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Interview: Kellan Lutz Talks Playing a Gangster in 'Speed Kills'

16 Nov, 2018    added by : Erica Corbin
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English

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screenpicks

Adapted from Arthur Harris’s book of the same name, Speed Kills is a look at the surreal life of millionaire cigarette boat king turned drug mule, Ben Aronoff, whose life was cut short by a hired hitman. It is not so much a cautionary tale as it is a Wolf of Wallstreet-like romp complete with champagne montages, fast boats, and beautiful women. Everything is larger than life. Travolta plays the lead and is joined by an all-star supporting cast: Jennifer Esposito, Kellan Lutz, James Remar, Tom Sizemore and Matthew Modine.

ScreenPicks spoke with Lutz, who portrays mobster Robbie Reemer, who may or may not be the one who ultimately pulled the trigger, ending Aronoff’s life.

ScreenPicks: What did you think after seeing the finished film?

Lutz: I like it! I think we really conveyed the story Speed Kills from Arthur, who wrote the book. The story … I had no idea who Ben Aronoff was and the story of the cigarette boats and the mob, and just watching the movie, it’s very educational. And I think anyone who wants to watch it, it’s one of John Travolta’s all-star roles. He just brings it every single time. And it was such a true honor working with him. It was great.

ScreenPicks: What drew you to the project?

Lutz: It was a number of things. So John [Luessenhop], our director, he is a really cool guy and when we were talking in the beginning stages, he told me about the story. I quickly educated myself, just … researching the story of Ben Aronoff, and I was like, “Wow, what a fascinating man.” He created the cigarette boat, he was a racer, he won, and there’s also this drug story in there, how he got entangled with them and they ultimately killed him. But they don’t know who for sure who it was. Was it my character or this hired hitman. So, just the story was really captivating for me. And then also working with John Travolta. I’ve just been a huge fan of his. He’s a brilliant actor, and being able to share scenes with him was definitely a bucket list check.

Also, shooting in Puerto Rico. I love that country and the people there. My character was really an interesting antagonist. He’s a multi-layered character that I was really going to have a lot of fun playing and he’s a historical figure — he’s a real-life person. You could do the research and try to emulate him. So, there was a lot of incentive to do this movie.

ScreenPicks: And how did you emulate your character exactly?

Lutz: That’s all research. There’s the book by Arthur, and then if you type in ‘Robbie Reemer,’ you can read some testimonies of some people who talk about him and some stories where people think he was the killer. And there are a few photos there even from the racing days. I could emulate that …. in the mustache and the sideburns and the hair. I had some freedom to create the character as well, and that’s really cool. But, it’s nice when you play characters that are real-life people because you can do the research and have something empirical there to help you make the character.

ScreenPicks: Your character spends a lot of time on the water. How much were you actually on a boat out there and how much is Hollywood magic?

Lutz: Yeah, there is a lot of me on the boat. I definitely had some training with cigarette boats and speedboats prior to doing the movie, so it’s really fun getting back on the water and playing around with those. They are impressive, horse-powered machines. They can get dangerous really fast at the speeds that they can go. But, there was a lot of CGI too. So for all of the racing scenes, we had the boat just tethered on the dock, and we had some people rocking the boat and we had green screen, and it would just mimic the storm and the race. But, the scenes where I am doing all the drug dealing with my boys, that’s all me on the open waters of Puerto Rico!

ScreenPicks: And there is a virtual reality (VR) component to the film as well, right?

Lutz: Yes, that was really cool. There are some VR scenes in there. We had this really cool company come down there, and the guys were so intelligent. They wanted to integrate those so the audience could have an in-person POV and be there right in the scenes. I had never done anything like that. So, after we were done shooting a scene a couple of times, the VR people would have a take, and they would put in their cameras and do the scene one more time.

I’m really excited to see how that looks. The whole movie isn’t VR, only six to 10 scenes are, but it’s a cool component added for someone to watch.

ScreenPicks: And how will the viewer access that feature?

Lutz: Most likely bonus features [on the DVD].

ScreenPicks: What was your favorite scene to perform?

Lutz: Every scene I had with John Travolta! There’s this one at the end with me, my lawyer, and my business guy, and we’re sitting at the table and John comes in. We just did a lot of improv and that was really fun. Just improv-ing with John and creating that scene, we got some really intense moments in there.

ScreenPicks: And your favorite film as just a moviegoer?

Lutz: I really like the beginning and the end. The first and the last 90 seconds. Because I’m still curious who actually killed Ben Aronoff. It has a good little flashback in the beginning and you can see the hitman’s view, and then It’s intriguing to watch the whole film and get your own guess.

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