Interview : Scott Speedman


Soon to be seen in the "Underworld" sequel, Canada’s Scott Speedman is one of Hollywood’s new breed of film star, making his way through Hollywood’s ranks. As the object of Keri Russell’s affections on the WB Network’s TV series "Felicity", Scott Speedman displays a laid-back charm that has helped him win over critics and viewers. More than a few fans of the show, upon first glimpsing the handsome actor, could understand why "Felicity", in the storyline that formed the show’s premise, would follow his character across the entire country.

Born in London, on September 1, 1975 to Scottish parents, Speedman was raised in Toronto. In high school, he began acting on a dare from a girlfriend. He appeared on "Speaker’s Corner", a Canadian version of an MTV show in which people paid money to air their views on television. Speedman caught the attention of one of the show’s directors, who encouraged him to audition for the role of Robin in the upcoming "Batman Forever" (1995). Speedman did so and failed to get the part, but he did manage to get an agent in the process.

Speedman acted in a number of Canadian television shows and spent a year at the University of Toronto, where he was an avid swimmer (he once aspired to swim for the Canadian team). After dropping out of the university, Speedman got his first film role in "Kitchen Party", a Canadian film released in 1997. More lackluster work in television followed until Speedman, his career at a low, went to Manhattan to audition for the upcoming show Felicity. The show’s creators were taken with his performance, and Speedman was soon living in Los Angeles, where the show was filmed. The positive attention that followed Felicity’s debut made him and his co-stars the subjects of numerous interviews, articles, and websites, and gave Speedman the opportunities that he once could only dream of during his days of purgatory in Canadian television. Shortly after an appearance in the little seen 2000 /comedy drama "Duets", Speedman hit the big time when cast opposite Kurt Russell in the police detective thriller "Dark Blue" (2003). Though he did prove convincing in his role as a slightly naive LAPD homicide detective, the film quickly faded from sight at the box office and his commendable performance went largely unnoticed. His subsequent role in the romantic drama "My Life Without Me" once again showed his ability to carry a dramatic performance, but later that same year the up and coming actor nevertheless threw all dramatics out the window for a role as one of the sole humans in a never-ending battle between vampires and werewolves in "Underworld".

Fans of the actor will enjoy him pursuing Ice Cube and company in the new XXX while Underworld 2 will be released later this year. He caught up with Paul Fischer in New York.

How is it to play clean shaven guys?
I shave. I just don’t like to shave.

How do the ladies feel about scruffy?
Hopefully they’re fine. I don’t know if that would make me shave or not, but I think they’re fine.

After young cadets, is it nice to graduate to man in charge?
Yeah. I’d like to do the young cadet thing again for sure, but that’s why I wanted to do this, to see if I could do it. I took the scenes out of the script and put them together and read them as one little arc, story and that seemed to work.

Did you do all the physical stuff?
Yeah. For me that’s pretty easy. That doesn’t intimidate me. And I’d love to tell you it was harder than it was. It wasn’t that difficulty. People seem to think it was crazy and very dangerous, but for me it wasn’t that bad.

How did you find an arc amid the craziness?
Well, you work hard. You do as much work as you possibly can before you start the movie and then you get there and it’s a crazy scene. It’s very chaotic and it’s about a lot of the stunts and the special effects and the action. You work hard before the movie and then you just try to have fun.

Do you ever think that there may be too much analysis for an action movie?
Yeah, absolutely, but it’s the only way I know how to do it. There’s nothing worse—I don’t like listening to actors talk about the process, especially when- – I mean, for me I’ve played a lot of guys, dudes, boys in a sense and this was a challenge for me just to play that official character. And I’m not going to get into too much as you say, you’re right. But that was a challenge for me to do that. But you’re right, and you’ve got to have fun with a movie like this. That’s the point.

Will they bring you back?
Who knows? Because they kind of dismantled it after the first one, so we’ll see. I have no idea.

