Scott Speedman enjoys portraying flawed men who are pushed to the limit, make mistakes, and then have to recover, and his character in Atom Egoyan’s new psychological thriller, The Captive, definitely fits the bill. Speedman plays Detective Jeffrey Cornwall, an edgy cop who makes a living hooking predators and searching for missing children online. He’s immediately skeptical of Matthew Lane’s (Ryan Reynolds) story about his missing daughter (Alexia Fast), and his suspicions that the father is somehow complicit in the abduction lead him to push way beyond the ethical boundaries of his work. Mireille Enos, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Durand and Bruce Greenwood also co-star.
At the film’s recent press day, Speedman spoke about his creative collaboration with Egoyan with whom he worked previously on Adoration, how Egoyan wrote the role specifically with him in mind, why he was drawn to the complicated character and enjoyed the challenge of an enigmatic story, the backstory he created for his character, his research with the Kitchener-Waterloo detectives, working with Reynolds and Dawson, how they had fun while doing serious work on a dark movie, and his upcoming films: October Gale, a romantic thriller with Patricia Clarkson, and Out of the Dark, a horror-thriller with Julia Stiles. Check out our interview after the jump:
SCOTT SPEEDMAN: Yes, in 2008 we made a movie together called Adoration.
At that time, did you talk about doing something again or did this just come up?
SPEEDMAN: We got along very well. I really liked working with him. We had a good experience and I loved that movie. It was a real turning point for me in my career working with him. And then, a couple of years ago, he told me he’d written this with me in mind. That was really great and it’s never happened to me before, so it was very exciting.
What was your reaction when you first read the script?
SPEEDMAN: I really took to it right away. It’s my kind of movie. I don’t know what that says about me. It’s very ambiguous, very mysterious, and then not a very typical thriller. Adam and I were talking earlier that the mystery is solved within the first five minutes. I mean, you know right away who the captor is and what happens and all that kind of stuff, so that’s taken out. It’s a very challenging thriller and that’s why I enjoyed that. And then, to be able to play a character like this was challenging in subtler ways, and I think people will really think about it.
In your opinion, what makes Adam such a unique storyteller and filmmaker? He’ll approach a genre in so many layers. Is that one of the reasons why you like to work with him?
SPEEDMAN: Yeah. When you’re talking to him, it’s pretty quick you figure out how smart he is, and I think his intelligence really takes him up there. But yeah, he’s really interested. He’s just not interested in telling simple, down the line, obvious stories. It’s a very challenging thing he does. So, I think that’s what sets him apart. He’s very brave in his choices. Doing the same thing, I don’t think I could do it that way at all.
SPEEDMAN: That’s your jumping off point, but then with anything you do, you try and go and do some backstory, because in this one specifically, it was important why is he so obsessed with Ryan Reynold’s character for 8 years? He’s a nice looking dude. But why does he get so obsessed? What about his history is there? And again, Adam doesn’t like to make it easy for the audience to explain everything, which I think we do far too much in American movies these days. So yeah, I had to go do all that. He had already mapped it out, but I had to go do all that by myself.
A number of Ontario detectives are credited at the end of the film. Did you spend some time with them researching your character?
SPEEDMAN: Yeah, it was Kitchener-Waterloo. I did. They had never done that before where they allowed a civilian to talk to them. I went to the department, but I never got to see where they do their work. But I definitely sat down with them for an hour or two. Part of it was incredibly fascinating and part of it was terrifying. Their job is to watch this material all day and look at it as a crime scene. They’re looking for clues, and blocking out what they’re seeing and watching it over and over and over again.
At the end of the day, what was your take away from that experience?
SPEEDMAN: My take away from them is you’re trying to do your job as an actor. You’re going there to try and be truthful to what they do. But at the end of the day, you just think about them and their families really, to be honest. That was my take away because they all had young kids and some of them had daughters. One of the things that struck me is how it changed their life. I mean, their daughters have never been on a sleep over.
But how did it change your life? That’s really what I’m concerned with.
SPEEDMAN: Well, it didn’t really. I mean, it helped me get into this role. I guess my point is that it was more important to me what they were doing than what I was doing.
Scott, this isn’t your first time at the rodeo with Adam?
What is it about him? Is it that he thinks outside the box or that he doesn’t follow the path that everybody else does?
SPEEDMAN: He doesn’t make it easy.
