the wild "what-ifs" of teleportation himself. "There are so many things I would do if I could teleport. The thought of never getting on a plane again and spending all your downtime traveling the world is really appealing," he says. "I also fantasized a lot about what it would feel like to do things like jump off a building, then teleport back to the top before you hit the ground, and stay in a perpetual freefall. Basically, the whole idea opens up infinite possibilities for your imagination."
But Christensen was also acutely aware that David Rice's life of endless opportunities is masking a lot of internal turmoil. "Although David has become very acclimated to life as a Jumper it's a very solitary life because he has this secret he can't share with anyone," he explains. "He has every toy any man could want but he's still insecure and lonely. He really believes that he just wants to be left alone. But I think what's so interesting about David is that he begins to change. He's a very reluctant hero who resists his transformation into one the whole way, which makes him so interesting. The events around him force him to mature, to come clean and face his past as well as his uncertain future."
David Rice feels isolated, in part, because he believes his teleportation ability is just an accident of fate. But when he meets Griffin, another Jumper with the same method of zooming around the world in milliseconds, he realizes there is far more to who he is than he ever realized. Christensen loved working with British star Jamie Bell in the role of the Jumper who is at once his rival and his mentor in this brave new Jumper world. "Jamie did wonders for the role," he says. "He likes to invent, to create things on the spot, and he brought new ideas every day. He made Griffin into this very likeable sort of punk figure who has total disdain for authority but does it with a wink and a grin."
Christensen continues: "For me, it was great because you understand why my character wants to team up with this guy. And once they do, they have some pretty amazing experiences, doing things you could never do without teleportation. Both David and Griffin are pushed to new heights in just trying to keep up with the other."
Christensen also loved that this role would reunite him with Samuel L. Jackson, with whom he had starred in the Stars Wars films. Here, Jackson plays Roland, the Paladin agent who seeks to destroy Jumpers like David Rice forever. "Sam provided guidance for me as a young actor, so it was really exciting to come back and do another movie with him. He brings so much weight and gravitas to the role, he elevates everyone around him," Christensen comments.
Meanwhile, even amidst all the mind-blowing, teleporting action, Christensen also had to expose the vulnerable corners of David's heart, as he starts to fall in love with the childhood friend who reappears in his life, Millie, played by Rachel Bilson. "David and Millie have a really unusual love story," he muses. "David is tempted to bring her along on all his adventures, but he can't really ever come clean to her. You also have this juxtaposition of a man trying to start a romance, while he's also trying to escape from people who want to kill him -- and trying to never let those two paths cross."
Christensen notes that, in attempting to "jump" fully into the no-limits life of a Jumper, the most vital skills of all were an open mind and adaptability. "For six months, my character was constantly on the run, constantly having things go wrong, constantly getting beat up or tossed around," he explains. "We were definitely put through the gauntlet but it came with a lot of satisfaction."
For Jamie Bell, who plays Griffin, the intense action of JUMPER was real change of pace. Bell came to international acclaim in the poignant title role of Stephen Daldry's Oscar¬nominated indie hit Billy Elliot, in which he played a working-class British boy with an unlikely dream of becoming a dancer. He has gone on to diverse roles ranging from the servant Smike in Nicholas Nickleby to a young seaman in Peter Jackson's King Kong and a U.S. Marine in Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers -- but the role of Griffin was like nothing he'd attempted before.
This was key for the filmmakers who wanted a very unpredictable presence for Griffin, the defiant Jumper who initiates David Rice into the entire mythology behind who he really is -- and explains the perilous stakes he faces. But Griffin also has his own story of loss and anger-fueled vengeance that will become deeply intertwined with David's survival.
"Griffin is this fast-talking, roguish, impish, crazy-pixie of a character and as such, brings both a certain manic energy and comic relief to the film," explains Simon Kinberg. "But we also wanted him to be emotionally honest and true, and to have a very personal back story that would motivate his war against the Paladins. Jamie had the combination of skills that would make all of that possible."
Continues Lucas Foster: "We were incredibly lucky to get someone as amazingly versatile as Jamie, who took the role and really ran with it. With his Griffin, you really never know what he's going to do next; he has this improvisational quality to him that has had us writing furiously just to keep up. He turned this character into something we couldn't have expected."
Bell was first and foremost magnetically drawn to the concept of JUMPER. "There was something about the script that I really connected to, something that reminded me of being a kid desperately searching for a way out," explains Bell. "Teleportation is the ultimate out. You can go anywhere at any time. Who doesn't dream of that? As for Griffin, he's incredibly wild, colorful and funny. He has this intense, kinetic kind of energy; he doesn't have anything that's permanent, he doesn't have any sense of family or a social life, and in fact he has no real social skills at all, but I think all that makes him a really dynamic and interesting character."
Bell not only was intrigued by Griffin's internal world but by the chance to use his physical skills to explore Griffin's external style as well. No stranger to bounding and soaring on film, he worked closely with the filmmakers to develop Griffin's own personal mode of moving, and especially Jumping. "He's got a frantic, kinetic way of being that I think you need to see in his Jumping," Bell explains. "His jumps are very intense and almost brutal, which is something Doug wanted to see."
Equally intriguing to Bell was the evolving relationship between Griffin and the uninitiated David Rice, whose partnership gets off to a rather shaky start. "Every good relationship starts with a punch," laughs Bell. "Griffin has lived a renegade existence since his parents were killed by Roland and so, at first, he sees David as a liability. But I think he also secretly enjoys the fact that he is able to teach him the rules, to teach him to defend himself and to really open up the world of Jumping to him."
That edgy but real rapport came naturally between Bell and Hayden Christensen. Says Bell: "Hayden really stepped up my game. We just reacted off each other so well."
Adds Doug Liman: "Hayden and Jamie played off one another so beautifully that we ended up re-writing entire scenes so there would be more of that. We redesigned the Colosseum fight sequence so that they would literally be tied together and it would be about them and their relationship. We were constantly trying to come up with fun things for Griffin to do to challenge David."
Bell notes that Liman's spontaneous bursts of vision were a big part of the production's fun. "I really respect that Doug's mind is basically wild with creativity," he summarizes. "It was something I came to feed off in playing Griffin."
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