Interview Date: 03/11/2010
Run Date: 01/18/2011
We first spoke with Luke Goss when he was promoting "Hellboy II: The Golden Army." This time around, Goss is again promoting a sequel -- okay, it's technically a prequel -- as convicted cop killer Carl "Luke" Lucas in "Death Race 2." We participated in a roundtable chat with Goss while on the set in Cape Town, South Africa last year, where the actor discussed how much fun it was driving around the cars from the movie, his own driving history, whether it's tough to play a convict and what his movie says about the future of for-profit prisons.
Bullz-Eye: So how did you get involved in this?
Luke Goss: I actually just got offered the role. We got a call from Universal to tell me about it and they said it was a no brainer, supposedly. I thought, okay, I want it to be good so before I started reading, it I was just kind of one of those…. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the screenplay, but it’s by far…I don’t know what to say that it doesn’t have anything to do with my involvement, but it really is. I said to Universal when we were in L.A., “Guys, this is by far a better movie (than the 2008 movie).” It’s like all the juice of the potential that this story I guess has had for a while. Some people say why make another one or do this or whatever? The truth is the actual story of how Frankenstein comes about is definitely cool. You know this guy, he’s not a thug, he’s not a murderer or anything like that but he has an ethic of do things quick, do things fast, do things right and no one gets hurt. So that guy ends up on this Terminal Island because someone else fucks up, basically. And the ramifications of that, unlike the first movie, we see before prison. We see the situation of him, you know we have a great kind of civility, we have just a very serene start to the movie with Sean Bean and me, and then it kind of evolves. And, you know, some casting choices like Ving (Rhames) for Wayland. When you read Wayland, he doesn’t read that way. And there have been choices that have been made through the screenplay that I think are like twists and turns. And it’s really dependent on everybody, it’s not like I play an island in this film. I’m very much dependent upon the braiding of things. And then, you know, I have opportunities…. If I’ve played bad guys before, for example…I believe in vulnerability of man, any way if you want a victory at all in film. You can only acquire a victory with vulnerability or something or some other…. There has to be an A and a B. I played him when he’s burned and fucked up, but hopefully people really start to enjoy this character. You get to a point where you see inside the hero guy, that you hopefully like at that point, you know disfigured and in pain, and scared and crying. Because I wanted to pay an homage to Mary Shelley to be honest with you.
Reporter: Oh really?
LG: So we did that. There’s a little moment with a mirror.
Reporter: Because you had played Frankenstein (in the 2004 TV miniseries, “Frankenstein”), so I didn’t know if there was any kind of connection between…coincidence or, you know?
LG: No, I said, “Let’s not be afraid of paying an homage to that, whether it be the original movie or whether it be ‘Bullet’ or whatever.”
Reporter: Did you watch the one with Jason Statham?
LG: I have seen the one with Jason, yeah.
Reporter: Did you sort of think about…like when you did that, did you think about like consciously, how am I going to differentiate myself from him or do you think…?
LG: No, because he’s not Frankenstein. He’s a totally different character.
Reporter: But like as the lead role, do you know what I’m saying?
LG: Not really. I think it’s driven by story and choices of the two characters. What I didn’t want to do was…I’ve got some people that don’t mind what I do and I just felt responsibility to really…I remember an English journalist once asked me, “Do you think you took the role of Nomak (in “Blade 2”) too seriously?” I guess you’d have to ask the few million people that dug it, actually. The thing about this, it’s a lot to work with. I wanted to do my own stunts for fights, I wanted to do my own driving, I want the camera so that way you can actually see…so that people can invest. I have a director that likes to do one take for fights, with one in the bank, 30 plus moves, one take, 38 times. I’ve got a big one today and it’s just…dramatically there are arcs with…you know, I could be playing it stoic all the time but this guy actually has tears in this one, I mean really. When he’s being picked and prodded and he’s disfigured and he sees his hands, he hasn’t seen himself and he’s shaking and he’s fucking terrified. And I just want to really say to everybody who has given me that much support in what I’ve done, I don’t consider staging. I watch the movie and the question I may ask is, how can we maybe humbly -- and I mean it in a humble way, but being a huge fan of film -- how can we make it better? How do we give the audience more? Because I think it’s good to always try to achieve that.
