“A hero is only as great as his villain,” says Scott Waugh, director of DreamWorks Pictures' gear-grinding thriller “Need for Speed.” “We searched really hard for our bad guy and found Dominic Cooper. He’s an incredible actor and ideal in this role.”
Previously seen in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Dominic Cooper stars in “Need for Speed” as Dino, character who is extremely competitive and does something extraordinarily detestable to the film's hero, Tobey (Aaron Paul) in order to benefit himself. He comes from a very privileged background and was a Formula One driver. He's obsessed with money and success.
Acknowledging that he’s been infatuated with cars since he was a young boy, Cooper says that while other kids his age were outside riding their bikes, he was in his room polishing models of Ferraris. “It was very bleak,” the actor laughs. “It may have had something to do with Magnum’s (television’s “Magnum, P.I.”) 308 GTS ’80s Ferrari. That was a beautiful car. With this role as Dino, I’ve traveled a long way from models of super cars to actually driving super cars.”
Based on the eponymous video game series, “Need for Speed” is a visceral and evocative return to the great car-culture movies of the 1960s and ‘70s. The film captures the excitement of the game in a real-world setting while bringing a level of intensity and authenticity to the action on-screen.
Dominic Cooper talks about “Need for Speed” in the following interview.
Q: Talk about the cars you've been driving in this movie.
Dominic Cooper: Well, my character Dino gets to drive a few nice ones. I've had a couple of Lamborghinis, the Maserati, and a Koenigsegg Agera R that goes to 270 miles per hour. She's a Swedish car. It's beautiful.
Q: What kind of training that you went through to prep for this role.
Cooper: We went to Willow Springs, which is this incredible racetrack just outside Los Angeles. We arrived on this incredible circuit and then we got in one of the cars with a race driver and a stunt driver, and I learned a lot of techniques so that I would have the ability to control the car safely and stop in front of the camera at an exact moment.
Q: Is there a correlation between what you have to go through driving and acting?
Cooper: For both, you have to be very focused. Although it's a very different part of your brain that's being accessed. It’s like when I do go-karting. You can’t think of anything else, which is why I think people love sports and because we love getting lost in that space where actually we cannot think about other things that fill our heads. And it's exhilarating to be that focused for that long.
Q: Talk about your character Dino, who he is and how does he fit into this story?
Cooper: Dino is a character who I'm having quite a little bit of trouble finding any redeeming qualities about. Really, because every step of the way he does something extraordinarily selfish to benefit himself and you find out as the film goes on, sort of more of the complexities behind what he does and why he does it. As an actor, even if you are playing the villain, you still have to sort of try your hardest to create some sort of backstory that allows you to understand or sympathize with him in some way. So Dino is a troubled soul who is extraordinarily competitive.
He's been in Formula One racing, but didn't succeed. He has been given every opportunity in life. He comes from a very privileged background as opposed to Tobey, Aaron Paul's character, who is just very specialized and professional in what he does and is just instinctively a good driver, which is something that Dino probably has always been envious of. And then things slowly sort of unravel and go wrong for Dino. He becomes very desperate because, like so many people he's obsessed with money and success, and the idea of losing that and not being able to prove himself to his peers and to his parents slowly sends him into this kind of madness that is quite detestable, really. I hope there's room for maybe a tiny bit of feeling toward him. There's a sadness about him, but ultimately, he's really horrible.
Q: Did director Scott Waugh talk about who the character is and what direction he wanted you to go in?
A: A wonderful thing about Scott is he knows exactly who these guys are and who this person is. And he's known these guys in that world of racing and drivers. So I trust in him. I trust in him that it doesn't become a caricature and that these guys with wealth and power and this desperation and need really do exist in real life.
Q: The filmmakers are not using a green screen to add special effects in postproduction. As an actor, how does that change your psyche and how you prep for the role?
Cooper: Yeah, if we were doing these shots in front of a green screen and talking about a certain car that isn’t there or looking at a huge crash that didn't take place, and if we weren't in the situation of driving a car at a hundred-and-something miles per hour within a race, we're still fully focused on what we have to do. But it would be pretend and you'll never get that true sensation. I mean, I'm terrified a lot of the time so I'm experiencing all those emotions, which is wonderful. And any actor will say how much they prefer being on a real set than they do in front of a big green canvas.
Q: When you were a kid, did you know the “Need for Speed”videogames?
Cooper: I was blown away by the games. I grew up, as a kid, not only polishing toy metal Ferraris, but I remember being obsessed when they came up with a game where you could really race cars virtually. I was mesmerized by it. I was never allowed to own one of the consoles 'cause I think otherwise I would have just locked myself in a room for the rest of my life and sat in front of a car game. But when I got to go to friends' houses I was astonished by how quickly they're advancing and what they're like now is just astounding. They're really good fun.
Opening across the Philippines on March 12, “Need for Speed” is distributed in the Philippines by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International.