Comics, Movies

TR Interview: Kevin Durand on Finally Being the Lead, and What Superhero He’d Like to Play

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Kevin Durand is one of those guys you’ve noticed a lot, usually in movies that aren’t as good as he is like Wild Hogs or X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but he’s starting to become a guy that can no longer be relegated to the back burner. On FX’s The Strain, he steals the show from the ostensible lead character, and in Dark Was the Night, opening today, he finally takes top billing as a small-town sheriff dealing with both familial loss and a possible Wendigo on the loose.

The most surprising thing about talking to him is that, unlike almost all his characters, he’s very soft spoken and has a smooth conversational flow. You expect a halting, taciturn tough guy, and instead this totally mellow-sounding, sweet dude is on the other end of the phone. Now – just wait till you hear what comic-book character he wants to play most.

Luke Y. Thompson: Hey, Kevin, how are you?

Kevin Durand: I’m good! How are you doing?

LYT: I’m doing great. I actually met you a long time ago at the LA Film Fest when it was still in Westwood. It’s so cool now to have you as the lead, with your name above the title.

KD: Oh, wow! That’s so awesome! What were we there for?

LYT: I don’t remember. I just remember that a publicist that was a friend of mine had you as a client and was introducing you to people. I don’t remember the movie. I don’t even think there necessarily was a movie.

KD: That’s so cool. Thank you for saying so. I appreciate that. I’m still kind of – it’s so new to me to get to go out into the world and talk about a film that I get to carry a great part of the narrative for. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s kind of taken 20 years to get to do so, and I’m enjoying every second of it! [chuckles]

LYT: You’ve been one of those guys where all of us have been saying “Hey, look! It’s that guy! He’s awesome!” And now we’re finally – we’ve got your name memorized after all this time.

KD: [laughing]Overnight success over the space of two decades!

LYT: Now with this and The Strain, you’re kind of the designated bad-ass monster hunter. Is that a coincidence, or was that attractive to you in both cases?

KD: Yeah, super attractive to me, because I spent so many years being the monster that was being hunted – and I still enjoy doing that, as well – my last greatest monster was in The Captive, and he was the scariest monster of all. It scared the living crap out of me to play something like that; when something scares me, it kind of excites me. So I’ve been very happy to play both sides of the coin.

LYT: This movie, Dark Was the Night, is also a little bit of a Trojan horse, because it’s sort of promoted like a monster movie, but it’s really all about a guy dealing with loss, in a way.

KD: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s what appealed to me the most about this script was here’s this broken man that has every possible kind of skill and weaponry inside of him to be the guy that protects those around him, which is why he’s the sheriff of the town. But his son dying while he was in his care, eight months previous to the start of the film, has really kind of beaten him up so bad that he’s not really sure if he can tie his shoelaces properly, let alone protect an entire town from an unseen, evil force in the woods.

LYT: Do you feel like – I almost felt like at the beginning, he was kind of summoning the monster. Like the monster represented his loss. I felt through a lot of the movie maybe he was unconsciously summoning the monster, because it represented his own pain. But then at the end when he deals with it – not to spoil too much, and he gains the strength, I think everyone would assume that would happen – the ending kind of takes a different turn.

KD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, to me, the film is just about a human being confronting his own demon, whether or not he can do so, whether or not he succeeds or not is kind of irrelevant. It’s just the act of trying to, which we all do that on a daily basis, right?

LYT: Yeah.

KD: That was one of the things that really drew me to the project. I love monster movies, but this one, to me, seemed very textured, and I was really kind of excited to get to play that human being that needs to confront these demons. And so the movie is kind of a family drama disguised as a horror film, in a way. So when the shit starts to hit the film, at that point in time, I hope – at least, I feel when I watch it, I really like these characters and I really want to get behind them, and I want them to make it. I think Jack Keller really succeeded in building the suspense the way that he did, and telling the story the way that he did.

LYT: How was he to work with overall? I noticed that this is only his second feature as director, but he’s produced a ton of stuff.

KD: Jack is so confident, and so well-prepared, and humble, and approachable. He worked in a way that really, really jived with the way that I work, and every once in a while, he would come up to me, and instead of saying “Hey, Kevin – be sadder in this scene,” he would come up to me and go “You are such a fucking asshole, I can’t believe that you let your son die like that. You are such a piece of shit. I just wanted you to know that.” And then he’d walk away! [laughs]

I would almost be on the verge of tears, going “Goddammit, I am such a fucking asshole. Is it my fault? I guess – it really is my fault. Everyone thinks it’s my fault. How the hell am I going to protect this town?” He would say stuff that would stimulate and trigger a chain of emotions that would kind of inform me how to play the scene. It was a really cool, organic way to go about it.

LYT: That is so cool when that works. I’ve seen situations where directors have misjudged that, and it doesn’t work with an actress, for example.

KD: Yeah, well, I think there’s got to be kind of an understanding and a connection between the actor and the director. He and I, from our first meeting – which we had a Skype meeting, and we just talked about Paul – about Sheriff Paul Shields. It was such an engaging and kind of emotionally rich conversation. We were exactly on par with each other. I think we both left that conversation going “Wow, this is going to be much fun! When do we start? Let’s do this!” And it continues to be that way, my relationship with him. I mean, Jack and I are like – ever since we left that set, we’re like “What should we do next?” We want to work together. So it’s exciting to me, that kind of connection with a director.

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LYT: So before I let you go, I want to ask you – I just came back from Comic-Con, and I have to ask: Have there been any talks about you playing The Blob again, and if not, any talks about maybe being a different superhero, because obviously you have the physical presence for it?

KD: Umm – I have not heard anything about The Blob coming back. When we were shooting Wolverine, Hugh Jackman was always joking about that, because we had so much fun playing it, and he thought that my take on playing Fred Dukes was really entertaining and fun. He was like, “Man, you’re going to end up with your own spin-off!” I was like, “Really?” I would have really loved that, because it was really fun to play him. But I haven’t heard anything about that.

In terms of playing any kind of future superheroes or mutants of some sort, nothing has come up that has felt super exciting or compelling yet. I’m constantly reading different graphic novels and stuff. I really like this Savage Dragon character that I’ve been reading lately, but I don’t know if anyone’s going to make a movie any time soon, but I really hope that I get to do something like that sometime soon.

LYT: Oh, man! You as the Savage Dragon would be amazing!

KD: Wouldn’t that be awesome? That would be so cool? I mean, he doesn’t live in the DC or Marvel world, but maybe that’s even cooler, to be kind of underground. Yeah, I mean, I am so hoping to, and excited about possibilities, and hopefully I get to do that sooner than later.

LYT: Well, we’ll throw it out into the ether and see if the fan response does anything to it. Thanks so much, Kevin. I really appreciate it.

KD: Thank you. I had a lot of fun. We’ll chat again sometime. This was a good time.

About Author

Luke Y. Thompson has been writing professionally about movies and pop-culture since 1999, and has also been an actor in some extremely cheap culty and horror movies you will probably never hear much about (he is nonetheless mostly proud of them, as he met his wife on one). As editor of The Robot's Voice since 2012, he can take the blame for the majority of the site's content, all of which he creates because he loves you very, very much. (Although he loves nachos more. Sorry.) Prior to TRV, Luke wrote for publications that include the New Times LA, Los Angeles CityBeat, E! Online, OC Weekly, Geekweek, GeekChicDaily, The L.A. Times, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Nerdist