BE: You mentioned that you did a lot of driving. Yesterday we were told that you’re actually a very good driver. What’s it like driving those cars from the movie around? They look like small tanks. They can’t be very easy to drive.
LG: Well, the “Death Race” car, actually the race car, is kickass. I mean, it’s my favorite sound because it’s like a character. You know, I said to the guys, “You should record it, try and put it within the sound design of the score or something like that,” because it’s a character in this film. It sounds amazing. I think it’s a ’67 Mustang. It’s a pig. It’s hard because it’s an automatic car. But the Shelby (Mustang)…like the car I drive back home is a Carrera 4S, it has like 360 brake horsepower; the Shelby is 650. I mean, it’s absurdly powerful. They took off the ABS, they took off the traction controls, all of the stability controls. So it is literally just a beast. Really great to drive but Universal, thinking nearly half a million dollars worth of shiny yellow car…“Please Mr. Goss, don’t fuck it up!” So I’m on the freeway, we shut down the main freeway here in Cape Town, I’ve got a camera here, a camera on the right and a camera there, nearly half a million dollars worth of vehicle and I’m bobbing and weaving through cars. And people are like, “Well done,” and you just see these beads of sweat coming down. Yeah, I like fucking with everybody.
BE: It’s got to be a rush.
LG: It is. It is. I never really get to the point where I have anything to prove about it but it is nice…it’s just nice for any of us, say you do a story and people are digging it. You get that thing, it’s a good feeling. For me, the “Death Race” one is the hardest to drive, without a doubt. Because there is no vision on the right side of the windshield and no vision here. So it’s like a tunnel vision and it’s a beast. And it’s metal, so it’s not like this squishy little thing, it’s like a very dangerous piece of metal that you can’t really see out of.
Reporter: You could get killed very easily, right?
LG: I am supposed to have a co-driver, who’s an actor that I have to keep safe too.
Reporter: So you mentioned the car that you drive, what was that one you said?
LG: Carrera 4S. It’s a Porsche.
Reporter: It sounds like you’re a car nut, gear head, whatever you call it.
LG: I love cars. Yeah. I don’t know, I think in an actor’s world…I ride horses, I sword fight, kung-fu, drive cars, fly a plane, scuba dive, whatever. You’ve got to keep learning. I think if you can do it then do it. It’s a great business for that, purely forget the thespian aspect and all of that other stuff. It’s just fucking wonderfully immature. It’s like, “Ooh, gadgets!”
Reporter: How’s your real world driving record? Any accidents? Any tickets?
LG: Oh tickets, of course. The great thing about being an actor is you can say to your managers, when I was in England, could you possibly put some points on your license? They were like “yes.” I’m snickering like Beavis and Butthead.
Reporter: You’re accident free though?
LG: I’ve been in accidents. Actually, when I was doing “Hellboy,” I was in a massive smash. I was being driven from flight training with my girl, my wife, to have some lunch and this woman just went *BASH*. I got in the hospital at 1:00, I didn’t get out until 3:00 AM. I compressed seven vertebrae, full concussion. That was fun.
Reporter: Didn’t hear about that. They didn’t make that one public.
LG: They did, they kept it quiet. But I was in a big accident and my wife teared up so much in between fighting everyday for six hours. I think it was only because I was in crazy shape for “Hellboy” that I got away with it.
Reporter: I can see you’re actually fat now so…
BE: Yeah, crazy shape. (Laughs) What’s this method then?
LG: You know, the thing with the body thing is…okay, I’m doing a few projects in a row, so you kind of have to pick a shape that will work for all of them. And also, with this character, physically, I wanted to make sure that he was just a guy. You know what I mean? And then he goes to prison and he’s a capable man, he’s not a thug. I always ask myself the question when you see guys that are stupidly shredded, in a day to day environment, where do they get the fucking time to get like that?
LG: Steroids or liposuction, right?
