Joel Kinnaman on Silent Night and Working with Director John Woo

John Nguyen

John Woo is back in the director’s chair with Silent Night, a “silent film” starring Joel Kinnaman (The Suicide Squad, 2014’s Robocop) as a father who learns to shoot and fight to avenge the death of his son. Even though Kinnaman is the lead, he has no speaking parts because of the story, resulting in a film with little to no dialogue. As the saying goes, action speaks louder than words.

“The great actor, Stellan Skarsgard, he once taught me that the movie is in the description in between the lines,” Kinnaman tells Nerd Reactor. “And this whole script was just that, but it was a very well-written script. So even though there was no dialogue, you got a very clear sense of what the character was going through in every scene. And there’s a pace, there was a pace in the script, a beat that really if you read the script now and watch the movie, I think they’re very closely related. It really translated. So acting-wise, it was a big challenge to have to portray everything but without having words to assist to help telling the story.”

A scene in the film emulates a one-shot sequence that takes place on a staircase. It features Kinnaman going up a flight of stairs as he takes on a bunch of gang members.

“Yeah, that’s one of my favorites,” Kinnaman said about the staircase action scene. “Jeremy Marinas, the fight coordinator, we worked on that sequence for a long time. He had an idea that he brought to John. It was a way to shoot this, sort of to make it look like it’s one take. We trained quite a couple of weeks for that, just for that sequence. And it was tricky. We’re shooting in Mexico City in some janky, old garage building – I don’t know what – and there were lead pipes sticking out everywhere.

“The first day we were there, I walked over, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a 90-foot drop,'” the actor explained. “There was a lot of work that went into just making it into sort of a safe environment. And we had stunt guys falling down the stairs with wires. And yeah, it was a tricky sequence to get to. This idea that we had around the action where we wanted to choreograph it, but we wanted to choreograph it more in sort of anchor points. And then we would have more real fight scrambles, like improvisation in between where it was a little more more dynamic, a little bit more close to a regular fight. But that was, of course, very technically difficult, because also the camera. It was a very difficult sequence to solve logistically, and finally, we got it right.”

In the same sequence, the actor can be seen getting attacked by a goon and taking a tumble down a flight of stairs.

“That was my first stair fall,” Kinnaman revealed. “The mantra for the whole film was like, ‘No serious injuries, no serious injuries. Bruises, that’s kind of a given in this sort of film. You always get banged up, but I just didn’t want to break something or blow a knee or something like that, and we got through it.”

John Woo is a legendary director with films such as Hard Boiled, The Killer, Red Cliff, Face/Off, and more. Silent Night marks a return for the filmmaker helming Hollywood films since 2003’s Paycheck starring Ben Affleck.

“Yeah, it was a dream come true, especially in this kind of film, where John has the nickname, The Master of the Camera,” Kinnaman said. “And because there’s no dialogue in this film, it gives you a different kind of freedom. You don’t have to come in and cover a dialogue scene from the person who’s talking, from the person who’s listening, all these cuts. So John would use that to his advantage and he would tell the story of one scene by just designing one beautiful shot that just covered it all and ended up in like, just zoom in like really close on an eye, and then it’s me looking and cuts out. There are so many of those elements in this film and that’s what I really love about it. It’s a hard-boiled action movie that has a really high pace, but in the middle of it, there’s some really beautiful cinematic excellence.”

About Silent Night

Synopsis: From legendary director John Woo and the producer of John Wick comes this gritty revenge tale of a tormented father (Joel Kinnaman) who witnesses his young son die when caught in a gang’s crossfire on Christmas Eve. While recovering from a wound that costs him his voice, he makes vengeance his life’s mission and embarks on a punishing training regimen in order to avenge his son’s death. Full of Woo’s signature style, Silent Night redefines the action genre with visceral, thrill-a-minute storytelling.

The film is directed by John Woo and written by Rober Archer Lynn. It’s produced by Christian Mercuri, Lori Tilkin deFelice, Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee and John Woo.

The film stars Joel Kinnaman, Scott Mescudi, Harold Torresand Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Silent Night hits theaters nationwide on December 1, 2023.