In the film, Meyers plays James Reese, a U.S. Embassy worker and newbie CIA operative charged with squiring around the City of Lights one Charlie Wax, a hot-tempered, trigger-happy, yet effective agent trying to put drug dealers out of business and prevent a large-scale terrorist attack.
The 32-year-old Irish actor said he was confident he could play the role, so long as he had an American screen idol like Travolta to study before the cameras started rolling. Unfortunately, Meyers said his hectic work schedule meant there was little time for preparation or getting to know each other, so he, like his character, found himself quickly thrown into the deep end.
“I’m playing an American guy in Paris, so if I didn’t have someone like John there, I’m not quite sure if it would work for me . I had to have somebody I could play off,” Meyers — who is known for his work in the films “Michael Collins,” “Bend it Like Beckham,” “Alexander,” “Match Point,” “Mission: Impossible III” and “August Rush” – told reporters in New York recently.
“That was a happy accident because I met [director Pierre Morel and writer-producer Luc Besson] when they came to London, and they said John is going to do this movie and we think the chemistry is going to be fantastic,” recalled Meyers, who was born in Dublin and raised in Cork City. “But, of course, I was doing ‘The Tudors’ [TV series] on the Tuesday, and I arrived in Paris to shoot the movie on a Wednesday, so the first time myself and John really had face time with each other was on the screen in that scene where I go in and bust him out of the customs office.”
The memorable scene finds Travolta’s bald and dressed-down Wax loudly refusing to surrender a bag filled with American energy drinks to customs officials at the airport.
“That’s an extraordinary reaction [my character has] because I’d seen John in many films, but I hadn’t seen John like that, you know? So I didn’t know what to expect,” Meyers reflected. “And, of course, in James Reese’s character, he expects a sophisticated, elegant, worldly James Bond to turn up. And what he gets . . . a biker boy, minus the Harley Davidson but [with] pretty much everything else. So it’s that jarring reaction of what you expect. . . . He enjoys him being shocked at the shooting, because there’s only one way to train somebody, and that’s to throw him into the deep end. It was a great.”
Meyers said that he thinks the element that can make an action flick a film classic is the chemistry between its co-stars.
“[It matters] if they’re liking each other and they’re liking the story that they’re in,” the Golden Globe winner explained. “Why does ‘Lethal Weapon’ work? Because Danny Glover and Mel Gibson worked with each other. And you see the energy — they play off each other very well, so you’ll get some partnerships that just mean more. ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’ If that had been Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, would it have been the same movie? Who knows? It’s their energy that carries it. So I think it’s the two people that carry a classic movie.”
Of course, an action movie also must have a certain amount of nail-biting peril and Meyers said he was fine with all the running, jumping and shooting “Paris” required. What did pose some challenges, however, were confronting his fear of heights and having to lug around a Chinese vase supposedly filled with cocaine for much of the movie.
“It was okay. Except I don’t like heights, and I had to go up these steel stairs and I’m not a good height guy. And I dropped the vase of cocaine. I was going up the stairs, dropped the cocaine,” he groaned. “In the middle of the shot. And I could hear Pierre laughing from about three floors below. And John’s still running — he’s like three floors ahead of me . . . [and then] had to go all the way down again . . . it was just awful.”
With a personal life that has been fraught will misfortune in the past few years – his mother died in 2007, he has twice been arrested for being drunk and disorderly in airports, and has made several trips to rehab for alcohol addiction — Meyers said making “Paris” was a fun and rewarding work experience for him.
“We had tons of happy accidents, tons of them,” he emphasized. “But if you put out energy that’s good, if you put out energy that’s positive, we can do this. Put that energy out there, the world will conspire that you shall have what you need. And we did.”
“From Paris with Love” is in theaters now.