Scott Speedman

? the twenty-nineyear-old star of Underworld and its upcoming sequel Underworld: Evolution ? has his own personal legend. It goes like this: When he was just eighteen, he was offered a dare by his girlfriend. Aware that Batman Forever was casting in Toronto, she said to him: You want to be a professional actor, Scott? Then I dare you to go down to Speakers Corner and ask for an audition for the part of Robin. Speedman ? who describes himself at the time as ?a pale-faced kid with a bad self-cut Caesar hairdo and acne? ? did just that. He went down to the now-famous Citytv public forum on Queen Street. He plugged in his loonie. And incredibly, a couple of weeks later, after a casting agent saw his clip, he was called down to audition for the part of Robin in Batman Forever. Yes, you read that right. He got a callback too, against all possible odds and entirely debunking the understood relationship between investment and payoff. And while Speedman didn?t actually land the part (Chris O?Donnell nicked it), the casting agent was so impressed that she put him in touch with an agent, who went on to land him a string of television gigs, which basically set up

Scott Speedman

as . . . well, a professional actor. The hero of the legend can only shake his head and offer a mischievous grin when the story is retold. We?re eating sushi at the Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver?s Yaletown. He?s in town shooting the Underworld sequel and is well-known and liked here, judging from how quickly the hostess whisked us into a leather booth big enough for eight. When talking to Speedman, one gets the impression that difficult things often come easily to him. Even that story of miraculous beginnings obscures the fact that Speedman didn?t originally want to be an actor at all. Raised by athletes ? his mother and father met at a track meet and were both marathoners ? Speedman was a jock, highly competitive, a championship swimmer with his sights set on the Olympics. ?I was pretty waterlogged at fifteen, sixteen,? he laughs now. ?I spent a lot of time in the pool, man.? Until he blew out his shoulder and started hanging out with the high-school acting crowd. Until, as Speedman puts it, ?I started being the kid I?d never been before, dating girls, being crazy. That?s when I got the acting bug.? sarah polley, who was an already-famous member of the acting crowd at that same 84 TORO APRIL 2005 high school, Earl Haig Secondary, in north Toronto, remembers Speedman?s arrival on the scene. Everybody knew about it, she informs me. ?It was just so bizarre. Here you had the best-looking swimmer guy in the school suddenly becoming more successful at acting than any of the drama majors.? Pretty soon ? because this is the way living legends work ? everybody was also claiming to have been there on Queen Street that fateful night. ?I?ve heard it from a lot of people,? Polley laughs. ?They pushed Scott into Speakers Corner.? The trouble for those who want credit is that Speedman?s career ? which now has him playing Agent Kyle Steele alongside Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, and Willem Dafoe in this April?s upcoming sequel XXX: State of the Union, a starring role at the centre of the huge-grossing Underworld franchise, not to mention appearances on Gap billboards all over North America in 2003 ? has taken twists and turns along the way that simply defy the one-push explanation. To start, there was all that early television success. From a guest appearance on Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, on to nine different acting gigs in the first two years, this despite Speedman not knowing at first what it meant when the director said: hit your mark. ?I was struggling,? he admits, with something like a shudder.?I mean, really struggling in front of the camera.? Then in 1997, at twenty-one, Speedman landed the lead in Gary Burns?s second film, Kitchen Party. ?I?d work with him again in a second,? he says, and it?s not hard to see why. In the role, the young actor hosts the party in question and spends a lot of time pondering how not to make any marks on his mother?s compulsively vacuumed living-room carpet. The plot may not seem hugely promising on paper, but Speedman manages to portray the condition ? parentally induced postadolescent neuroses ? without ever dominating a scene or obscuring the performance of another actor. It?s the kind of pro-poise you might not have expected from someone just off a movie-of-the-week called What Happened to Bobby Earl? Still, his first feature didn?t result in instant credibility. ?After Kitchen Party, I was back doing the same shit I?d been doing before,? Speedman muses. ?And that depressed me.? He tried acting school in New York, The Neighbourhood Playhouse, but dropped out, frustrated. He returned to Toronto to live with his mother, at which point one imagines jealous former high-school associates gloating that Speedman?s life was finally returning to normal. But if they had they done so ? because this story is grounded in the narrative architecture of Movieland ? their expectations would have been immediately and emphatically overturned. to this day, when people stop Speedman on the street ? Hey! I know you! ? he attributes the familiarity of his face to the little matter of a television show called Felicity. He didn?t even have an agent any more when casting started. It was his mother who took the call. But the message was clear enough: Felicity?s producers were interested in Speedman in the starring role of Ben Covington opposite Keri Russell. Shooting started the following Monday; could he possibly send down an audition video? ?So I rented a camera, read the scenes, sent the tape off, and thought, Well, that?s that.? Speakers Corner all over again, you might say, only this time he got the part. Felicity lasted four years, and more or less revolutionized Speedman?s career (again). ?The biggest thing I?ve done, by far,? he summarizes. Bigger than Underworld, even? ?Way, way bigger. The only reason I get to do Underworld or anything else is because of Felicity.? This opinion reflects how Speedman used those four years after moving to L.A. for the show. Instead of merely enjoying the boom in profile that Felicity offered, his career actually glided into film. There was Duets, Bruce Paltrow?s karaoke story starring his daughter Gwyneth, a film in which Paul Giamatti?s manic intensity runs rampant and Speedman?s natural restraint renders him nearly invisible. There was Dark Blue, a cop film with Kurt Russell, contrasting dirty veterans and innocent rookies perhaps too closely on the heels of Denzel Washington?s Training Day. ?I got put through the ringer on that one,? he recalls about working with director Ron Shelton. ?On Felicity, it was very female driven. Very coddling. Dark Blue was guns and yelling, you know? It was, ?Get your shit together and if you don?t you?re going to hear about it.? It taught me a lot.? One of the things it apparently didn?t teach opener: shirt, dior homme, at leone vancouver. right: t-shirt, belt, john varvatos, at holt renfrew, holtrenfrew.com. jeans, diesel, diesel.com

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