Reporter: One of the things that we were talking about yesterday is the fact that the scope of this movie, given that this is going straight to DVD, seems way bigger and on a much bigger scale, and obviously with bigger stars than a lot of the movies that traditionally go straight to DVD. Are you concerned about any sort of lingering stigma?
LG: To be honest with you, I wish it was guaranteed theatrical. We’ve got all of the cars from the last movie, you’ve got all of the CDs from the other movie that’s been established that we can use, which Roel (director Roel Reiné) doesn’t want to use so much but we’ve got, it’s all been rendered already. We’ve got stock footage that’s never been in the first movie, which we have days of production which is attached to the production value of this. So all of that with the production that we have, you’re actually right. It feels like a 25, 35, 45 million dollar movie because what we’ve got at our disposal. So for me, I think if we make a bloody good movie, I’m the kind of actor that with anyone, especially in this climate and with this economic situation everybody’s in, my thing is I want to make a fucking good movie. It would be really nice to get a theatrical, but the risks of theatrical now are so much higher. Be it journalists, the public, actors, anyone; everyone is kind of having to learn that the industry now is not just…theatrical is not as easy to acquire because the risks are huge. But I think truthfully, I really do believe we’ve got a really, really fucking good movie here. I really do. I think with the way Roel is shooting it and how hard everybody’s committed, with Sean and Ving and Danny and myself. You know, we’re a bunch of lads. The screenplay is strong enough, I think, for people to want to be in the film. I read it and I was actually blown away. I said to Universal, like I said, it’s a much better movie. So stigma, not really. I know what is a stigma -- sitting on a couch, watching other people make films. That’s a stigma. So if I had a choice to sit on a couch or make a really fucking cool movie that doesn’t get theatrical, but Universal Studios is making, then I’ll sign on that line straight away.
BE: What’s it like playing a convict? Did you have to do any special research to kind of get in the right mindset or anything like that?
LG: Not really. I’ve done a few films were I’ve done scenes in prison. I’ve also got Danny here. He’s a tough man and knows all of that stuff. But the truth is there’s something nice about not knowing. My character has always got away with it. He’s never been put inside. And he finds himself in an environment that’s not even really like a correctional facility. There’s a line in the screenplay that says that. This is a fucking business and it’s in cahoots with the government. It makes money and it is quite a commodity. If you can’t drive or fight, then you’re pretty much left to be somebody’s bitch in this place.
Reporter: That’s the tag line for the movie, right?
LG: The funny thing about that is you walk in and he’s kind of like taking it in. He’s in a very vulnerable situation. Research is good when it’s needed. Like for example, when I’m playing a character that doesn’t interact with people, the first couple of weeks I always keep my shit away from everyone because I think you then have to undue all of that lovely friendship and fucking butterflies. I’m like, fuck that, we need to create a vibe, get it rolling and then we can work it out. The prison thing with this is…it’s almost not about that. It’s about, obviously, all of the dynamics of the characters, especially September and her greed. She’s revolting. I did this line in the screenplay where I look at her and said “I pity you.”
Reporter: You were talking a lot about the issues that the movie brings up, in terms of prison system, government, corruption. Can you talk about the social commentary that the movie brings up as well?
LG: You know what it is? It kind of raises the question about…there’s a line that says, “This place ain’t about fucking rehabilitation. It’s about profit.” You know, we have the French way, or social awareness, or political correctness and all of this other bullocks. I think really we should be calling each other. I have compassion really (tattooed) on my arm for that particular reason. That particular word I think injected with anybody would fix a lot of stuff. But I think this film is cool because you realize that there are places out there where stuff goes on. I love the fact that the whole premise of this facility is to make money and it becomes privatized, so that it’s managed by money or managed by business. When you combine that with the human element, something is bound to go horribly wrong.
Reporter: I mean, that’s a growing movement actually in the states, for profit prisons.
