Sebastian Stan talks about working opposite Nicole Kidman in 'Destroyer' and playfully dodges some Marvel questions

  • Sebastian Stan talked to Business Insider about playing opposite Nicole Kidman in the crime thriller, “Destroyer.”
  • This follows the strong supporting role he did in last year’s Oscar-winning movie, “I, Tonya.”
  • Stan opened up about the challenge of finding good leading-man roles.
  • And he had some fun with us when we brought up his Marvel Cinematic Universe character, Bucky Barnes.

You know him best as Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Sebastian Stan hopes you’ll think of him as much more than that.

Stan already wowed audiences last year when he played Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, and he’s about to do it again playing a very different character in the crime drama, “Destroyer” (in theatres on Christmas Day).

Starring opposite Nicole Kidman, the two play young detectives who get carried away while working undercover, leading to a second act that focuses on Kidman’s character years later. Sporting a super short haircut and tattoos, Stan once more plays a strong supporting role, and proves he can do more in movies than look mean fighting alongside the Avengers. So when are the big leading man roles coming Stan’s way?

Business Insider talked to Stan about that, the steps he took to get in the role for “Destroyer,” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

Destroyer Annapurna Pictures finalAnnapurna PicturesNicole Kidman in ‘Destroyer.’

Jason Guerrasio: Were you as shocked to see how Nicole looks in the present day “Destroyer” footage as we were when that still of the movie came out?

Sebastian Stan: Yeah. I didn’t have any scenes where she transformed. I didn’t experience that firsthand. I only saw that photo once on the internet. It’s really impressive. You are always inspired by those things. And now that we are doing press it’s fascinating to listen to Nicole talk about her process and finding her way into the character. The whole thing to me is a science project. Not one choice wasn’t well thought out. Those are my favourite kind of roles, when you can see someone extremely recognisable and you lose them in the role.

Guerrasio: Well, how was your process for this? You also had to get into a certain mindset.

Stan: On a much smaller scale than her, but it was a little similar. The great thing about the script is it didn’t spell out who these people were. It didn’t tell you much about where they came from or what their lives were outside of the job. So it allowed me to build a whole backstory on my own based on what the guy was doing in the story. Figuring out what kind of guy would lose himself in this scenario.

Guerrasio: Does that include going back and watching old cop movies?

Stan: On something like this you get a good excuse to go back and revisit projects that are inspiring. And I also met with an FBI agent in New York who is a family friend and was able to go through the script with him. That was really helpful because I really wanted to understand what it takes to become an undercover agent and what sort of training you would need. A lot of these guys sometimes have military training, other times they have training on the street. That was one of the decisions I was making with my guy. Ultimately he’s somebody who is more at home while on the job rather than his real life. That’s how it appeared to me. So I kind of created this backstory that he had a bad history with the law when he was younger and then wanting more structure in his life decided to join this line of work using his experience from his past. [“Destroyer” director] Karyn [Kusama] suggested I shave my head and we talked about the tattoos and finding a look for the guy. That was exciting, too.

Destroyer Sebastian Stan Annapurna PicturesAnnapurna PicturesSebastian Stan in ‘Destroyer.’

Guerrasio: How you all play off each other in this movie is one of the thrills. Do things get competitive on set between actors on a movie as intense as this? Will seeing an actor really bringing it across from you make you pick up your game?

Stan: It happens on set. It happens in a way that can be healthy for the movie, and it can also happen in a way that’s not healthy for the movie. We did not have that on this. And I think it’s because you have good actors. This cast, the work speaks for itself. But when it’s an intense scene some of us may keep our distance, but that’s a level of respect. You’re always coming from a level of honouring the other person and their process.

Guerrasio: This is the kind of story that’s not told in movie form anymore. These crime thrillers are more and more finding their way to TV. So how bad did you want this role because on the movie side it’s becoming more rare to do.

Stan: I wanted it very badly. I had done “I, Tonya,” and that was a great experience and I loved every minute of it. I wanted to find a collaborative effort similar to that. But I really thought I wasn’t going to find it. Then I found it with this. I wanted to be a part of it because I respected Karyn and Nicole and I just knew this was going to be a very specific movie.

Guerrasio: You’ve done some great supporting roles, are you gunning for lead actor parts?

Stan: Always. There were a couple of things that almost came my way that would have been great. The opportunity is there. I’m much more interested right now in working with a great director and on a great script and that’s been a priority for me. But I’m looking all the time. Down the line I want to be remembered for being a part of specific works and visions of directors rather than a group of characters. I’m still figuring that out.

Bucky Barnes Infinity WarMarvel StudiosSebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes in ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’

Guerrasio: Have to throw out some Bucky questions before I go. (Note: This interview was conducted before the “Avengers: Endgame” trailer was released.) Have you wrapped all your stuff on “Avengers 4”?

Stan: I haven’t worked on anything since two years ago, so no. My character died in the last film. [laughs]

Guerrasio: OK? How about this one: Are the reports true that you and Anthony Mackie are going to team up for a Winter Soldier/Falcon limited series on Disney+?

Stan: Anthony Mackie and I are going to try to revive “Beverly Hills Cop.” We’re trying to get Eddie Murphy, but he’s not calling us back. It’s been difficult, but hey, you have to keep trying, right?

Guerrasio: I’m getting nowhere with you, am I?

Stan: [laughs]

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