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From wrestling in WWE, to towering over Brad Pitt as Boagrius in Troy, and most recently swinging General Reiko’s hammer in last year’s Mortal Kombat movie or playing Rictus, the son and heir of Immortan Joe, in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Nathan Jones is daunting on-screen.
But as one of the guests at Supanova in Brisbane last November, we were treated to his friendly smile and boisterous personality. His fans had a chance to ask him about his career and life, and hear of his experiences on the sets of some of Australia’s (and the world’s) biggest movies.
Plenty of Jones’ on-screen characters have bit the dust over the years, as at 156kg he often plays the biggest and most intimidating villains for our heroes to conquer. But when asked about filming Fury Road, he recalled had his own real-life near-death moment.
“I was on a monster truck and, because of the heat fluctuations, [the fuel lines] snapped, and they had the flamethrowers going nuts,” he recalled. “And I look down and there’s a fountain of fuel spraying all over me and there’s about a sixteen-hundred horsepower motor just under my feet. And I’m soaking up all the fuel on my pants and my boots. The engine’s so loud I can’t even hear myself think and I’m yelling out, ‘CUT! CUT!’ But the noise, you know? No one knew we could blow-up any minute.
“And there are two stunt guys on the side, hanging off with their harnesses, so I get my fist and smash the top of the roof as hard as I could – *BANG!* – and they look around and they see the fountain of fuel … so they cut themselves free, they cut me free. And the next thing it starts smouldering, ‘cause I’ve got out by then, and ‘BOOM!’ And then George Miller comes up and says, ‘Thank you! Thank you!’ and I’m just trying to save my life!”
And while Fury Road had Jones scared at times, playing General Reiko on the set of Mortal Kombat allowed him to be the one instilling fear into others during his fight with Jax, played by Mehcad Brooks.
“[Brooks] was a little bit scared of me, as Reiko. I’ve worked with Jackie Jan, Jet Lee, and Tony Jaa … and I got right into character and I was all dressed up the first time he sees me. And I’m grunting and swinging this big hammer around,” Jones said.
“And he’s trying to get out of working with me, he’s trying everything he can to get the stunt guy in there,” he laughed.
Though Brooks’ demeanour towards Jones changed as they filmed their epic final death match on a bridge high above a canyon of spikes (the spikes may have been CGI).
“The bridge was suspended up high. Now, imagine a bridge up here, about six metres off the ground,” he explained, “they had a harness but we couldn’t use it with the hammer, so they had to take it off. And he did this slide over, and he tripped. And I grabbed him as he went over and he nearly pulled me over.
“I had to really lean back, and he came back. ‘Nathan! You saved me!’ And after that he was brilliant. I think he was nervous, he had never done a role like this before. So, after that he had this energy about him, he was more confident, he was able to grab hold of me. He’d changed! As soon as he realised I was there as a team, like a dance partner, that I’m here to make him shine.”
And it’s clear that Jones really did want to make Jax shine, sharing that he was disappointed by their reduced fight in the final cut of the movie:
“There was a lot more to [the previous] scene. They cut out a lot, unfortunately. I really lay waste to Jax; I picked him up and threw him across the room and I actually rip his arms off. I don’t know why they reduced it … I thought it was better that way to establish him. It would have been better for his comeback.”
While Jones’ film career has found a lot of success recently, unfortunately, it has faced some setbacks due to the pandemic.
“I scored a movie with Chris Hemsworth, Extraction 2, and I had a lead role,” he revealed. “But because of all the restrictions, they ended up sacking all of the actors and cancelling contracts and all the production.”
A major disappointment for him and his fans, as the first Extraction was written by Joe Russo (you know, one of the brothers that helped write and direct Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War) and was the biggest premiere in Netflix’s history, watched by an estimated 90 million households during its first month of release.
Not that Nathan regrets making the jump from WWE to film. While he did mention that training and performing in WWE helped him prepare for working in film, the bruised ribs and head knocks aren’t things he misses.
“I can understand why The Rock got out of it [laughs] and got into the movies. It’s a nicer business.”
While we might not see him back in the ring anytime soon, thankfully Jones confirmed he’s still appearing on screen with Chris Hemsworth in Netflix’s upcoming, Escape From Spiderhead, which is slated for release this year.
Lead Image: Nathan Jones on stage at Supanova 2021 – Brisbane. Photo by Margaret Kemp