MOTW: The Life and Career of Jai Courtney

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John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces.
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
February 14th, 2013

MOTW: The Life and Career of Jai Courtney

Audiences may not know who actor Jai Courtney is right now, but they likely will very soon. With three high-profile films set to be released in 2013, he is about to show up on the cinematic map in a big way. The demand for his services has already increased, which is no surprise given how quickly the charismatic actor earned his most famous roles to date.

He was born in 1986 in Sydney, Australia, to Chris Courtney, who worked for the local electric company, and mother Karen, who was a teacher. He attended school at Galston Public School where his mother worked. He didn't begin acting until he was older, auditioning to attend the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 1999. That audition would turn out to be very fateful for Courtney, who met aspiring actress Gemma Pranita there. The two would fall in love and have been a couple ever since, guiding each other to successful careers.

His first acting role would come in 2008, when he was cast in two episodes of the long-running Australian soap opera "All Saints." That same year, he would film an episode of the comedy "Packed to the Rafters," returning in 2009 to reprise his role for an additional episode. In 2009, he also made his feature film debut with a small role in "Stone Bros.," an Australian road comedy. These supporting parts got him enough attention to net him an audition for "Spartacus: War of the Damned" for the meaty role of Varro. He would nail the audition and land the part, filming ten episodes in the first season opposite Andy Whitfield in the title role.

The show aired on pay cable channel Cinemax with great fanfare and success, which helped raise Courtney's profile. He and Whitfield became the best of friends, which made the tragic news of Whitefield's cancer diagnosis all the more painful to take. The star was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and immediately began a very aggressive treatment, which postponed filming of an anticipated second season of the series.

Whitfield was given a clean bill of health in the summer of 2010 but then suffered a relapse in the fall. He would die a year later in September 2011, which was an emotional milestone for Courtney. Despondent over his friend's death, he tried to take some solace in comforting Whitfield's wife and children, whom he is still very close to. Cinemax would go on to recast the lead part in the next Spartacus series, with the blessing of Whitfield. Courtney would not return to his role as Varro, instead focusing on his film career.

The renewed focus on films paid off, because in 2012, he was cast in "Jack Reacher" starring Tom Cruise and Richard Jenkins. Though he was a supporting player, it was still a sizeable role that got him more attention in the United States, where he was still underexposed to most television and film fans. He returned to Australia to film "Felony," which was written by fellow Aussie actor Joel Edgerton, who has managed to carve out a career both in the U.S. and in Australia. Courtney seems to be on a similar career trajectory, returning frequently to Australia to film roles even as his acting profile has improved dramatically stateside.

Besides "Felony" in 2013, Courtney is set to star in "A Good Day to Die Hard," which is set for a Valentine's Day release in the United States. The film will have him playing Jack, the son of franchise hero John McClane. Unfortunately, Jack and John have had a bit of a falling out and are estranged from each other. The lack of communication doesn't faze John at all when he finds out that Jack is being wrongly imprisoned in a Russian jail. When all diplomatic avenues have been exhausted, John takes it upon himself to rescue Jack in what is sure to be at thrilling ride that will introduce Courtney to a whole new audience.

Finally, Courtney is also set to star in "I, Frankenstein," which won't be released until September 2013. The film is a joint Australian-American production that is being written and directed by Stuart Beattie. It is a spin on the classic tale of Frankenstein, where the lab-created beast takes on his creator's name and tries to live as normal a life as someone in his predicament can. Along the way, he gets caught up in a war between two groups of immortals, which puts his life in danger. Courtney's role, as well as further details about the plot, is being kept under wraps until just before the film is released. Even without details of his role, between this and the other two films he has coming out in 2013, it is easy to see why Courtney is an up-and-coming force in the film industry.