The good news: Cobie Smulders got to spend part of the “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” shoot in New Orleans. The bad news: She was doing an action movie. The actress couldn’t go whole hog with eating and drinking, couldn’t partake in the city’s wares. After all, she had to be tough.
In the sequel to the 2012 action movie, the “How I Met Your Mother” alum — and Marvel’s resident badass Maria Hill — plays Susan Turner, a major in the U.S. military who finds herself teaming up with Tom Cruise’s wandering fixer after she’s wrongly accused of murder. Smulders, 34, spends most of the movie pissed-off and hurting people. In real life, Smulders is — as she puts it — you know, Canadian.
So this is nuts, but you had a broken leg when you were hired for “Jack Reacher.” You broke it the night before you started Clea DuVall’s indie “The Intervention,” in which you hobble about on crutches. What on earth happened?
Nothing, nothing. I tripped and fell in my apartment. Nothing. That’s why I was like, “It’s fine.” I thought I had dislocated my knee and it was sliding back into place. And it turned out to be a fracture, which got bigger and bigger as I kept walking around, till eventually I couldn’t use it anymore. When I showed up on the “Intervention” set, we were in the friggin’ swamps of Savannah. I was like, “You can hire someone else, that’s totally fine.” And Clea just said, “Let’s use it.” It ended up kind of working in the film, I thought — or at least it wasn’t a total distraction.
By the time it healed, you had to go into intense physical training, which sound awful.
You know what? It helped me, because I portrayed a woman who’s in the U.S. military and graduated from Ranger school. It’s like, listen, if this chick graduated from Ranger school, she’s it tough because she’s fit. These people are like this because they’re always working out. To me, working out is just to stay thin. I now know how to keep my energy levels up to just feel generally better — so I can do a press day for 12 hours.
Did your body just rebel once you were done with the movie?
Once I got back to New York, I got bronchitis, then I got the flu, then I had, like, strep throat or something. It was like a big FU to my body. My body was like, “You pushed us hard for so long,” like one of those things where when you finally take a rest, that’s when you get sick, because your adrenaline is no longer pumping in your system. I don’t know scientifically what goes on, but I do find that once I finally have a week off, it’s like, “No, you’re sick.”
This being “Jack Reacher,” the fighting and stunts have this grounded, realistic quality. Even so, I can’t imagine doing all my own stunts.
Well, you would, if you trained for months. When you do friggin’ sliding drills over and over and over again for hours a day, you go, "Yeah, I can see how I did that." [Laughs] Because I did it every day for two months.
Women in the military don’t always have it easy, just as women who work in professions that have been traditionally “male” often talk about having to work harder than men just to show they can do it. What kinds of things did you learn from the female officers you talked to?
This is just from what I learned, but it seems to have a lot to do with the officers you’re under. Some of them will have a positive impact, some will have a negative impact. I met a military commander who had nothing but positive things to say, that said she’d always been supported. She always worked hard and was rewarded for that. I’ve also watched documentaries that are the opposite.
You have this ability to be friendly and funny, but here — and in Andrew Bujalski’s indie “Results” — you’re equally convincing as someone who’s tough and often angry. How do you think people saw this side of you?
I have no idea. I honestly don’t know how I get these roles. I’m easy with people, I guess? I started modeling from a very young age. I was put in rooms with people, many of whom didn’t speak English, so I had to be able to navigate through any situation. I kind of know myself at this point. But I don’t know. Because I’m definitely not that strong in real life.
You don’t seem that menacing.
I’m not! I hate confrontation. I hate it. I have a problem even saying, “I didn’t like that.” I’m very Canadian. I’m very easygoing. [“Jack Reacher” director Edward Zwick] had to push me a bit in this one. He had to amp me up. I would think a take was really big, and he’d be like, “No, that was more like you were kind of upset. We need you to be really, really upset.” I can’t gauge that. To me, it’s all yelling and anger. But it’s probably not as angry as it seems.