Aaron Taylor-Johnson is confident audiences will be floored by the surprises in Bullet Train — just as he was when he was making it.
Taylor-Johnson, who plays one of several assassins in the movie, remembers calling director David Leitch over because he didn’t know who he was acting with that day. The mystery character was codenamed Burly Man. “I tap this guy on the back, he turns around and it’s like, ‘It’s f—ing Channing Tatum,'” Taylor-Johnson tells EW.
Audiences already know Sandra Bullock to be one of the big names appearing in Bullet Train, a fun summer actioner made up of simple elements: a high-speed train, a mysterious briefcase, and a bunch of hired killers. Bullock, voicing Maria Beetle, the handler of Brad Pitt’s Ladybug, had already been revealed in the trailers, but there are two other “killer cameos,” as Pitt puts it.
Earlier this year, moviegoers saw Pitt appear in a cameo for Bullock and Tatum’s adventure rom-com The Lost City as a dashingly handsome rescuer. But Bullet Train started filming before The Lost City, so it was Leitch and Pitt who was the first to make their asks.
“Sandy has bailed me out I can’t tell you how many times,” Pitt says in an episode of EW’s Around the Table video series. “I literally asked her to come to host an event for thousands of people while she was on vacation: ‘Cut [your] vacation short, get a gown, and come through.’ And she’ll be there for me. She’s been an amazing friend for these decades.”
So when they had to fill the role of Maria Beetle (for the majority of the film just a voice speaking to Ladybug through his earpiece), Pitt thought of Bullock. “Her voice, I don’t know, it’s like Morgan Freeman,” Pitt said, sparking laughs from his costars. “For gravitas.”
Leitch says he and Tatum had been trying to work together in some capacity for a while before the Bullet Train opportunity presented itself. “It was a pretty easy ask,” the director admits.
Meanwhile, Bullock and Tatum were planning to start working on The Lost City. “Just this idea of cross-pollinating each other’s projects was really good fun,” recalls Pitt, whose character is hired to save Bullock’s romance author Loretta Sage from a kidnapping.
But we can’t forget about Bullet Train‘s other big surprise cameo: Ryan Reynolds.
Leitch had previously directed Deadpool 2, which starred Reynolds as the titular katana-wielding Merc with a Mouth. “Working with a comedic genius like him has affected me in Bullet Train,” Leitch says. “It was great to call him back. ‘Favor. Here’s the deal.’ ”
All movie long, the name Carter is mentioned. As we gather, he’s kind of a dick, but we don’t see his face. He’s the assassin Ladybug is subbing for on this bullet-train mission that goes off the rails. It’s only at the very end, after the build-up, that a slow-motion flashback reveals Carter, taking off his motorcycle helmet, to be none other than Reynolds.
Reynolds had only one stipulation before agreeing to do the cameo: brevity. “He said, ‘As long as it’s the same length as Brad’s Vanisher cameo.'” recalls Leitch.
Pitt appeared — ever so briefly — in Deadpool 2 as Vanisher, the invisible mutant Deadpool hires to join X-Force. Along with many members of the team, Vanisher dies after they jump out of a plane. He gets tangled in some electrical cables and is shocked to death. The jolts make him visible for just a flash, showing him to be played by Pitt.
“I don’t know if I held up to my end of the bargain,” adds Leitch. “Ours might be a few frames long.”
Bullet Train is now playing in theaters.