LG: That’s what I’m saying, that at that point, when money is involved in the human spirit, in any way, shape or form, I would presumptuously say it’s fucking wrong. It’s got to be governed. It’s got to be governed by a body of people, individual mindsets. As soon as the bottom line becomes involved -- and this is what this story is about, you know -- you’re fucked in this place if you can’t fight and you can’t drive. You’re screwed. And whatever version of that may translate to the real world. It’s absolutely right, I mean it’s the deal.
Reporter: So hypothetically, let’s say you personally were thrown in Terminal Island. How do you think you would survive? First of all, would you survive?
LG: Who knows, really? I’m a fairly capable boy but, God forbid, I think you’ve got to find one of the toughest people you can and try and beat the crap out of them. That’s the way it was when I was at school. At least then, you actually probably fight less than anyone else.
Reporter: Did you fight a lot in school?
LG: My parents moved a lot, like seven times, so….
BE: So you kept looking for the biggest kid on the playground.
LG: What you learn real quick when you move a lot, and any kid will get this, fighting at school…you don’t have to be the hard guy, you just have to have the courage to punch somebody in the nose. And it’s over anyway.
Reporter: So wait, did you initiate or did people initiate on you?
LG: No, I initiated.
Reporter: You initiated. So you were the bully.
LG: No, I wasn’t the bully. Some guy was probably bullying.
Reporter: Oh okay, so you were standing up for the little guy.
LG: I can’t say that. To be honest with you, my whole life I’m a very conscious person. I’m a big softie. Whether it be pain, whether it be hardship, whether it be somebody really trying, you know, I definitely feel it. I’m a big softie. I love people to do well. I love people to feel great about themselves. I don’t believe that anything makes anyone cooler, or tougher or harder. I mean, I always say to people all of the time, if being mean to someone became the hippest thing in the world, I would want a badge saying I’m like the fucking super nerd.I would want a badge, I would want a tattoo saying I’m the biggest geek on the planet. Fuck that day.
Reporter: Method acting not exactly a part of this movie. You’re not walking around on set going….
LG: I’d surprise you. Once I start on the set, once I get in character and the costume’s on, I’m always polite to people because that’s just something as an actor you can’t relinquish. You’ve got to treat people well. But I do like my own space. I do like to focus on what I’m doing. I take what I do really seriously. So it’s not like fluffy guy, that’s for sure.
BE: So is it tough in that sense, everything you just said, doing a movie like this with a lot of violence and a lot of gore and things like that?
LG: You know, this story actually is about survival, really, for my character. He doesn’t really pick on anybody. He’s not picking on anybody, he’s just trying to keep his shit together. One time he saves one guy and he says, “I thought he might back off after I saved his fucking life.” And then Danny says, “Hey homes, you’ve got the Bloods and this and he wants you. That’s it. He ain’t gonna rest until one of you are dead.” So I draw a bullet and I say, “Gotta keep spreading the sunshine.” It’s this great little scene where we talk. Someone says something kind of thought provoking and we’re like, fuck that, let’s shoot some hoops. Then we talk a bit more and then somebody else brings something up. It’s like, all we’re doing is trying to keep diverting the truth. It’s kind of a cool little scene because really we’re just trying to get through the day. We’re trying to avoid any truth.
Reporter: I guess you guys are like three weeks into the shoot? Two or three weeks?
LG: No, I’ve been here nearly six weeks.
Reporter: Oh, cool. Have you run into any sort of unexpected, maybe not so much problems, but like surprises on the set? Like things you didn’t expect? Or has it pretty much run kind of what you expected?
LG: It’s more hectic than I thought it would be. Just because Roel is one…I have to be honest with you, he and (Benicio) del Toro are really, really similar in their ways. I think (Roel’s) potential is just absurd. I think he could be and hopefully will be a really, really prominent director. He’s really gifted. He doesn’t get lazy about any shot. It’s movement, fluidity. We did this shot, this really good steady camera shot the other day, which was probably a minute and a half, two minute shot, walking through a number of environments and it was good, but he said “it’s just too civilized. It’s too clean. Give me handheld.” And he operates on every shot, camera A. So we’ve got camera A through D or camera A through E running, but he says, “Give me handheld.” We did the shot handheld. It’s technically the same shot, a couple of different moves as far as our collaboration, but it’s handheld. It just gives it some kind of tension. I walked into this room and saw the playback and you couldn’t help but think I wouldn’t want to be in this place. It just feels edgy with that little bit of movement.