What is it about him and his films that attract you to work with him?
SPEEDMAN: Well, I’m kind of a complicated fellow, too. I think he sees that in me and I see it in him. I just think he understands my instrument. I can’t think of a better way to say it. He understands how I work and it really lends itself to characters he likes to create. The other part of it is very simple. We get along very well, and we have a second hand, and there’s a trust, and we have fun together. Even on a dark movie like this, we have a lot of fun. That’s the only way to do it really. You laugh and you have a good time and you can do serious work. There’s an enjoyment factor.
You have some really heated scenes with Ryan Reynolds. How much rehearsal or how much interaction did the two of you have to create those, because there’s a very genuine despicability raging between the two of you?
SPEEDMAN: Well, I mean, I’ve known that guy off and on for years and he’s the nicest dude. He’s the best. It’s very easy. He’s a very professional guy, so actually it wasn’t difficult. I’d like to tell you a better story. But it was just more we hugged each other outside of the set on the first day and we jumped in there and went to work. He was effortless and he was great, so I was very happy to get to work with him.
Can you talk about working with Rosario Dawson?
SPEEDMAN: Yeah. What do you want to know? (Laughs)
There’s a lot going on there that isn’t on the screen. What’s she like to work with as an actress, and also, how did you approach that multi-layered relationship?
SPEEDMAN: It’s like what I said earlier about the backstory because that was part of the challenge. You’d be jumping here and throughout the whole script there were definitely different time periods. You have to fill in those, what had happened, how’d we get here, and be on the same page. So, there was a lot of work then, and that takes me and Rosario sitting down and having a conversation with Atom and doing all of that. She’s very meticulous. Anybody good like that is a hard worker and I always respect that. So, I was very happy to see that she was. I loved working with her.
Your character in particular really goes through the ringer. There’s even a point where he puts the child at risk. We obviously understand why he’s doing it but…
SPEEDMAN: We understand, but it’s a mistake.
Of course, just like it’s a mistake to leave the other child in the car, but it’s these very human things.
SPEEDMAN: No, exactly. That’s what I mean. I enjoy played flawed men who are pushed to the limit, who make mistakes, and then have to recover. Those are the men I’m interested in, and for obviously reasons, I’ve made many mistakes out there. And I get how you can be doing this job as you asked, watching that every day, watching a girl grow into a woman, and then not being able to do anything about it. I imagine there’s a point where you push the limits of what is right and wrong. So, I found that very believable.
What’s it like when you, Ryan and Rosario hang out together?
SPEEDMAN: (Laughs) What’s that like? It was very boring. It’s more boring than it should be at this point in our careers and lives. I’ll speak for myself, but to do this the right way, you’re not spending a lot of time at the clubs anymore to be honest. You do your work and then you go home and try to rest.
What does the dynamic look like?
SPEEDMAN: The dynamic? It’s very fun. I don’t know how else to say it. Again, even with this dark, very serious material, it’s very fun.
It makes sense to me it would be fun just to counterbalance the serious material. What is it that the three of you create to create fun?
SPEEDMAN: It’s just a mood. It probably starts with Atom more than anybody, who’s known as this auteur, but he’s actually the most easy-going, relaxed, funny, open, nice guy that I’ve worked with. So, I think it starts with him, and then again the whole crew. They’ve worked together forever, since his first movie. There’s a real ease on set so that just creates an environment. Actors I find are generally happy to be working.
Could you talk about the rehearsal process? Was there a lot of rehearsal or improvisation?
SPEEDMAN: No. No improv really, nothing like that. I mean, with rehearsals, it depends on what it is. If you’re talking about Birdman, then you need a lot of rehearsal obviously. But with something like this, you want to have everybody be on the same page and talk a little bit, and then let whatever’s going to happen come up when the camera’s rolling. There wasn’t a ton of rehearsal. I’m not a guy that loves a lot of rehearsal, but it depends. It depends what it would be.
Looking at your body of work, it seems to me you’re very selective with what you want to do. Is that inaccurate or does a project have to really strike a personal chord within you?
SPEEDMAN: The last couple of years I’ve been doing a little more than I usually do. But I mean, look, if I could be doing different kinds of stuff, I’d be working tomorrow. I want to be working on more things than I am right now, for sure. It just depends what comes along and what I can get right now. I’m eager to work with more directors like Atom, and when those happen, I’m very grateful. I’m also not as eager to go just work to work. I have another life outside of it, and if I’m pretty sure the movie’s not going to have a life, or if it’s not a director I believe in, then I probably will say no.
