Last year, when director Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed was filming in Detroit, I got to visit the set along with a few other reporters. While I was excited for the film based solely on the cast (Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, Dakota Johnson and Kid Cudi), I walked away excited for something else: the practical effects. While on set, I watched as real cars raced around the city and they were definitely breaking every speed limit. From what I was told from the cast and crew, this is how the whole movie was made; using real cars racing at high speeds with cameras recoding every move. It should be a hell of a ride when the film opens March 14th.
During a break in filming, I was able to participate in a group interview with Imogen Poots. She talked about getting ready for the driving, her character, the stunts, filming on location, why she wanted to wear a headband in the film, if anything surprised her on set, which car she’d like to take home, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what she had to say.
Question: So, we were watching, you and Aaron were sitting in that car while the crane shot was coming down, and it looked like you guys were talking to each other, but you were turning away from him, like you were angry at him. Am I reading it totally wrong, seeing it from a distance? What’s going on in that scene?
Imogen Poots: There’s tension the whole time between the two of them, and that’s the real idea, I think, with the movie, is to give it a story and a foot line inside of all the action and so this is kind of a midpoint during that trip. So, they’re familiar with one another, but still not comfortable enough to be themselves fully. So, we’re trying to find an arc somewhere within there.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Poots: I play Julia and she is a young car dealer, I guess, to some extent. She knows a lot about cars. It’s not necessarily something that you gather when you first meet her in the beginning, but she’s also, as the story goes on, revealed to be a bit of a daredevil. She’s willing to kind of try things out and she’s a really great role to play because the people behind the script have been pretty liberal too, which way we want to take the characters and what we want to do. It’s a movie about race cars. You want people to enjoy it and have fun and be entertaining, so we’re trying to find as many different arcs and levels within that, in terms of the action environment as you can.
Mr. Gatins said that at not point did they say, “Oh, we’re going to make Ms. Poots put on a Boston accent or talk very American.” Was that a relief to know that wasn’t going to be required?
Poots: Hell, no. I wanted to play like a redneck, but they wanted me to be British in the film, so I’m doing my best, but it’s nice. I kind of understand that perspective too, because again, it adds something different to the film and again gives the characters more of an awkward beginning. They’re not used to one another’s culture or whatever it is. I can see their point of view for wanting to try that.
Do you get to do any driving? Mr. Paul gets to do a certain amount of driving. Do you ever get behind the wheel and put your foot down?
Poots: I do get behind the wheel. I do get behind the wheel.
Poots: First of all, the huge kind of dribbling irony of the whole project is that I don’t actually drive and I somehow manage to live in California without driving. It’s ludicrous, but in this film I do drive and it’s terrific. I mean, we’re doing stunts with guys who are at the top of their game, and very much believers in let’s do stunts that are potentially realistic, rather than something that’s completely animated beyond anything and understanding, which I like that. Sometimes, like with the driving, we’re doing a lot of stuff, and Aaron does a lot of the stunts, when he’s actually controlling the car. I wouldn’t be able to that, because I would get distracted by passing pigs, but no, it’s been a blast. I’ve never done anything like this before.
Poots: I did a little bit. Yeah. It’s also more to get used to the speed of the car, because it’s like being on a roller coaster. When you’re going at that speed your stomach really kind of pops up and around. But it was pretty … it’s all fun. As I said, you feel really, really safe and you’re willing to try anything in their hands.
If I’m not mistaken, you’re wearing a headband when we were watching. Are you nervous to be wearing a headband in the movie, you know, like what you’re wearing is going to be something that people are going to be looking at in a year. You know what I mean? So, talk a little bit about your costume and the headband.
Poots: The headband was fully my idea. I wanted to basically break the mold of something where someone had to be kind of very put together and I wanted her to have something that showed that she was willing to change something about her appearance, even if that was a way of getting through to Tobey, that she was on this journey with him and the headband for me is like a throwback to many films where you see, people just do it. They take a piece of fabric and it becomes a souvenir, something that’s on their person, something they’ve come across and I think it kind of elaborates something about character too and I think the headband is just something I really wanted her to own and I think it’s wonderful to create a costume in that sense. I think the trivial things in terms of what pants the character is wearing or what hair, it can be seen as trivial are actually very, very, very vital to holding on to what you can, especially in a studio film, in regard to character.
Do you get your Rambo scene of putting on the headband?
Poots: It was very brief. I think they probably spent more time on the cars, unfortunately, but no, I’m glad you guys picked up on that, because I kind of wanted to do something different. It’s my fault for picking a piece of fabric, of course, that’s completely patterned, and therefore is complete…
So, you guys hit a lot of the states here. Was there a city that you particularly really loved filming in?
