Based on the hugely popular video game series, Need for Speed chronicles a near-impossible cross-country journey that begins as a mission for revenge, but ultimately proves to be one of redemption. When Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is framed for the death of a friend, his focus on vengeance leads him to want to tear down his enemies, at any cost. From director Scott Waugh, who pulled off some incredible practical car stunts and race scenes, the film also stars Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Ramon Rodriguez, Rami Malek, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Dakota Johnson and Michael Keaton.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Dominic Cooper (who plays the wealthy and pompous Dino Brewster) talked about what made him want to sign on for the film, the excitement of living out a childhood dream by getting to drive fast cars, how he could never personally own a car as expensive as the ones in the film, and the stunts that were scariest for him. He also talked about the crazy but fun experience he had on the mini-series Fleming, playing both the leading man and the villain, at this stage of his career, what drew him to director Duncan Jones‘ Warcraft, and how accurate and responsible they’re being with the world from the game. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DOMINIC COOPER: It was madness! I haven’t done a great deal of television, and the amount they needed to achieve in that space of time was exhausting. I thrive on it, in a way. You don’t have that endless waiting. You’re just thrown into making these spontaneous decisions that you often are really pleased with. You can’t panic or regret. You just do them. You have a specific amount of time. The director’s hair is falling out, and he’s running around in panic. He’s telling you to get into your space now, and not to bother about the lighting and just shoot it. More often than not, you just do it quite well because you have no choice. You just have to go, “What am I thinking? Who am I? How would I react to this person? How would I deliver this?” And then, just deliver it. Sometimes you have so many hours of just sitting and waiting, and you lose focus. You also lose focus for the other person that you’re working with, and that’s really unfair. It’s amazing how much I witness that, and I’m totally guilty of it myself. There’s this exhausting energy from you getting your lines out and your words right, especially if it’s a complicated scene. And as soon as the camera is off you and goes on the other person, you’re talking garbled garbage and you feel so sorry for them because you’ve lost the will to live, after 18 hours of saying those lines. That’s terribly unfair. So, I do love the quick-paced nature of it.
Does it feel like a really exciting time in your career now, being a leading man and a villain, being a part of the Marvel universe (as Howard Stark), and working in comedy, drama, action and romance?
COOPER: I think it might be too scattered around to make sense of it. Of course, I do have to stand back. I’m sure everyone feels this way, but it’s hard to have a proper opinion of yourself or how things are or how you expected them to be or how far removed they are from how you expect them to be. On the one hand, you’re extraordinarily grateful and terribly excited, but on the other, I stop and go, “I wonder what the future does hold.” It’s a very, very exciting time, but you can’t help thinking or not quite knowing how it’s seen from the outside. You’re constantly in a state of terror or regret, not quite knowing how things are going to pan out, or whether you’ve made the right decisions. But, maybe that’s just what it’s like. Maybe that’s just the life of it. It’s funny how you have to keep changing, or showing that you are capable of doing something different from people’s expectations. People really only do remember you from the last thing you’ve done, or desperately want to put you into a position that they think you’re capable of. So, you just have to keep pushing yourself with regards to the choices you make, to make sure they’re very different from one another, I suppose. I don’t know. I don’t have any answer for any of that. I can’t help but just say yes to lots of work that comes my way because I’m so relieved and so desperately excited and pleased that anyone could possibly offer me any work anyway.
What was it ultimately about Need for Speed that made you want to sign on?
COOPER: I wasn’t looking for something like this, but I couldn’t possibly not do a car–racing movie. I grew up loving cars. It was completely and utterly, without a doubt, my childhood dream. Whether your childhood dream progresses or changes, you turn into a man and you probably shouldn’t still have that same dream. But, I loved what Scott [Waugh], our director, was saying about how he wanted to film racing again and bring back how things used to be shot. I remember, as a young man, wanting to experience a car going at those speeds and being visually nourished by something which I loved so much. And I wanted to race fast cars and have a good time. The character was pretty evil, and I thought there was a bunch I could do with it. I couldn’t possible not. I adored doing it, and I had a lot of fun shooting it. I probably didn’t think enough about the possible connotations, or how responsible the film was to a younger audience, at the time. Now, I’m thinking more about that, and I question the games themselves. It can’t be any more dangerous than playing the game. So, it’s raised more questions for me since then. But, I instinctively was very, very excited about it. I was very excited to work with Aaron [Paul] and Imogen [Poots], and was very pleased, having read it, that it wasn’t just a car racing film. There was actually a really cool story, at the heart of it, that I knew was supporting a film that’s essentially about cars, but still had to be very real. The challenge was to create a heart and a life and a story that was big enough to support the high-performance incredible cars that were going to be shot beautifully and going at high speeds, and I think that was achieved.
You got to drive some cool cars in this, but did one of them feel most suited to you?
COOPER: I don’t know. I just could never drive anything like those cars. I loved the opportunity to drive them and to take them around the track, but I couldn’t actually own a car that costs that amount of money. I don’t know what it represents or suggests with the world that we’re living in, to have a car worth however many millions. I just couldn’t ever do that. I would love an old classic car, or something like that. I’d get something much more subtle than any of those cars. The Lamborghinis were unbelievable to drive and to sit in and to film in. I loved the sensation because I love driving, so I appreciate them for what they are. But, I couldn’t go into a showroom and buy something of that expense.
Was there a stunt that you got to do that was the one that was most dangerous or that you were most scared of?
COOPER: Yeah, the racing stunts. With the racing, we were ultimately not allowed to drive ourselves. No one in their right mind would let actors go 200 mph, driving next to each other. So, the way they achieved that was to stick us in cars that had the steering shaft put the center of the cars, and a racing driver in a cage was driving us from above. Not that we did the stunt, but we were in the vehicle, traveling at that speed. It was terrifying to not have control, when you have learned to control a vehicle and to use the clutch, the brake and the accelerator, in a certain way, and then you have to do nothing. You are in someone else’s hands. The people who didn’t drive didn’t mind it so much because it was kind of like a roller coaster. But for me, I just couldn’t cope with it, at first. My immediate reaction was just to slam the brake pedal to the floor, in the hope that anything could possible slow the thing down. It was a sensation like nothing else. It was not even on a track. It was the closest thing to being on a roller coaster, at that speed, without being on a track. You’d have a madman on the top of the car, who you essentially did trust, but things could still go wrong. And you couldn’t see in front of you, but you had to look calm and look like you knew what you were doing. That was the skill. It was great fun.
After doing Need for Speed, did you think even more before signing on for another video gamed turned movie with Warcraft, or was Duncan Jones too big of an appeal?
COOPER: Yeah, it was Duncan Jones. I knew very little of the game, so the storyline within the script was just completely crazy, but exciting. Coincidentally, it was another big idea of a game, but I knew very little of the game.
How would you describe the world?
COOPER: The world is very specific. What’s been wonderful is seeing these guys who have this world in their heads for so many years. The creators of that game are suddenly on these sets, where the ideas that they had so many years ago have come to life, and it’s been really exciting just to see that. And they have been so accurate and responsible to the game and to the people who play the game, love the game and want to see those characters in that world shown on the big screen. There is a huge responsibility for those people. They are the fans, and they are the ones who sit for hours, in that world. It’s scary, but it’s great. It’s a huge lot of fun.
Need for Speed opens in theaters on March 14th.