How eager were you to go work in this very chilly climate?
SPEEDMAN: I was cool with that. I loved it. I just finished six months in Hawaii on a TV show. So it was a bit of a shock but I enjoy that crazy part of the life. You’re up in Siberia in the middle of nowhere and it’s great. I was only there for a week, too. And then, we were down in Toronto so it wasn’t that bad. But that’s part of the fun of it.
Adam said he had to worry about frostbite with Ryan because he was out in the cold so much.
SPEEDMAN: Oh yeah. A lot of my scenes were inside. So I got off easy.
What are you working on now? Is there something that’s just wrapped or you’re going into soon?
SPEEDMAN: I have a couple of movies coming out, one with Patricia Clarkson (October Gale) and one with Julia Stiles (Out of the Dark). The one with Julia Stiles is more of a genre horror film, so it’s not as challenging a character as this or movies that are trying to be that. And then, the other one with Patricia Clarkson is more of a lead. It’s an angst-ridden guy who is a more challenging character. We’ll see what happens with those movies. Now I’m looking to do something. I was attached to a TV show for a year that didn’t end up happening. That was a long process trying to see the light of day from that, but it didn’t end up working out, so now I’m just back to the grind trying to find maybe a show to do. Obviously, in this day and age, with the TV shows, there are some really interesting ones. I’m not that interested in going and doing a network show, but like everybody else, trying to find something good.
You spent six months in Hawaii working on a TV project that didn’t go?
What show was that?
SPEEDMAN: It was called Last Resort with Andre Braugher and myself.
Do you still get fans that tell you about how much that show meant? That was a really cool show.
SPEEDMAN: Not that often, you know, here and there. That was one of those shows that could have and maybe should have worked. It had all the right signs that it could. It’s really difficult to have a challenging male-driven show, and certain networks take off because they have their own mandate about what they want to do. But definitely getting to work with Andre and all those guys was incredible.
If you could be on a hit TV show or any hit movie right now, what would it be? Which character would you play and why?
SPEEDMAN: I don’t know what character or anything it would be. I mean, there are definitely movies out there like Birdman, which I brought up earlier. Whiplash I really liked. Foxcatcher I thought was incredible. I don’t really know specifically what character this, that or the other, but there are definitely more directors and movies that I want to be in.
Who are the actors and directors that have influenced you the most?
SPEEDMAN: Oh man, there are guys who are so good that do a different thing than I do, like Daniel Day-Lewis and the likes. That, to me, is incredible. I’m very director-driven, too. I’d say Paul Thomas Anderson and people like that I’m very taken with.
Did you learn how to surf when you were in Hawaii?
SPEEDMAN: No, I didn’t.
You didn’t? You tried it though?
SPEEDMAN: No. I had a little bit of a problem. I got this house which was way up in the middle of nowhere looking over Oahu. I had this really old, old house. I had this whole, huge almost plantation. It was incredible, and it had a basketball court with which I’m obsessed. So, anytime I was off, I was playing basketball. Also, I have a slight fear of sharks for some reason.
You’re forgiven. You were smart.
SPEEDMAN: I don’t know why, but I’m kind of a baby.
But sharks are scary.
SPEEDMAN: They are. There are more and more shark attacks.
They’re coming in closer and closer to land. Basketball is much safer.
SPEEDMAN: Yeah. Basketball is safer.
So, who did you play basketball with? Anyone in the movie?
SPEEDMAN: No. I was just by myself. I train. I got my headphones on and I shoot for an hour. It was kind of like my meditation.
Has your approach to acting over the years changed or has it remained constant?
SPEEDMAN: It’s been pretty constant. I mean, I grew up an athlete training and training and training. So I kind of have that mentality of trying to approach this that way, especially if it demands it. Every movie is different. Sometimes with movies, there are roles you should just leave alone and relax with and keep it light. And there are other ones where you want to work with an acting coach and really delve in there.
SPEEDMAN: I was a swimmer growing up. I was a miler – like long, long distance. So I was in the water for four or five hours a day. That’s not the way you want to spend your teenage years.
The Captive is now playing exclusively on DIRECTV through December 11th and opens theatrically in New York on December 12th and in Los Angeles on December 19th.