The late Vince Flynn spent more than a decade writing about fictional counter-terrorism expert Mitch Rapp. While American Assassin is based on the novel of the same name, this origin story is actually the eleventh book in the series. Rapp’s early story appealed to director Michael Cuesta.
As he started reading the script, Cuesta was captivated by the first ten pages. He says, “I love action movies, but when you don’t care you disengage despite the fact that there’s so much action. [After] that opening sequence…you can take me anywhere as a viewer. I’ll do anything and trust almost anything [Rapp] does.”
Cuesta cast Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf) as Rapp, drawing inspiration from an experience with the Mossad. While shooting the second season premiere of Homeland in Tel Aviv, the Mossad gave series star Claire Dances a bodyguard for protection. Cuesta says, “I kept complaining where the f*** is the bodyguard? I thought the guy wasn’t around and then finally, I’m like who’s your friend?” Cuesta learned the young man shadowing Danes wasn’t her friend, but her protection. He says, “they come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to look like Stallone.” It was with that image in mind that he cast O’Brien in the lead role.
O’Brien’s appearance contributes to the nuanced relationship among the characters. Michael Keaton plays Rapp’s mentor, Stan Hurley, creating a father/son dynamic in look as well as theme. In fact, the familial dynamic is an important one throughout the movie and is referenced repeatedly. Roles and relationships are constantly shifting. Sanaa Lathan’s Irene Kennedy is Hurley’s boss, though as a child she looked up to him as it was her father who was Hurley’s contemporary. The constant struggle of childlike insubordination and subsequent maturation is a recurring theme and evident across multiple relationships.
For more about families in American Assassin as well as interviews with Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien, take a look below:
All film photos are courtesy of CBS Films.