We caught up with Need for Speed villain Dominic Cooper in the most un-villainous of places… the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown Hollywood.
Movie Fanatic found the UK actor eager to explore the dark side of playing a villain as he does in Need for Speed, and also the joy this lifelong car aficionado had getting behind the wheel and learning to drive at breathtaking speeds.
As our Need for Speed review stated, this is one fun ride and it seems no one had more joy making it than Cooper!
Movie Fanatic: I bet when you got into acting you never thought you’d get to go to driving school. What was it like?
Dominic Cooper: That was a joke! I got called up, told I’m going to LA and that I’m going to go to one of the most amazing racing tracks outside of LA and go and take a Mustang around a track and learn how to handle the car safely and properly. I grew up loving cars. I grew up imagining doing what I was doing there on that track. It was a dream -- to be behind the wheel learning it, so it would look like I was doing it on film. I cannot not do this.
Movie Fanatic: The driving school had a functional aspect, for sure. But what, if anything, did it do to inform your character?
Dominic Cooper: That’s such a good point, because I don’t have it in me. I don’t have that competitive edge that Scott Waugh (director) always mentions that he needs to understand how this guy ends up being capable of the things that he does to other people in the film. It’s a result of that determination and that competition that most of these characters have in this world of racing. I imagine when you’re in that environment and you’re going at those speeds, the concentration level is unbelievable and there has to be something special to have that edge. I actually spoke to someone who manages teams of Formula 1 and he said they’re not happy whenever a driver mentioned they might be having children. Through the history of time, the moment a driver has a child, they lose even a millisecond of edge. Without that, they’re utterly fearless.
Movie Fanatic: Had you ever raced before the racing school for Need for Speed?
Dominic Cooper: Yes, some years ago in England, I tried it thinking after a lifetime of loving it that I would be quite good at it. But, I was terrified. You’re only an inch from the ground, traveling at those speeds. You either have it or you don’t.
Movie Fanatic: Did you have a favorite car you got to drive in this movie?
Dominic Cooper: That’s really tough. I was really surprised, having not grown up loving Mustangs, I was amazed by that car. It was quite unbelievable and I loved it. I was driving Lamborghini’s… those were unbelievable. And the Mercedes… they were all amazing. What I learned was how much work and the talented engineering that goes into making one of these cars.
Movie Fanatic: You are the film’s villain, so to speak. But, when you tackle a character like this, is that how you see it? Or is it more that is just how he is wired?
Dominic Cooper: You can’t see it as just a villain. We’re not like that, but there are people who are like that -- people who are prepared to do anything to get what they want. When you’re creating a person like that, you just need to think of them being wired like that and you have your intent. Those are the reasons behind your actions. Yes, this guy is a villain. He’s there to elevate your hero (Aaron Paul).
Movie Fanatic: You mentioned Scott (Waugh, director) and this is such a passion project for this movie. Not only having someone with that passion for it, but also his background as a stuntman, how did you notice that made a difference?
Dominic Cooper: I can’t tell you the difference it made. It was unbelievable. I could tell from the first meeting where he was able to tell me passionately and very clearly what he wanted the racing to be in this film. Your skepticism is that they’re just making another CG racing film with a great name behind it. You realize his passion and understand and the way his father used to work on those classic racing films. Then, on set, you see -- which I’ve possibly never seen -- a man who understands the job of the stunt guys and understands how important the crew are and how important it is that everyone feels essential in the making of the film. He clearly gets that. It doesn’t take much. Just 15 minutes at the beginning of every day and you get everyone together and he let us know what he needed to achieve that day. We would all do anything for him. To have that support is priceless.