Michael B. Jordan stars in upcoming action-thriller Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse as a Navy SEAL caught in conspiracy. The film is adapted from the renowned novel of Tom Clancy, a dream come true for a fan of the author like Jordan. Ahead of its Amazon Prime Video premiere, MBJ chatted with The Knockturnal to tell us more.
Clancy framed book ‘Without Remorse’ as the origin story of John Clark, whose birth name was John Kelly. The novel initially took place during the Vietnam War. However, Paramount Pictures, director Stefano Sollima, and Jordan—also a producer on the project’s—modernized the plot into a present-day action-thriller. They kept the premise though: Kelly connects dots in a plot between Americans and Russians to start a war.
So all the movies—action movies—that I love, this would have been a movie that I watched as a kid, and I would have told myself, ‘Man, I wish I could do that.’
The main time frame has expectant father Kelly having retired from the navy. However, his past returns when assassins murder his pregnant wife and former colleagues. Grief, anger, and guilt push the ex-SEAL and now-widower back into the dynamic and violent world he once left to pursue family. And like Clancy’s signature style of espionage and plot twists, Kelly has no idea what he’s getting himself into until he’s already in it.
Here’s Michael B. Jordan on his latest project, out April 30, 2021:
The Knockturnal: What was it like portraying a character who experiences such a significant psychological transformation?
Michael B. Jordan: I don’t know where to start. Psychological change—I mean I think you know you meet John. He’s very loyal and dedicated and believes firmly and wholeheartedly in this country and system. He loves his family, and he’s dedicated to them. I feel like through a series of unfortunate events of losing his family, having his wife and child murdered, an attempt on assassination on his own life leaves him in a place to ask questions wondering if why, why him. And he starts to follow the breadcrumbs to a bigger and bigger and bigger I guess conspiracy that puts all that in question. So I think you know through those things he mentally started to change his view, his outlook on his relationship that he has with this system that he, I guess, blindly dedicated and blindly loved.
The Knockturnal: Early on in the film, John Kelly’s personality is described as a “badass.” But he is also coping with guilt and grief, two things that are capable of making you do anything. How did you interpret his motivation in this movie? Would you attribute more to grief? Or would these have been thing’s he’d done regardless because he is a badass?
Michael B. Jordan: I think he is a very capable man. He’s highly skilled. He’s highly trained, and he’s the type of person that once he puts his mind to something, you know, he gets it done. And I don’t think without the murder of his wife and unborn child that he would have done these things. He probably could have been capable of but wouldn’t have a reason to do. So I would say that the tragedy and the pain pushed him to the place to do the things that he did.
The Knockturnal: What were your first reactions when you read the script?
Michael B. Jordan: When we first read the script, it was a couple years ago. It’s been around for a few years and we came in and we updated it. We made a lot of changes. So a lot of the things that you see in the movie now was based off the development process that myself and the other producers went through. So it just had a lot of bones to a really dope origin story and felt like it was something that could be a franchise vehicle for myself stemming out of the ‘Incredible World of Tom Clancy’ universe—espionage and spy thrillers. Even as a kid playing Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon for so many hours imagining myself in those missions. It was a kind of a no-brainer for me that once this thing came full circle to be able to step into the live-action version of that.
The Knockturnal: You’ve been in a number of roles now involving physicality—especially having played first responders and military men. Is there where you saw your career going? Are these types of roles a preference for you?
Michael B. Jordan: Yeah, I mean I think to a certain degree. I like to think that my career and the roles that I played are very diverse and eclectic: to go from a Fruitvale Station to a Creed and then to a Black Panther but then also being able to do a movie like Just Mercy to play Bryan Stevenson but then jump back into a movie like this, Without Remorse, but then also to do a story like A Journal for Jordan which is an intimate movie as well. So I like the balance. I think I’ve always wanted to do an action movie where I can do my own stunts in this type of way—watching Wesley Snipes growing up and Michael Jai White, Jackie Chan, and Tom Cruise, and Matt Damon. So all the movies—action movies—that I love, this would have been a movie that I watched as a kid, and I would have told myself, ‘Man, I wish I could do that.’ So to be able to kind of develop a project like this has—yeah, you can say—it was something that I was looking forward to doing.
The Knockturnal: What was the training process like for this?
Michael B. Jordan: The training process for this was very specific. I usually train changing my body depending on the role that I’m playing. So me and Corey [Calliet]—who’s my trainer, been my trainer for the last six movies. We don’t want to look the same throughout every movie. So depending on if I’m a boxer, I’m training like a boxer. If I’m a soldier, if I’m a Navy SEAL, then a lot of the training will be specific to what we were doing: so underwater work that we did with military divers; tactical training, my guy Buck Doyle; weapons training; hand-to-hand combat training. And some stunt you just can’t really train for. Jumping into a burning car, that’s just not thinking about it and just doing it. *laughs* But it was a lot of fun to kind of train specifically for the stunts that I had to do.
The Knockturnal: Behind the action, there was a second layer, romance, in this film, in the character’s motivation. He continually says, while avenging his wife’s death, “Here name is Pam and you’re going to say it before you die.” Talk about how you wanted love to fit into this movie.
Michael B. Jordan: Yeah, I think the romance element in Pam and John how we start our film was—I think that that relationship is the entire motivation for the movie. Without that marriage and the loss of life, I don’t know if you know John is motivated to do any of the things that he has to do throughout the movie to get answers. So that romance, that love something that I wanted to really stand out and people to feel so you understand why he’s doing the things that he’s doing throughout the movie.
The Knockturnal: How do you prepare to play a character motivated by revenge?
Michael B. Jordan: I don’t think it works like that. I don’t think you can prepare to play revengeful. I think you just got to, at that point, make the situations real. There’s a certain level of simplicity of just being like all right, these are the stakes, this is what happens to my character, and this is how I feel moving forward in order to right the wrong that I feel. And then you go out and do it.
The Knockturnal: Are you a big conspiracy buff?
Michael B. Jordan: Entertaining. I like the espionage and conspiracy movies and films and stuff like that. Yeah, I’m into those.
The Knockturnal: What in this movie are you most excited for audiences to see?
Michael B. Jordan: I think I’m just really excited as a whole. I think this movie was on the fence [in terms of] we didn’t know when it was gonna come out. The pandemic hit right after we finished shooting the movie. And the movie industry and theaters, we weren’t sure what was going to be open and wasn’t. So the fact that you know it’s finally coming out on Amazon Prime video, I am extremely excited that I finally get to share this movie with everybody. Hopefully, people connect with it and they vibe with it cause we put a lot of time and effort into it.