By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Kellan Lutz arrives for an interview nearly hoarse from hours of re-recording his dialogue from his new movie, the action fantasy “The Legend of Hercules.” That explains the hoarseness, but for some reason the North Dakota native is speaking with a distinctively British accent.
No matter. Lutz, of course is the hunky actor who played the mindreading vampire Emmett Cullen in the “Twilight” saga, and what he has to say today about his new movie is more important than how he chooses to say it.
Buffed to the max, the 28-year-old former Calvin Klein model explains that he long has been a fan of the mythological strong man, which is why he jumped at the chance to star in Renny Harlin’s latest take on the oft-told story.
Harlin searched throughout Europe, Australia and the U.S. for just the right actor to play the demigod. Though persistence—and a very convincing audition—Lutz got the famed filmmaker’s attention and landed the part.
Once cast, the actor had to prepare and train for the demanding physicality of the role. He chose to perform most of his own stunts, so prior to the start of filming, he worked with a Bulgarian stunt team and his stunt doubles. Lutz spent three weeks learning to wield a sword, ride horseback and throw a spear and chains for his many battle scenes. He got a little banged up, but the blond, blue-eyed hunk says it was completely worth it.
Q: Are you nearly finished with the re-recording?
Lutz: Yeah. All that stuff is hard on the voice and I’ve been doing that and they’ve been laying it in. You can’t get that, especially on horseback. You’re riding the horse, the rain is coming down, you’re trying to lead your men, the horse is going crazy, you’re trying to remember your lines, you have water in your eyes so it’s been a lot of fun (re-recording) the whole movie. (He laughs.)
Q: What was your training regimen for this?
Lutz: Growing up on a farm, I spent a lot of time outdoors. That meant I was away from my brothers who would try to kill me every day. I still live an active lifestyle, and in preparing for “Hercules,” I had to learn how to ride a horse very quickly so that really works your legs. My legs had never been so big because you’re squeezing into the saddle. Also, your abdominals. I’d rather snowboard or play basketball than be in the gym. But I loved riding horses. They’re beautiful animals. Also, I learned to fight with a sword from Liam McIntyre, who is an amazing actor and an amazing man at heart. He played Spartacus (in the Starz TV series), so he already has two years under his belt wielding double swords. I came to him humbly and said, “Please teach me your ways,” so we would just play fight. He taught me to draw lines on the mirror and practice my moves. When you’re ripping the camera and doing phantom shots, the super-slow motion, you want to make sure your lines are as straight as possible. When you have a real blade, you want a straight shot so it looks like what we’re going for. I’m shirtless most of the time so mostly I worked the arms for the sword. I would just do pushups. I love pushups, by the way, because you see the instant pulp. For me, I just really love doing pushups. I ended up doing about a thousand a day.
Q: What about your diet?
Lutz: I adapted the Paleo diet (which mimics the basics of what cavemen ate), which helped me because I had tons of energy. I was just so in love with the role and being on set that I wasn’t sleeping much. Sundays were like my crash days and I’d just lay there. But I adapted that and it made me even more healthy and able to stay sick-free and push, because I pushed myself quite a bit. I really started shrinking as well and getting really tight, which was quite nice. A ate a lot of proteins but it was really hard deleting the candy from my system because I love candy.
Q: Do you have to keep up that same workout regimen for your next movie, “The Expendables 3?”
With “Expendables,” I was working with all these iconic legends. I’m taller than most of them so I’m like trying to slouch in pictures to honor them and not stand out. Even Sly was like “Stop working out” and I’m like, “Yes sir.” I’m skinny now because of “Expendables.” I didn’t want anyone to get mad at me. All the guys were super cool and just legendary to work with. There were no A-type personalities onboard. Everyone was just there to make a great movie.
Q: What movie had Sly seen you in before he cast you?
Lutz: His girls saw “Twilight,” so they already loved me—I think his girls are Sly’s casting directors. (He laughs.) My good friend Liam Hemsworth was in the second one. Also, Sly watched (the 2011 action fantasy) “Arena,” and told me he really loved what I did in it. I’m very proud of that movie as well.
Q: Did you know much about the mythology of Hercules?
Lutz: Yes, 100 percent. We didn’t have cable and we didn’t watch movies. We worked the land and I read my books and I had my coloring books. One of my most iconic memories is coloring in the Nemean lion (a vicious monster in Greek mythology). I didn’t know who the hero was but I still have that picture of this massive lion on the rock and this hero with his spear. My grandma still has all my colorings. I was very much into art and I still am, but I learned it was Hercules. I learned about the legend. That’s where my fascination with wild cats came from. They’re just so beautiful. So then I just started diving into that fantasy world of mythology. I read “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” before we had to in school. Everyone else is like, “Ehhh,” but I was like, “This is the sweetest test. I already know everything.”
Q: When you wrestle the lion, is the animal computer-generated?
Lutz: That sucked! They spent all this money building this animatronic head. They had one guy in the head moving it around and another guy on a joystick opening the mouth and moving the eyes, and another guy moving a paw and another clawing at me. So I’m wrestling four people on real rocks and they are eating the crap out of my shoulder. Renny is watching the monitor (intently) and I’m over here wrestling this thing that will never die. The blood is rushing to my head and I’m like, “Renny, he’s dead! Cut!”
Q: Did you keep anything? Maybe a prop or a costume?
Lutz: Yeah. I kept my sword. It’s kind of nice being number one on the call sheet, I’ve got to say. I kept the queen’s knife. I kept my amulet that symbolizes my love. I kept part of my fighting gear. One day, when I start a family, I want to have these things showcased.
Q: You played Poseidon (in 2011’s “Immortals”) and now Hercules. Is there another Greek god or demigod you would like to play?
Lutz: I love Ares. I just love the story of the God of War, and I haven’t really played a bad god yet. It would be kind of fun to do that.
Q: Was there a particularly difficult scene for you to do?
Lutz: No, but the funniest part was wearing the skirt. I was very uncomfortable. I’d done modeling and Calvin Klein. But, when you’re wearing the skirt and you’re fighting, my “stuff” came out quite a bit. (He laughs.) At first you are awkward because you are in the moment and you don’t notice it. By the end of the movie, I’m flying and stuff is just out there. Thank God, they had enough footage where “it” wasn’t out.
Q: You’ve guest-starred on “30 Rock.” Do you want to do more comedy?
Lutz: I love comedy. I started doing comedy. I just love Matt Damon’s career where he plays Jason Bourne and also he’s hilarious in the “Oceans” movies. And he does family movies like “We Bought a Zoo.” I really want to emulate his career. I think he’s a stand-up guy who shows vulnerability quite well. I just watched “The Departed,” and he was brilliant in it. Hats off to him. I can’t wait to work with him.
Q: Did you feel like you butted heads with your brothers growing up?
Lutz: I always did; it’s not like I tried to. They would lie to me and steal from me. They would tell me I was adopted.
Q: Were they older than you?
Lutz: There were three older ones. I had twin younger brothers so they got all the attention because they were the cute ones. So I was smack dab in the middle, and my older brothers would just punk me, give me swirlies. They really gave me tough skin. I’d always run to mom because everyone’s a little mama’s boy at times. They’d call me, “Baby, baby, baby.” That turned into “Krazy Kellan” at around age 12 or 13. That’s when my windmill fists came out. I remember I knocked my brother Brandon out, broke his nose. When I started growing taller, they stopped messing with me. I’m the tallest one in my family now.
Q: They don’t mess with you anymore, right?
Lutz: No way. (He laughs.)