Driving an electric vehicle is better for the environment, sure. But it’s also good for quietly strangling a guy with the seatbelt—which is exactly what actress Pom Klementieff does, while also looking stunning as all hell in a purple Sergio Hudson suit, in BMW’s latest short film. “It gives you a new perspective on how to use a car,” Klementieff tells me over a recent Zoom call. Specifically, “how we can kick ass with a car.”
Klementieff, 37, is kicking some major ass herself this summer. Alongside the BMW project—which premiered at Cannes Film Festival—she also appears in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the much-anticipated Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One. Each time, it feels like Klementieff is gearing up for her first leading role in an action beat-’em-up. I suggest Pom Wick. (Yes, I’m that corny.) “If we make it a comedy,” she responds, playing along. “Maybe I’m the daughter of [Keanu Reeves] and Michelle Yeoh.”
But the action in this extended BMW i7 Electric Sedan advertisement is no joke. The project is executive-produced by Top Gun: Maverick‘s Joseph Kosinski, directed by Avengers: Infinity War’s stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, and co-stars Uma Thurman. Klementieff is in good hands—which she’ll need, because assassins are seemingly coming after her character with some kind of sound-gun. Between driving in a “first-of-its-kind silent car chase” and receiving suspicious briefcases from Thurman, Klementieff opened up about her exciting future in action blockbusters, closing the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, and (possibly) head-butting Tom Cruise.
ESQUIRE: Pom, this BMW short felt like a pitch for you to star in your own action film.
POM KLEMENTIEFF: I’ve been training for years. I love pushing myself—just learning new skills and fighting. I love doing action stuff. It’s really fun. I was just boxing this morning. For this particular project, I wanted to be better at driving, too. So, I took drifting lessons for hours and hours. I learned how to do donuts, and how to drive with a stick shift. But it’s a different animal when it’s an electric car. When you hit the accelerator or do the Boost Mode, it just goes [imitates blasting off at powerful G-force speeds] like a space ship. [Laughs.]
Are you a big Uma Thurman fan? That looks like a big Kill Bill poster behind you.
I got my poster. I can’t lie. It’s in my living room. Kill Bill is one of my favorite movies—and one of the movies that made me want to become an actress. So when I found out that she got cast in the movie, it actually made me tear up. I was so moved because she’s such an incredible actress and I love what she’s done with Kill Bill and with her career. So, it was such an honor to get to share the screen with her.
I love pushing myself—just learning new skills and fighting.
With Guardians as we know it coming to a close, are you happy that you don’t have to spend hours putting on the Mantis prosthetics anymore?
You know what? I’m pretty lucky with the Mantis makeup. It’s not that long because it’s my own skin tone. So, it’s an hour and 40 minutes—which in a sci-fi movie world, it’s nothing. It’s just the beginning of the antenna. We have to make sure that it blends and it looks like it’s part of my head. And the rest is CGI. I’m not like the other characters who have hours and hours in a makeup chair.
Do the antennas ever sag and you have to prop them back up?
No, because they’re tiny. They’re little giant nipples. James Gunn and I just posted a hilarious video. He pans on me, and then I’m laughing and just pointing and filming—and you see my antennas are tiny.
How does it feel now that you’ve wrapped Guardians? I know there’s a door left open for your character to explore more.
We don’t know what’s going to happen with the characters, if there’s going to be more movies, if we’re going to come back. We have no clue. Mantis is going to go riding and see what’s up. But I’m excited to go to Cannes. It’s going to be really nice to go back to where I’m from. I feel very grateful to be working with these very talented directors. I mean, between James Gunn, Christopher McQuarrie, and then Sam Hargrave—they’re so amazing in different ways. So, I just feel grateful for that. And it happens to be things that are being seen by a lot of people, which is even better.
I imagine you had to do a lot of stunt work in Mission: Impossible as well.
Yeah, it’s really cool. I actually just did ADR today, so we added some sound and grunting, or whatever I need to add for the action scenes. It’s ridiculous, and it’s so cool.
There’s a quick cut in the trailer where it looks like you head-butt Tom Cruise…
Yeah, possible… [Laughs.] But actually, head-butting is hard for the person who fakes getting hit. It’s hard to do it because you have to do it several times in a row, you have to look a certain direction, and you have to stop at the right angle depending on where the camera is. It super fucks up your neck. But I love all the very precise stuff. That’s what we did for the BMW movie, too. I remember there was a rest day and we just spent the whole day in the car figuring out the lighting and the camera angles. I was blasting my music—my workout playlist—to give us some energy. We found all the angles to shoot, because a fighting scene is the best when you get the right angle for the right kick, the right angle for the head-butt.
What’s in this workout playlist?
Oh my God. I found out there’s a lot of dirty stuff and I was not proud of it. It’s funny because I also have a playlist to do sprints that is called Run Like a Dinosaur Is Running After You. That’s the name of the playlist. There’s a good mix of electro, rap, R&B, and fun stuff, too. I like stuff that makes me laugh. But sometimes there’s dirty words and I’m like, Oh my God, it looks like I’m so twisted.
It’s AAPI month here in the US. I’d love to hear—from your personal experience—if there are things within the industry that could still improve for Asian actors?
I think there’s a lot of improvement. I have faith in change and in things getting better. I see that there’s a lot more diversity in movies—and there is incredible shows and movies that have Asians in it, which is amazing. And which, of course, they should. So I feel positive.
Josh Rosenberg is an Assistant Editor at Esquire, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day. His past work can be found at Spin, CBR, and on his personal blog at Roseandblog.com.