Are you signed?
I believe I am signed.

What will your role be in the next one?
That depends who they hire to be the next XXX I guess. If they do one. I don’t know, we’ll se if they do one. I have no idea. That’s a great question and I don’t have an answer.

Was it the type of role that made you accept this?
Yeah, I mean, I’d like to stretch it out a bit, but the actors and the director were another part of why I wanted to do this. I was saying before that this is one of the better things with a really good group of people that came around for me at the time, so I was really excited to get to work with those guys for sure.

What surprised you about Cube?
I guess I wasn’t that surprised with anything. I mean, I walked in knowing he was going to be a good actor and a really cool guy. That’s my thought abut him and that’s why it was, a very good actor. I was really excited that he was doing it more so than Vin Diesel in a lot of ways. I was really excited.

How so?
I just think he’s a cool actor and I was more excited because it made it less of a sequel, just bigger and better.

Do you listen to his music?
I remember listening to Cube’s music when I was like 14 years old, my friends listening to it up in Toronto. I had no idea what it was and it scared the shit out of me.

Did you tell him that?
No, no, no. I wouldn’t talk to him like that. To be honest, no, I don’t know his music very well at all but I know him much more as an actor.

Did you model you character after Tommy Lee Jones?
No, no, no, I don’t. I don’t think I could do a good imitation of Tommy Lee Jones. I guess there is sort of a similarity there but that guy’s pretty amazing.

How did you get on this action kick?
I don’t know. My friends ask me that all the time. I have no idea. After I came off of doing a TV show, just trying to find work that would enable me to do other movies. And I did a couple of small movies that I really like and trying to find something else to do. This movie in particular came along at the right time and I just decided to do it. It’s not like I have 10 choices. I have to audition for anything reasonable.

Do you miss doing small movies?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s where I feel I’m strongest anyway. I would love to do more movies like that.

How was filming Underworld 2?
That was physical. That I’ll brag about. That was physical. That was really physical for me. I finished that two weeks ago and I’m still tired from that.

How much more physical was that?
A lot more for me. They knew after the first one. In a way I kind of proved to them that I could do a lot of stuff, so in the second one, it was just taken for granted that I would do most of everything in the movie, so it was a hard workload.

What can you say about your character?
It’s tough to say. It goes to a different- – again, it’s more about the relationship. I wish I could say more about it, but in a lot of ways, I’m still very much supporting that main character. It’s more I’m the sidekick. A good one, but I’m the sidekick to be honest. It’s really her movie in a sense.

How are the makeup and FX?
I think they’re a lot better. I’d hum and huff if I didn’t think it was good, man. I think it’s very good and I’m not necessarily a huge fan of those movies, so for me when I see the stuff they put together, I’m very impressed. I think Len Weisman, the director did a great job and they hired a very, very good DP.

And the stuff on your face?
Oh, that stuff is cool. They changed it up a little bit, but they added to that whole thing for sure. I was in it a lot more also.

What’s next?
I’m trying to find the next thing I want to do. I don’t know what it’s going to be but I’m trying to find something good to do.

Nothing offered?
Sadly, no. We’ll see. Something will come along.

We haven’t seen you in a year and a half. What’s been going on?
Well, I’ve been filming that movie. I bought a house in LA, hanging out there and spending a lot of time in Toronto, but not much.

Do you miss NY?
Yeah, I miss this city very much. I actually came here earlier to try to find an apartment which is a tough experience.

You’re buying a lot?
Well, I’m not really buy- – I buy- – you know, I drive a Honda Civic. I’m not spending a lot of money on cars and stuff like that, but I would love to be able to own something here and spend more time here. I think it’s- – I’ve never felt totally comfortable in Los Angeles. I feel like I’m visiting most of the time. I mean, I love California, but LA to me is still a strange place. I like the east coast.

