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Dominic Cooper Interview: Talking ‘Dead Man Down,’ ‘Captain America 2′ and ‘Need for Speed’

Dominic Cooper Interview
Film District

We almost didn’t get a chance to speak with Dominic Cooper because he’s been so busy with upcoming projects. The last time we saw this guy was in the 2012 bomb ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ which he’s following up with the Colin Farrell- and Noomi Rapace-led ‘Dead Man Down,’ the American directorial debut of the original ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ helmer Niels Arden Oplev.

While Cooper was overseas in Budapest filming the TV miniseries ‘Fleming,’ based on the life of 007 creator Ian Fleming, we got a chance to speak with him briefly about his experience making ‘Dead Man Down,’ his upcoming role in the ‘Need for Speed‘ movie, and whether or not he’d be back for ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘ or another Marvel movie.

I found this casting, for your character, a bit unexpected. I’ve seen you a lot in a bunch of indie films, as a stage actor, you were in ‘My Week With Marilyn,’ and this role seemed a bit out of the ordinary. Was that the reason why you gravitated towards it?

Yeah, I suppose I always wonder what the reasons are. After a year, as well, and after doing the film you do forget. They’re such kind of chunky big decisions. I think [‘Dead Man Down’] was like three or four months of a year in Philadelphia, so you have to be sure about the script. I think the mix of everything, for me, in terms of the writing, in terms of the story, the contents of the story, in terms of meeting the director — who I just really enjoyed his company and his vision and how he saw these characters. And it seemed it was absolutely essential to him that these guys were real and did come from a heartfelt place. You immediately know when you meet a director, as well, you kind of just go, Do I trust this person for this to be in the hands of this person? Because it’s such a huge ask. I mean directors I think sit down on set everyday [and are] answering to everything, and [Oplev’s] having to make all these incredibly huge decisions very spontaneously. Ultimately they’re [directors] are artists and creative people and they’re sort of chaotic, and I just really believed in him and what he wanted to do with it. And then Noomi and Colin were doing it and Terrance. I thought this could be really special.

Of course you never know and you question it the whole time and you go, What am I doing? Am I doing the right thing? Am I making the right decisions in this? Am I even right for it? You go through all these moments, but you just have to feel it out, and you have to have complete faith trust in this person and the people who are around you and supporting you… and I got all those things. And yet it wasn’t easy, it was hard, it [the character] was a different kind of person. I didn’t grow up around guys in New York who are involved in crime. I know more about those guys in London. I know that those guys exist. I know that he had a very heartfelt journey, a soulful journey. He was lost and he wasn’t this person he was portraying himself as, but everything stemmed from this damage, this desperation to sort of appease and make everything ok again with the girl that he loves. Yeah, those were kind of the decisions, but ultimately you go on instinct, your gut instinct, and whether you think you’d enjoy portraying this person.

One of the executive producers had said your role was particularly challenging, and I was wondering if you had run into any challenges. What sort of obstacles did you have to overcome in portraying this character? Whether physically or…

I think it was a mix. For me, I was really trying to find the belief in him, the truth in him, and the fact that you needed to believe he was in a gang and that anyone would want him to be a part of that gang. So he had to be threatening and he had to be dangerous to a certain degree… He was a strange mix of things. He also had to be quite raw and hurt in the beginning, and you wanted him to have a brotherly relationship with this guy [Colin Farrell’s Victor], and you wanted to be able to tell he really trusted this guy, and then you wanted him to feel like he was massively let down by the end. He was kind of sad for me. I think it was the combination of making him dangerous and fragile, actually. There’s a part of him that is being hurt and smashed. And he doesn’t have a clue because he’s a smashed person anyway. He comes from a place that probably lacked any proper love or care, as all the characters are really quite damaged. I think it was that mix that I was intrigued by and came up against and was desperate to get right.

This film is Oplev’s American directorial debut and he apparently read through something like 250 scripts before he settled on this one. So considering that investment he had, what was your experience like working with him? And what was the relationship between actor and director like for you?

I think it’s such an interesting relationship. You can tell immediately — you tell from the first five minutes of meeting with a director. He had such a mix. His dynamic, his intelligence and his wit as a human made you immediately have belief in his taste and in his work. And that’s extraordinarily important because you’re putting your work in the hands of an artist. You’re exposing yourself, you’re going to give your heart to this [character] and portray this person, and it’s gotta be dealt with and manipulated and molded by someone who you need to have faith and belief in — and he was absolutely all those things. And his speed in which he worked, and the way in which he deals with people and deals with situations and problems, I thought he was exceptional. And you really can tell. You meet someone and you go, Ok, I see what you want to do, but do I believe that you can do it? Because, you know, it’s a big chunk of time, it’s a big decision to make, and he handled everything with skill and grace and a real vision. He’s a really special bloke, actually. He’s a great guy.

Let me ask you really quickly about some of the things you have coming up — I remember seeing you in ‘Captain America,’ and I was wondering if you had any plans on coming back for maybe ‘The Winter Soldier’ for a flashback scene or anything like that.

Yeah, I’m hoping something like that does happen… It’s so exciting to work with those guys at Marvel and their passion for their little baby. They have so much excitement and passion for them and all the characters. You never feel like you’re not a big part of it. And I think that they’d be really excited to have Howard Stark come back, it’s just a matter of whether I can…um… I think it could be something great. Of course, he’s set in a different era but there may be a way. Yeah, it’s a possibility.

What about ‘Need for Speed’? I was really excited to hear that this movie was being made. Can you describe your character in that a little bit?

I’m so excited about that project, because, again, it’s about meeting a director and going, Yes, this person has the right vision for this and they know what they’re doing. He [director Scott Waugh] knows how to handle this more than anyone. He’s raced cars and stunt driven, and he wants to make a film that is reminiscent of those classic ’70s, proper car-racing films – not the kinds that are just sort of a flashy car advertisement. He wants to make a really beautiful, stunning film with these incredible machines in it and with an in-depth, proper character-driven story.

Again, I’m playing some sort of horrible… [Laughs] A guy who is trapped in a position and forced into doing something absolutely terrible. So I need to sort of get that balance again of finding a guy who’s quite detestable actually on the page, and then I need to sort of work out how we as an audience will be able to sort of identify and have some sort of sympathy for him. I think for me that’s what will be essential about him. I’m really excited about it, and I love cars as well.

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