Poots: I loved Atlanta. I love America a lot. I really do I think it stems from a base of literature or movies. We’re filming in really, really exotic places to me. I mean Moab, Utah, where going to go in a couple of weeks and I find that slightly extraordinary. I’m going to have to get over my neurosis and maybe try to go skydiving or something like that, maybe, but we’re seeing exquisite things. The car is quite hot, but worse things have happened, so we’re kind of just dealing with it, but Atlanta was really fun. There’s a great music scene there. San Francisco, coolest place ever. Mendocino, beautiful wine town. That was fun, very fun. It was good to get out of Mendocino, because otherwise it would be perpetual hangovers.
One thing about the film that we kind of pieced together is that you and Aaron are kind of equals, just coming from two very different perspectives on this culture. What’s that dynamic like, when you read the script, was that something that excited you about the movie?
Poots: It was for sure. Anything that is going to be different. Anything that’s going to be exciting to search for more than on the page and I think on the page there was already that kind of divide between them, so you have to take that and run with it. Really, it’s a large amount of time, in terms of the movie, it only takes place over a couple of days, but it’s amazing what happens when you throw people together. They just have to deal with it. It’s also important, as irritating as the characters can seem at the beginning of the movie, or hostile towards one another, you see that break down and so you’re willing to invest in the journey they’re going on with them.
You’re from the part of the world where if you drive for an hour and a half at a 100 miles an hour, you’re in Belgium. Is it fun, as somebody from Europe, embracing this really American genre of wide open vistas, flat highway, nothing but?
Poots: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen was last year I flew into Charleston, West Virginia and it’s just the blue landscape and it is, it’s blue and it’s just kind of absolutely extraordinary and I love the diversity and how vast America is and being able to hop from place to place is kind of extraordinary. I just came from New York yesterday, and it was an hour and 20 minutes to Detroit. So, it’s great because I don’t know if I’d ever say, “Hey kids,” not that I have any kids, but “Let’s take a family vacation to Detroit,” you know. So, it’s good to see these places.
What do you think of the appeal to women is going to be?
Poots: I think, I mean, geee, I don’t know, guys. Let’s hope there is an appeal. I don’t think it’s going to be… I’s a testosterone environment we’re making this film in, for sure. There’s a lot of guys. There’s a lot of lifting and a lot of cars breaking down and getting put back together again and I think in terms of the women who, you never want to say, “Oh, they’re going to go for the romance,” because I don’t think women do that, but I think they’ll just go to see a fun movie. I don’t think there’s any divide whether you’re male or female. I’ve met the majority of men who get boners for cars whereas women are kind of like, meh.
Is it a sausage fest being on the set?
Poots: It’s funny. These guys are really, really gentle, like the camera crew. The manners are exquisite on the set. They really are. The crew is really something else, and I mean, you came on a day where there’s a sushi… It’s extraordinary in the sense of how you’re taken care of. I’ve never felt like, “Oh, I’m the only girl,” or anything like that.
What’s the one thing about the project that surprised you, during the making of it thus far, if there was anything that surprised you?
Poots: I think one thing that certainly surprised me was how if you really focus and you really listen, you’re able to take on a stunt and really do it yourself and feel great and feel excited, because I think some of the stunts you feel, “Oh, I’m going to be nervous the whole time and something is going to go wrong and it’ll never look authentic in the moment, because I’ll be thinking of too many things,” but once you conquer anything really, then you can run with it, and I think that surprised me in terms of things I was able to do, which probably to all of you guys, you’d be like, “What?? That’s nothing,” but there was one thing where I had to fall on my back off a not a very high height. The idea of falling on your back is kind of unnatural and you have moments where it’s kind of cool to have done that. I was flat on my back. That’s not the coolest thing in the world, but there were moments like that. I think too, I didn’t know what to expect apart from cars, and there have been a lot of cars, and I suppose I know about Mustangs more than I did. That surprised me.
Poots: I actually saw in Mendocino, a blue pickup truck that wasn’t part of our film in any way whatsoever. I would take that. I’d take the bicycle that one of our wonderful crew members bought. I’m really not into race cars in the sense of, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I really wouldn’t.
What it is about Scott Waugh’s style, that you think makes him such a good fit for a movie like this?
Poots: I think his old-school approach to stunt work and the way he commands and runs a set is fantastic and everybody listens to him. Everybody respects him and in an environment where you’re dealing with people’s safety, as well as every other thing that’s happening around you, I think that’s incredible to have that approach and I think he’s always thinking about the right things first, with priorities all in line, but really he loves this. He love this genre. He loves race cars. He knows exactly what he’s doing, so it’s a wonderful thing to watch.