Dermot Mulroney: 'Agent Game' was good chance to play a bad spy

Dermot Mulroney can now be seen in the film "Agent Game." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 5 | Dermot Mulroney can now be seen in the film "Agent Game." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, April 15 (UPI) -- Veteran actor Dermot Mulroney says he wanted to play a CIA interrogator in the action-thriller film, Agent Game, because he "kind of knew that world," but wanted to explore it from an entirely different angle.

Directed by Grant S. Johnson, the movie is playing in theaters and via video-on-demand platforms. It follows Mulroney's Harris as he and partners Bill (Jason Isaacs) and Visser (Annie Ilonzeh) try to get information out of possible terrorist Omar (Barkhad Abdi) at a CIA black site under the long-distance command of senior intelligence officer Olsen (Mel Gibson).


After Harris begins to question Olsen's orders and the morality of the rendition mission, he is made the scapegoat for a horrible incident, setting into motion a series of events that see Harris attempt to figure out who the good guys are and fight for his own life. Adan Canto, Katie Cassidy and Rhys Coiro co-star.


"I hadn't really been in a spy action-thriller like this," Mulroney, 58, told UPI in a phone interview earlier this week.

"I'm out there collecting every type of movie and TV show possible as part of my personal agenda," he joked, referring to his recent performances in The Righteous Gemstones, Hanna, Prodigal Son and The Purge.

"This was a perfect fit. It fit on the calendar, and it had Mel Gibson already in place for the big boss," he added. "Beneath all that, this movie carries a strong -- you could even call it progressive -- attitude. Our government gets away with a lot of crap sometimes."

Mulroney describes his character as a "government guy who is pulling a lot of that crap."

"In this case, we are violently interrogating a detainee being held against his will. The filmmakers definitely need everyone to understand that we don't think that is cool," he said.

Mulroney said he hopes the film captures how complicated these situations can be when the people involved aren't allowed to see the big picture and have to trust that their commanders are acting in the best interest of their country.

The actor said this is best expressed in the scenes between Harris and Bill, men who have years of experience working together in the field.


"They are a well-oiled machine. They finish each other's sentences. It obscures the fact of what they are doing, which is basically torturing a man, so that adds to the dissonance and the friction in the movie, too, where you see pretty normal looking guys acting pretty normal in doing totally amoral things," Mulroney said.

"You see each of us in different ways questioning that. Are we blindly following orders? So, at least our film asks those questions instead of presuming the audience just follows along and that the world works this way."

Shot in Georgia, even though it takes place in Belgium, Kosovo and points in-between, the film also checks the boxes requisite for a contemporary geo-political action-thriller -- "stunts, mayhem, commandos and helicopters," Mulroney said.

"The action never stops. One thing I like about Agent Game is that it is not all high-tech blipping screens and high-tech this and that," he said.

"It does the best it can to keep its characters in the same room ... or on the airplane, as the case may be. Those ground rules add to the pressure and the tension and the suspense and give it a claustrophobic feel. I liked all that. It was really tautly written, and I thought it would be a good chance to play a bad spy."


While Mulroney handed off most of his action scenes to stunt actors, Abdi spent most of his screen time in a harness as his terrified character, Omar, answered the agents' questions.

"It was like one of those things women wore back in the day -- a corset. Oh, my God. That was the hard part -- that and dangling. Physically, it was exhausting," the 37-year-old Somali-born actor told UPI in a separate phone interview, adding that the film's crew looked after him and made him feel as safe as possible under the circumstances.

He said he wanted to tell this story because it might shed light on how people sometimes are detained and questioned by authorities, even though they have done nothing wrong.

Abdi describes Omar as a man who has no idea what is going on or what the men who "kidnapped" him want from him. His only concern is the safety of his wife.

"He's going to do whatever he can to prove his innocence," Abdi said. "He can trust no one, honestly."

The actor said he likes films like this that keep the audience guessing about who the heroes and villains are, and who is telling the truth.


"It keeps you on the edge of your seat until you find out the real reasons," he said.

Abdi said he enjoys moving between films like this and Captain Phillips, which are rooted in reality, and TV series that push the boundaries of imagination, such as Castle Rock and Blade Runner: Black Lotus.

"Every project is different," he said. "Whether it is fantasy or real, as long as I can relate to it, as long as it touches me, then I believe that it can touch [other] people, and it's great to be a connecting part of."

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