A 900-year gay romance in “The Old Guard”

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Scenes From “The Old Guard” (Netflix)

“The Old Guard,” available July 10 on Netflix, is a kickass, globetrotting piece of escapism. Adapted from the comic book by Leandro Fernandez and Greg Rucka — the latter penned the film’s screenplay — the story concerns Andromache of Scythia, aka “Andy” (Charlize Theron), and her ruthlessly efficient team of mercenaries, which includes Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), and a gay couple, Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). The elite squad is hired by Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to go rescue some Sudanese children. But — spoiler alert — it’s a trap. And — another spoiler alert — Andy, Booker, Joe, and Nicky are immortal. Apparently, Copley is working for Merrick (Harry Melling) who wants to uncover the immortals’ secrets for financial gain. Meanwhile, a new immortal, Nile (KiKi Layne) has just been discovered.

Theron swaggers and fights her way through “The Old Guard,” with panache, and a sequence between Andy and Nile on a plane is especially fun. But this entertaining action-fantasy, nimbly directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, has a moral center. It addresses the unethical nature of Merrick’s scientific interest in probing people. Moreover, there is a lovely speech by Joe when he is teased by a soldier about Nicky, his boyfriend of 900 years. 

In a recent phone interview, Luca Marinelli talked about being immortal and making “The Old Guard.”

What are your thoughts about immortality? Would you want to live forever?

[Laughs and then sings, Who wants to live forever?] Maybe not, because I think immortality is a bit too much. I could live for maybe 200 years, to be sure to do everything I want to do and stay with the people I care about. Immortality is too much. As they say in the film, you have to deal with too many issues. 

The film does not make much of Joe and Nicky being lovers, until someone does, and Joe answers his bully soundly. What do you think about the film’s presentation of its gay characters?

I’m very proud of the way we are representing this amazing love. The big question in my mind was how to represent this love that is still there after 900 years. We cannot sense or experience it. We can be together for 60-70 years if we are lucky, but 900 is beyond love. It’s just soul. And as you said, this wonderful monologue is an answer to the vulgarity of a soldier: there is everything in it. All the answers that I needed as an actor to understand how deep their connection was were there. 

You fire guns and fight with your fists. Can you talk about the action scenes? 

They were really fun. I started the film with stitches on my head and two hernias, one on my neck, and one on back, but with training, I felt more sure with my body. The action scenes were amazing. We had one month of preparation and most of it was me and Marwen together. It was cool, because we had the chance to increase our relationship — because Nicky and Joe also fight together. It’s like they dance together, the two of them, taking care of each other in a fight. We studied everything together. I also understand to do an action movie, you have to be very athletic. 

“The Old Guard” raises questions about fighting for what is right and doing good in the world. Given the times, what cause(s) would you champion right now? 

There are so many things that I think we have to stand up for and be part of in this world. What I learned from this movie with these immortal heroes, is that you have to be in the present, and defend against what is wrong and fight for justice. Climate change, Black Lives Matter, refugees dying in the Mediterranean Sea. So many things. I want this superpower to be everywhere and defend it, but all you can do as a human is to participate and help change things for the better. 

What did you think of the ethics of science and literally probing Nicky for medical knowledge? 

I was scared of that scene and the needle. They said it’s not going to go into you, but I’m so scared about needles. This is where people value money over ethics. It’s immoral, as Nicky said. 

What are your thoughts on time travel? Where you would like to go in the world, and at what time period would?

I wanted to be a stuntman when I was a kid. I threw myself everywhere in the room. Then, I wanted to be an archeologist, like Indiana jones. When I was living in Rome, I was so fascinated with the ruins in Rome. As a kid, I discovered something scratched into the step of a Temple — a tic-tac-toe game. It was something I could understand; it was someone in the past behaving like me. I wanted to play and chat with them to better understand Rome at that time.

What are your thoughts about destiny? And are we looking at a sequel?

I would love to do a sequel, because of the wonderful opportunity to go deeper into this character and this story. As for destiny, it is in our hands. We just have to follow what we think is right and go with it. It’s very important if you have a good energy. Do not let bad energy drive your days. Maintain a clean energy and go with this emotion and what is right and follow your heart. Decisions are most important. It is too easy to go with flow.