Rami Malek, Aaron Paul, Ramon Rodriguez & Scott Mescudi teamed up earlier this year for action film Need For Speed, which saw Scott Waugh in the director’s chair.
We caught up with Malek to chat about the film, working with Waugh, and the daring stunts that he shot for the movie.
- Need For Speed has just been released on DVD here in the UK, so can you tell me a bit about the film for anyone who hasn't seen it yet?
Need For Speed is basically about a guy who gets wronged. He spends a great portion of this film trying to seek justice for the ill that has been committed towards him and towards his friends: they are essentially his family.
In the course of doing so, he has to run a canon ball race across the U.S. The action that ensues is spawned off him setting off to seek justice for this ill will.
- You take on the role of Finn in the film, so what was it about the character and the script that initially drew you to the project?
It had such a serious tone to it and the character of Finn, to me, read as very sarcastic, fun, and nonchalant in a way that I knew would bring some levity to the film. That really excited me because it is always fun to bring a few laughs once in a while to such a dramatic film.
- Scott Waugh in in the director's chair for the film, so how did you find working with him? And what kind of director is he? I believe you met him a few years back when he was your stunt double.
That is correct. That is exactly who he is, he is the type of guy who would be - no pun intended - sitting in the driver’s seat and not be… he wouldn’t be taking control in a way that was none-collaborative.
He could have easily said ‘I have stunted for this guy before and so he is going to see me in a certain vein,’ but he was more than elated to take me on the film and continue a different leg of our journey together.
As far as I am concerned, he is a director who has a very clear vision and a confidence that comes with that, and that allowed him to direct us from a platform that was unique in that we all felt like we were going on this journey together.
- Aaron Paul, Ramon Rodriguez & Scott Mescudi are all on board and the four of you share such a fantastic chemistry. So how did you find working with them? And how quickly did you find that connection?
It happened almost immediately. There was something that just sparked between us that was undeniable: we knew pretty early on that we were going to be friends throughout the film.
We have become even greater friends since and we have discovered a really good bond between us, and that continues to grow and to flourish. We see each other quite a bit actually, which is rare.
- Was there much improvising between you as everything just seems so natural - particularly the garage scenes?
Oh yeah, quite a bit. We had an incredible writers George and John Gatins: they are fantastic writers but they opened up the opportunity for us to improvise and ad-lib as we saw fit. A lot of it did not make the film (laughs). There were definitely moments where we enjoyed running a mock with our own words.
- Once of the most exciting moments in the film for you and your character was getting on top of the Beast while speeding, so can you talk about that scene? How difficult was it to shoot? And what sort of safety precautions were in place?
Initially, that was all to be done with a stunt double, but I pulled Scott aside one day and said ‘hey, if it is at all possible I would be more than happy to shoot this scene myself’.
After talking it through with a stunt coordinator, they figured that if they could strap me in in enough ways in a way that was none-threatening then they were going to let me do it.
It was probably my favourite day of the shoot. To get out there, jump on top of a truck that was going seventy/eighty miles an hour was just an exhilarating and incredible feeling that you don’t get on a regular basis.
- It is quite interesting that you say that you asked to do the stunt yourself because so many of these stunts could have been done on green screen and yet Scott wanted to shoot them for real, which is incredibly refreshing. So how did you find that as an actor?
It was incredible. We did know that going in, but it is just a testament to his vision. He wanted it all to reflect a genre that he felt had disappeared. I have shot a few things on green screen and it can get pretty dull after a while.
Being on the set was so unique because every day I knew I was up for something new, and you never knew what was going to be thrown at you: like getting on top of a truck or being involved in a collision that was well staged. You still never knew what was going to happen at the end of the day, which was quite a thrill.
We knew that we were in very capable hands having Scott Waugh as our director. Not only is he a great leader, he is such a talent and has the stunt background as well.
- What did you make of all of these stunts when you saw them in the finished film for the first time? They do look spectacular.
Absolutely. There is something that comes with doing those stunts practically and you can see in the end result of the film that there is something that looks organic.
It is not as contrived as the way that some CGI does look these days. I feel like an audience is able to discern the difference.
- How have you been finding the response to the film around the world - it has performed well at the box office?
It has. I have been fortunate to be doing some travelling with work and on holiday, and everywhere that I have gone I have been treated with a lot of love towards this film. There are car junkies all over the world and they definitely came out to see this.
- You are currently filming Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, so how is that going?
It has been incredibly fun. It has involved quite a lot of CGI, but there is not way getting around putting dinosaurs in your movie. We have a lovely opportunity to shoot in London in the British Museum and in Trafalgar Square, which was unique to many a filmmaker.
That is something that I will hold dear for as long as I am in this business, as I don’t think that many people have that opportunity. That is something that was granted to us specifically by the British Museum.
I also have the incredible opportunity of Ben Kingsley playing my father in the film, which, as a lover of film, I was incredibly pleased to find out half way through the shoot.
- Finally, what's next for you going though the second half of this year?
I did a film with Spike Lee which should be coming out, that is called Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. This is the second film that I have had the luck of working with him on - he is an incredible and iconic filmmaker, and I hope to continue that relationship.
As for the rest of the year, I am taking a break at the moment. However, it always looks like something good is coming my way so I am very thankful, very privileged, and very fortunate.
Need For Speed is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.