Reporter: Is that pretty much how they’re similar? Does del Toro….
LG: Totally different in that sense.
Reporter: Well you said they were similar…in what respects?
LG: They’re both very passionate about film. They’re both very, very creative. They’re both literally, unbelievably driven by wanting to get it how they want it. And from the second the day starts, and before, until it finishes and after, they just are powerhouses of creativity. Very different styles, but there’s a similar energy from them. And I really get on with Roel and I adore del Toro. They’re really very cool.
Reporter: Coming from your long past history in music, and then coming into the action films that you have done now, is that a conscious decision? What’s attractive to you about doing those action films?
LG: The next one might be with Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff and myself playing a lead in a dramatic piece. The next one after that is dramatic. Like a movie I did called “Bone Dry,” which I really am proud of just the challenges of that. They’re all kind of dramatic pieces. The action I love because I think if they’re done well…at this stage of your career, you try and get the best you can. Picking the projects that you have and when it gets to a point where you’ve got absolute choice, then this is a different conversation.
Reporter: Is there a different level of acting when you have to be so physical? You mentioned all the sort of prosthetics and everything that’s involved in the different movies that you’ve been in. Is that a different level of acting because you’re…
LG: For me, to be honest with you, I think it’s a case of just…you do see actors give different levels of things based upon the project. I think that’s a fucking crime. I think you have to say if you’re big enough and ugly enough to show up to the fucking set, do your best. And that’s the way I am. This could be a $1 million dollar movie, it could be a $15 million movie, it could be $150 million movie; it doesn’t change anything for me. The only thing you have to fight sometime is the ethic on set. The good thing about being the lead is you can at least try and encourage a seriousness about what you’re doing. You and the director do kind of set the tone and it’s about, this is how we’re doing it. People step up and it’s cool. Nothing will piss me off more than that. If I’m in character and someone’s having a conversation about a new gadget they bought, and it’s not relative to the story, very clearly, politelyish, I’ll make it clear.
Reporter: Does it ever cause any confusion? Are people, like, scared in the beginning where you like bite back at the catering person?
LG: No, I mean actors. I think it’s a blessing. I feel unbelievably lucky to be making a movie. I really do and it’s not just a sentence. I really do feel lucky. I just think when you’re on set, for at least the time when the cameras are there and you’re doing your thing, let’s really… whether it be a DVD like you said earlier or a theatrical release, who cares? They’re paying money for that and did something for a period of time to afford that.
Reporter: Are there action movie heroes that you might have had growing up or before you that got to the place you are now?
LG: Yeah, for a long time I was a massive Steve McQueen fan. And Clint Eastwood to me is like The Man. Clint Eastwood to me is probably my idol and Steve McQueen. The way Steve McQueen walks in the room and he looks around, he take things in. There’s always thinking going on. I think thinking and truth in film is king as an actor. Those boys…man.
Reporter: “Bullet” was like one of the original car scenes.
LG: That’s the thing, and now it’s safety driven. It’s cool keeping it safe but come on man, let’s do something. We could have done it on this.
Reporter: Were there ever times when they wanted to use a stunt person for driving and you said, “No, I’ve got this one?”
LG: I can’t actually do it because I’m in the hands of producers, but I let it be known, really clearly, it would be nice to try to pay some homage to this and to do that. Also try to do as much as we can. And they said let’s see you drive. I drove and then that’s why I’ve ended up doing quite a lot of it.
Reporter: Okay, so most of it in the movie that we see, most of it was you.
LG: You’ll see when it’s me. It’s clear. There’s some stuff that’s just time consuming so I’m not doing all of it. And there’s some stuff I couldn’t pull off, I couldn’t do. It’s beyond my capabilities. So then my double would step in for that. I’m certainly doing everything I can. That’s the point of it, right?BE: Right.