So why did you succumb to the pressure to live there?
Well, I was there for four years, five years doing a TV show so I had to be there for that time. Then when I was done, this was my first two years since I’ve been done that. I’ve been working location for a while. To be honest, I want to be there to a degree for my career. I mean, it’s pretty important to me. And when I have lived elsewhere, every two weeks I have to fly back to LA. Even New York directors go there to audition. So I have to be there to a degree.

Come on, LA’s not so bad.
No, It’s not that bad. I don’t hate it. I don’t hate it at all. I just would like to spend more time in New York City.

Are you still seen as Ben?
Well, it’s a good trade, man. I don’t think I would be getting any of these movies without that show, and that’s a strong show, a great fan base and it’s helped me out a lot. It took me out of Canada and brought me down to the states and gave me my career basically.

Would you return to TV?
I haven’t ruled it out. There’s such good writing now on television and I don’t see a lot of great writing on films sadly. There’s a good group of people that get to do it, but if I’m not getting to do that in a good couple years, I will look to do some television.

What about the Canadian industry?
It’s not the greatest. I’m sort of ignorant to what’s going on but I hear through friends that are having a lot of difficulties with Telefilm Canada and they’re funding and what they’re doing and where they’re deciding to put their money. They’re not putting it into the right places from what I understand, but I’m still again sort of- –

It happens everywhere.
I guess, but you look at the Australian communities and the English communities, they manage to do it. I think Canada, our industry is still somewhat based in America’s industry.

UK and Australia survive through government funding. Does Canada?
They do, but what I’m saying is that Telefilm’s new mandate is going in the wrong direction. Where it used to go to an Atom Egoyan film, they’re sort of switching it around and putting it into other areas that I don’t think people are that impressed with.

Do you miss being based in Canada?
Well, when I did Underworld 2, I was in Vancouver for five months and I was reminiscent to be back up there. Do I miss it? Yeah, I miss a lot of things about it, but I’m not moving back up there.

Do you live alone or do you have a special lady?
No, I live alone.

What kind of house?
Oh, it’s just a house, man. It’s just a small house.

What part of LA?
East side, closer to downtown.

It’s a great area. That’s actually now there’s a lot of active development there. It’s a great area, it’s got a lot more culture, it’s a lot easier to walk around in and see other people besides actors in the industry. You’re not faced with the industry every day and I like that.

Can you just walk around?
Absolutely. Sure, absolutely.

Has that gotten better since the show ended?
I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say that at all. It’s never been that crazy for me.

Are you recognized by a different group of people since Underworld?
A little bit, but it’s really not- – it’s not extreme at all. I can walk down the street all day and people look at me, but they don’t talk to me or stop me.

You don’t crave that?
It’s not something I think would be a healthy thing.

Do you get scared by the possibility of fame?
Well, it would be sort of irresponsible for me to go do XXX2 and then sit here and talk about how that’s- –

But Vin Diesel in XXX?
Yeah, but that’s Vin Diesel and you can see he’s an action star in that way. You can see that’s what he is. That’s what he should be doing for sure. And I can see he’s a bit of a superstar. That’s not me. But it sort of scares me in a way, but I don’t think it’s going to get any worse for me.

Why can’t you be a superstar?
Not in something like this. I don’t think that’s my thing.

You could be the next XXX?
Well, I don’t know about that. No one’s said that to me. I don’t know if they’d bank on me to be the next XXX. I can’t really see that. It’d be more of a comedy.

If they ask you, would you?
I don’t know if I could handle that. I don’t know if I could do that.

They say they want one with more angst. Who would you like to see next?
Man, I have no idea. I’d say some great actors, but they wouldn’t ever do it. I think Clive Owen or somebody like that would be great. I’d love that if I got to work with him but he ain’t doing it so I have no idea.

Any more looping or reshoots on Underworld?
I don’t think we’ll do any reshoots. I think we got everything. I was doing two units at the same time by the end of the movie.

Will this movie move you career forward?
I hope so.