Thanks in large part to Guillermo del Toro, Luke Goss has been able to prove his acting ability in a number of geek movies. For me, both Blade II and Hellboy II went against the usual law of sequels to deliver superior films, in which Goss’ core roles involved performing with the added combination of prosthetics and physical action as characters Nomak and Prince Nuada.
We had the pleasure of talking to him about his new film Death Race 2, an origin story about the formation of the race itself, while taking the opportunity to talk about his other work, including getting a call from del Toro about The Hobbit, his cinematic heroes, and whether he’d be interested in The Expendables 2.
Death Race 2 is a huge amount of fun. It knows its market, is filled with all the action and one-liners you’d expect, while sporting a surprisingly strong cast.
Luke Goss plays the lead role of Carl ‘Luke’ Lucas, and proved to be an incredibly affable interviewee, his enthusiasm for his films and co-stars was brimming, as was his mission to be accepted into the geek community which, based on my time with him, is the least he deserves…
First, I just wanted to say congratulations on Death Race 2. I thought it was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it. Was it as much fun to film as it was to watch?
Firstly as well, I wanted to say I really like your site. Cheers man. I check it out a lot – it’s a great site! Yeah it was good, it was a lot of fun on set. It was kind of nuts really. We had all the cars on a hardware level, and as far as camera coverage and that side of production, it felt huge at times, and we were on a huge set to do it.
I had a lot of fun doing it, and also working with Roel [Reiné, director]. He’s a good friend, and I’m a big fan. And also, my personal make-up artist is from Cape Town, so I’ve done some other projects here before [Death Race 2 was filmed there], so the collective was really good – really fun to shoot.
I thought one of the greatest things about the film was the cast. There is obviously you, but then you had Sean Bean, Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames. Were they on board before you signed up? Or after?
I think after. I got asked to do the role, and I think in negotiations we were going to shoot at the beginning of this year and then previously, just before Christmas, we got the call from Universal saying did I want to do it. And then, I think, everyone else came on board later. The cast did build, and from my perspective, when I heard that Sean [Bean] was on, I was really stoked, as I’ve loved what he’s done and now having worked with him I thought, “what a great guy”.
And Ving obviously, one of the lines he had in Pulp Fiction is one of my favourite lines ever. “I’m about to get medieval on your arse.” I mean, what a great line. Danny Trejo is so bloody cool, I mean, he can just stand there and look cool. I felt very lucky to be a part of that little gang, you know?
Strangely enough, Roel and I are going to be producing a project together, that Danny is in as well, and it’s a two hander, so we are going to be doing another project together, Danny and I.
And Roel is going to be directing a feature that I have written and produced next year. We start photography in March, and pre-production in January, and Roel is directing that. We all ended up really getting along, all of us.
What was it that appealed most to you about the film? Did you get to do a lot of the stunts and the driving?
Yeah, I did. The first thing that got me going was the screenplay. I am not saying which one is better, but I do think there is a lot more story in this film, and I really love the screenplay with regards to… you know action is fun, but it’s nice to be tied in with a good plot.
I am a massive Steve McQueen fan, as is Roel, and I said, you know, if they could have the lead actor driving, then why the hell can’t we do it now? So I said, let’s get me in the car so the audience knows that I’m doing that. I said it just helps to frame [the shot] when, as a fanboy myself, I like to see people really doing it, so I did a lot of the driving. And the same with the fighting, I did about ninety nine percent of that for the same reason, and I was in the cage, doing fight training for about three weeks – it was exciting!
Were you a big 80s action movie fan, back in its heyday?
Yeah, to be honest with you. I was back in school then, you know, back in the early 80s I was a runt, so I was digging all the Stallone movies. I remember when I saw First Blood as a kid, I thought “Shit this is cool! I mean wow.” And that was when… I mean as a kid, I was such a scrawny little thing and I thought, “Shit, how do you even get like that?”
I still think that!
Oh you do? [laughs]
It has been hard to bulk up, but back then it was like “Wow, this is amazing!” And I loved Rocky and most of the Stallone movies. I guess I was more of a Stallone, Schwarzenegger fan, than I think the Van Damme kind of angle, but yeah, I was a massive fan of those, because that is all we used to watch.
You need to start spreading the word, and maybe you can cut in on The Expendables action?
[Laughs] Oh right! Although I think they have got that covered!
I was thinking you could say you’re a lucky charm for sequels, being in Blade II, Hellboy II and now Death Race 2!
Yeah, I could do that I guess! [Laughs] I have been lucky, because sometimes things go really pear shaped with a second or a third part, but I have been lucky enough to be in good sequels.
Obviously Blade II was fantastic, but how did your working relationship with del Toro get started?
