Die Hart: Kevin Hart talks about playing himself and becoming a serious action star

Initially released as a 10-episode series, Die Hart has been reimagined as a feature film, which will be out on Amazon Prime

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Kevin Hart is sick of comedy.

He is sick of being typecast as “the funny guy” and he is sick of serving as the comedic sidekick to action stars such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. What he wants is to spearhead an action film himself; to be behind the wheel in car chases like in 1998's Ronin, to climb skyscrapers like Tom Cruise, and to intimidate like Al Pacino in Heat — and not to make people laugh.

He doesn’t want to split sides. He wants to have viewers on the edge of their seats. He doesn’t want to amuse. He wants to exhilarate.

At least, that’s what his alter ego in Die Hart: The Movie wants.

In the film, which will be released on Amazon's Prime Video on Friday, Hart plays a fictional, exaggerated version of himself. A part, he says, that made him reckon with “the concept of Kevin Hart.”

“It's one of the most difficult roles I've ever played,” he says. “Really grasping the idea of Kevin Hart. The concept of Kevin Hart. More importantly, the depth of Kevin Hart. As a method actor, you have to learn how to dive in and in this one, there’s a lot of schooling that had to be done. I have my textbooks constantly on deck, studying. Studying the world of Kevin.”

In these intense bouts of self-reflection, Hart discovered “a dark individual.” A lot of people, he says, think they have him figured out and think they know who Hart is. They couldn’t be more wrong.

“There’s some fears in there,” he says. “There’s a little bit of insecurity here and there. But there is a lot of heart. Once I was able to figure out the heart, I was able to hit the ground running. The sky’s the limit." Reverting to the sense of humour he is best known for, Hart adds: "That's why you got the masterpiece that we're now talking about today, which is Die Hart. By the way, you’re welcome.”

Die Hart was first released as a 10-episode series in 2020 but has now been reimagined as a feature film. In the film, Hart embarks on his quest to become the quintessential action star.

After a charged and hilarious meltdown on a morning show, the actor gets a call from Hollywood’s leading action director — played by Jean Reno — to star in his next big film. However, because action is outside his comfort zone, Hart is required to attend an action hero school, overseen by the industry’s most revered action guru, Ron Wilcox, played by John Travolta.

The film also stars leading names from the action world, including Game of Thrones and Furious 7 star Nathalie Emmanuel and Lucky Number Slevin’s Josh Hartnett.

As to why Hart is one of the few to play himself, the comedian says not many actors have the know-how or the range to be able to portray themselves. Speaking of Travolta, he says: “John doesn’t know how to play John. You guys are overlooking the powerful performance that I gave playing Kevin Hart. You can’t overlook that. What you see in Kevin Hart is not what you have to see in Kevin Hart. It is what I decided to put on display. And that is the trick. The trick is in knowing what's in the bag before you open it and smell it.”

While the film is a chance for Hart to put the gamut of his skills as a budding action star on display, it also gives him the opportunity to present his fluency in squirrel-speak.

“I have a pet squirrel,” he says. “Nobody knows this. I’ve spent a lot of time with the squirrels. Talking to squirrels is nothing new to me. I speak fluent squirrel.”

Hart says he has been a lifelong fan of action films, particularly those from the 1980s and 1990s. While Die Hart makes light of many of the genre’s tropes and motifs, it is also, he says, his way of embracing it.

“The goal at hand with this was finding a new, refreshing idea,” he says. “I think we accomplished that goal. Now we’re in the position of having a part two and eventually, a part three.”

With Die Hart, the star says he wanted to push the boundaries of what people thought he could do and expand their expectations of what projects he might conceive in the future.

“In this movie, you saw a lot of things that I was able to put on display,” he says. “I’m looking forward to people seeing this role in Die Hart. Another thing I’m looking forward to is my martial arts competition in Thailand. Yeah, you heard me. There’s a big competition coming up in Thailand.”

Updated: February 20, 2023, 7:02 AM