Bullet Train star Joey King interview: ‘In the film, Brad Pitt’s the chump, and I’m the villain’

Joey King is only 23 years old, but seems to have been around forever. Even before her starring role in the Kissing Booth films, she appeared as the young Marion Cotillard in The dark knight risesand like a porcelain doll in Oz the Great and Mighty. She was five years old when she appeared as a “little girl at a party” on an episode of Malcolm in the middle. Thirteen years old, when she was frightened by ghosts in Conspiracy. He’s a Hollywood veteran. And yet, she still often feels undermined.

It last happened “not even two months ago,” she says, with a shrug that suggests she’s used to it. “Because of my appearance. Because I am a young woman. Because I’m very polite to people. I think I’m often underappreciated or overlooked in such a way that I’m just like, ‘Guys? Don’t f****n’ do this!’” She half-moaned, comically pointing to herself. “‘I’m just f****n here!'”

Let her play The kissing booththe wallflower of a teenage girl or child abused by her mother in the acclaimed limited series The act — for which she received an Emmy nomination in 2019 — King has brought an “all-girl” spirit to her roles so far. His characters feel grounded. Reliable. Absolutely not extraordinary. Perhaps that’s why she thinks some are trying to downplay her off-screen potential. She hopes her new role will end her days of being underestimated.

In action comedy High-speed train, she stars as one of many hitmen on separate and conflicting missions aboard a bullet train across Japan. Directed by Brad Pitt but also starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry and a Sandra Bullock cameo, the zippy blockbuster is adapted from Kōtarō Isaka’s graphic novel and is poised to be one of the biggest movies of the summer. . It’s a project King immediately knew she wanted to be part of.

“I remember going to an audition and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good, I’ll never get this role but, you know, I’ll do my best,'” she says sagely. “But I also really wanted it. I had this feeling in my stomach like, ‘I must have this.'” We are talking in a luxury hotel room in London, King wearing a black velvet mini dress, with thick black boots and tiny replica daggers hanging from her ears. She makes an immediate statement. It also feels like the perfect nod to her character’s ferocity in the film. As a prince, King is one of the most unnerving effects of the high-speed train – she is creepy, cutthroat and almost pantomimically evil. Her cruelty – hidden just below the surface – is an intentional subversion of her supposed damsel-in-distress status. “It’s my only connection to Prince “She explains. “She’s really underrated just because of her looks, and I think that’s how I personally feel. Otherwise, she’s just a sociopath and ab***h.

Where Prince feels like the film’s purely malevolent force, Pitt’s character – an assassin named Ladybug – is the reluctant hero we’re meant to support. “Brad always says the funniest roles you can play are the jerk or the bad guy,” King notes. “He says he’s the idiot and I’m the bad guy.” King says she often finds herself talking about Pitt. But luckily, that doesn’t bother her: “This man, he embodies true leadership,” she exclaims. “He’s an amazing person but really such a good example of how you should treat people: on set, in life. He’s wonderful – I can’t get enough of him [talking about him]. But can you imagine if it sucked? »

I wore a movie at nine – it’s like, crazy

Born and raised in Los Angeles, King was in a prime position to start her career early, as her older sisters were also actors – Hunter King, 28, is still working today. Early auditions led to her playing a string of Hollywood A-list babes: Adam Sandler (in rule over me), Steve Carell (in Crazy, Stupid, Love), Channing Tatum (in white house down). One of King’s most notable child roles came in 2010, with the children’s comedy Ramona and Beezus. The film adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s novels saw King play the spunky nine-year-old Ramona, a lovingly annoying little sister to Selena Gomez’s Beatrice (or “Beezus”). As well as giving King what was then his most important acting credit, the film flipped an internal switch in the young star; acting was no longer just a hobby, but now something she wanted to do long term.

“I made a movie at nine – it’s like, crazy,” King says. “It was a huge responsibility, but it was so much fun. It was the movie where I was like, ‘I know this is what I want to do forever.’ You can’t contextualize that moment by as a kid, but when you get older you think to yourself, wow, that was really how I felt back then. I never felt any different from then on. I feel very lucky to knowing at such a young age what I wanted to do and then being able to do it.

King and Brad Pitt in “Bullet Train”

(Scott Garfield)

It’s clear that his years in the industry have only deepened his love for filmmaking and television – there’s no hint of profanity in sight. She’s lively and alert, peppering her stories with gags and swear words in a way that feels off-the-cuff, rather than stiff or rehearsed. Although she admits that she has been part of some projects that she is not as proud of as others, she has no time for anyone’s hatred towards The kissing booth.

The 2018 Netflix film – sequels followed in 2020 and 2021 – starred King as a teenage girl who finally grows closer to her crush when she signs up to run a kissing booth at the Spring Carnival. It’s turned King into something of a tween icon: 19 million Instagram followers later, his young fans are expressing their adoration, often flooding his comment sections with praise. Yet the franchise has also been criticized, with some branches of social media taking pleasure in memeing serious scenes and branding the series as pure hate-watching fodder. King, however, doesn’t have time for all of this. “I couldn’t be more proud of those films,” she says, sitting a little straighter in her chair. “I loved them so much and playing this character made me happy. I will never regret those movies, and I love them so much no matter what.

King and Jacob Elordi in “The Kissing Booth 3” last year

(Marco Cruz/Netflix)

King’s undeniable air of confidence seems hard-earned, the result of professional experience and recent personal growth. “Over the past two years, I’ve really settled in in a way where I feel a lot more comfortable with who I am,” she says. “I feel good about myself as a person. With that comes the ability to stand up for yourself and stand up for what you believe in, because you actually believe in yourself in that moment. For King, the anxieties teenage years made it harder for her to stand up for the things she really cared about.” When you go through your own insecurities, you’re like, ‘Oh, I guess they’re right, I don’t deserve it. .’ She walks away. “[That] I should just shut up. Now I’m like, ‘I know what I’m doing here, I’ve been in this for a long time.’ I have so much to learn, always, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two.

After entering the action space this year with High-speed train and the fantasy film Princess – which is currently streaming on Star via Disney+ in the UK – King is eager to switch gears with his upcoming roles. This includes the limited series adaptation of We were the lucky ones, about a separated Jewish family during the Holocaust, and a currently untitled romantic comedy starring Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron. “Another cool thing I can shoot this year!” she radiates. Career-wise, there’s no big plan, but that’s how she likes it.

“I think if I set too many goals, I don’t know if I can ever be happy until I reach them,” she explains. “I really try to stop and realize how special this experience is. If I play too much of the same thing too many times, I’m not going to have fun. I won’t feel challenged enough. So I just do what I want.

‘Bullet Train’ is now in theaters

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