By John Gaudiosi
The R-rated Hitman made a respectable $US 21 million over the Thanksgiving weekend, facing off against heavy competition from Disney's Enchanted and Paramount's Beowulf, both of which were aimed at families. Robert Knepper, who's best known as T-Bag on Fox's "Prison Break," plays Russian chief agent Yuri Marklov in 20th Century Fox's Hitman movie.
In fact, it was his work in "Prison Break" that sealed the deal, because his first audition was bad and he sent in a tape afterward that got him another look. When director Xavier Gens saw it was T-Bag, he said Knepper had to be in the movie. But with just two weeks to go from southern pedophile to Russian agent, Knepper had no idea Hitman was a videogame.
"Fox eventually told me about the Hitman videogame, but I read the script and I honestly felt like I didn't need to see the game," said Knepper. "I didn't need to know anything about the videogame because everything that I felt as an actor that I needed to know about the story was in the script. It had a great beginning, middle and end, it had a great conflict, a great hero, and a great anti-hero."Knepper said he loved that the script was filled with this charade and masking and keeps people guessing who's a good guy and who's a bad guy.
"The script was a great mixture of everything and there are people told me, 'Yeah, that is kind of like the videogame,' and I know there are millions of people that play these games, but I personally have never done it. I didn't immediately go, 'Oh yeah, that is Hitman' and then go play the videogame. I just had time to work on the damn dialect and get that thing going."
But Knepper did play videogames when he was younger like Pac-Man and Galaxian.
"They had pinball, Pac-Man and Galaxian at the student union at Northwestern University, and I was always there," said Knepper. "I loved that shit. I could play pinball for hours and I remember thinking, 'I've got to study,' but they were addictive and the student union was open late so I was always playing. I'd literally be drunk from playing it."
When asked if "Prison Break," the show he's been a part of for the past three years, would make a good videogame in the wake of other hit Fox shows like "24," "The Simpsons" and "Futurama" making the leap, Knepper said he'd heard there was already a game in the works.
"I don't think it's quite done, but I heard that on the wind last year that they were trying to do it," said Knepper. "You know the whole thing with an escape, they were working on a videogame where you plot your own escape from prison."
Knepper, who's nothing like the creepy character he plays on TV (he's married with a kid), is often surprised by how fans of the show react to him in person. He almost gave one lady, who was about to enter an elevator he was in, a heart attack. Other fans, some with kids, come up and embrace him. T-Bag has definitely made his mark on TV.
"I'm just a pig in shit about it right now about it because I'm just really happy, I'm particularly happy about Hitman because I was starting to feel like, 'Oh no, I'm going to end up like that guy who gets famous from something and then they can't shake it.' People know you for that one character and that's it," said Knepper. "I'm like, 'No, wait a minute, I'm an actor. I've spent 20 years playing different characters, and now I'm gonna be relegated to travelling the country and doing county fair circuits in the summertime.' Then Hitman came along and I was like, 'I'm going to go after that thing like I'm gonna die tomorrow, and if I don't get it, I'm gonna' go on.' I 'm so happy that I got it because even though he's a bad guy, he's just so totally different from T-Bag with the Russian accent and everything. It's just amazing."
Knepper also enjoyed his time opposite Timothy Olyphant, a fellow actor who also made a name for himself embracing a role on television. And if Hitman continues to score at the box office, more movies could follow for both actors.