Some stars like to maintain that they only choose roles based on their artistic merit, while others are more than happy to admit after a certain film has been released that they just did it for the money. As Michael Caine famously said following Jaws: The Revenge: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” And that’s something that Timothy Olyphant understood after signing on to headline 2007’s turgid Hitman adaptation.
The actor was a recognizable face around the time, but hardly a huge name, and he was looking for some financial security after recently purchasing a home. And when HBO’s acclaimed Deadwood was canceled in 2006, Olyphant was happy to board anything that came his way in an effort to pay off his mortgage. In a 2019 interview, in fact, The Mandalorian‘s Cobb Vanth straightforwardly outlined his reasons for joining both action sequel Live Free or Die Hard and Hitman, saying:
“What we have to thank for this is the villain in Die Hard and a f*cking bald head in Bulgaria shooting Hitman. That’s what that phone call led to. ‘How about the villain of Die Hard?’. I said, ‘Sure’. And they’re like, ‘Do you want to read the script?’. I said, ‘I get it. I’m in. I just bought a house. Did you not hear? They just canceled my f*cking show. Yes, I’ll do it’. ‘What about this video game adaptation?’. ‘Yes to that too. I’m in. I’ve got to make up some TV money’.”
The leading man didn’t even attempt to conceal the fact that he clearly wasn’t interested in the project at all, although it at least managed to replicate Agent 47’s signature cold and emotionless demeanor. Xavier Gen’s video game movie did turn a profit after earning $101 million at the box office against a $24 million budget as well, but critics and fans of the source material were less than impressed.
Unsurprisingly, Olyphant stayed as far away from a potential second installment as possible, which eventually yielded the Hitman: Agent 47 reboot in 2015, which cost more to produce, made less money and scored worse reviews, but at the time, the original iteration of the title hero was secure and earning a steady paycheck from Justified‘s six-season run.