The beginning was a little bit like a traditional Hollywood process, I guess. I mean, I thought it was going to be an audition and stuff like that – I got the screenplay… I did this movie with David Goyer called Zig Zag, and obviously David is the writer [of Blade II], and he said they’d been looking for their image of the Nomak character for a while, and he called del Toro and said “I think I might have found somebody,” so they sent me the screenplay.
I read it, and I was feverishly excited, because I had loved the first one. Then I met with del Toro. I walked into the room, and the casting director was there, and we were going to read, and he said “No, no, it is okay, we can just talk.” I thought “Okay, this is interesting”. An hour and ten minutes later, he said “Okay, good, I think you will be great!” and I looked at him and said “Forgive me, but for what?” and he laughed and said, “You don’t get it, it’s not just my say but…” so I think at that point he had made a decision about me, as a director.
All we did, I mean we didn’t read lines or anything, because Nomak isn’t a wordy character… I think it was more about concept, and how I viewed that role and how that character was going to be. We must have seen eye to eye on a few things, because I ended up doing it, obviously. But now our friendship is there – I mean, I don’t hang out with del Toro, I say that to people all the time. It’s not like I go for a few beers with him or anything, because we are both so busy. But now when he has something, and thinks you’re right for it, he just simply calls you as a formality, and that is great, because it reflects his confidence as a filmmaker.
With Hellboy it really was a case of getting the screenplay, then I picked up the phone and he said “Hey motherfucker!” and I said “I know who that is!” and he said “So you like it, huh?” and I said “Are you kidding me?”[Laughs]
I mean, that opening you had with Nomak in Blade II. That is one hell of a way to break into the film!
I know! Well it was funny, because on the page it doesn’t read visually so much, but I knew from what del Toro was shooting that this character was going to have a very different presence. I had no idea that when… I mean, I think it was that role that changed attitudes from being “Oh fuck, Luke Goss is playing that role,” and enabled me to more in your face, so now if I am on a shortlist for a role they’ll be very supportive and say “Oh fuck, he’ll be great!”
And I think that’s a credit to del Toro. I mean, I owe him a great deal, a massive part of my career, and whatever momentum I now have I owe to him. He is such a great friend, I thank him for being a supporter of me. An amazing chap.
He was obviously involved with The Hobbit for a while before it all got delayed because of all the problems, which have now been sorted out. I wondered if you’d lobbied for any part in that?
I did get a call from him, actually, with regards to, you know, come in and meet everybody and read some lines with regards to a particular role, which I didn’t ever mention, and it was definitely a big part, and a role I would have loved to have done. But obviously he then moved on from that project.
But yeah, there was a call, not an offer of course, because he then wasn’t on that project but… were you disappointed he left the project? Because I was, I mean just from a fanboy level I was…
Yeah, I was. But is there still a chance for you to push for a role?
I don’t know. That’s not my world at all. I mean, I know as much as anybody, but everyone has their reasons for why [they’re involved or not].
Which is more arduous, the physical workouts you have to do for films like Death Race 2, or the level of prosthetics for films like Blade and Hellboy II?
The makeup side of things is unbelievably draining. One, because of the actual process itself – anything more than four or five hours is just bloody horrible. But also, what people don’t realise is that, once you have done five or six hours, then you have to do a full work day, and I mean a full, full day. And it just drives you nuts when you are only getting three or four hours’ sleep a day – that’s it. And it just adds up, and can become a fairly miserable process, but luckily when you are playing that kind of character, you can use it.
I can only imagine what it must be like if you then did comedy, a comedic piece, or something where you have to be up and happy, I mean, fuck me, that must just be outrageous. But luckily, with someone like Prince Nuada, you come out, you’re exhausted, you’re tired, you’re weathered, you have all this internal pain about the story inside you, and then you really are that exhausted and miserable! You feel like “Shit, I’ve got to use this!”
A little bit of method from the process?
You have to, when your eyes are scratchy with lenses in and you have these teeth, your body hurts under all the armour, you definitely think “Well, this is how he feels, this is what it feels like to be Nuada, just physically,” and then it comes together more.
I read that you’re having to become a geek, bit by bit, because of the movies you’re in. How is that working out for you?
I think I’m truly baptised now! I am an absolute geek, without doubt. I just think, you know what, some of the most astute fans I know are film geeks, film lovers and watchers, and I am now proud to be one of them. So I am, hopefully, going to be accepted into the club of geek!
[I laugh] I’ll send you a badge, or something!
I want it! [Laughs]
All the best for the future!
Thank you, take care of yourself, and keep up the good work on the site!
Luke Goss, thank you very much!
Death Race 2 will be available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from the 27th December.
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