Exclusive: ‘Lost’ star Kevin Durand on playing Little John in ‘Robin Hood’
Hollywoodnews.com: Kevin Durand is at the forefront of a new generation of character actors who have quietly risen to fame on the strength of their ability to transform themselves over and over again.
Although he may be best known as the chilling, confident Keamy on TV’s Lost, he offered memorable turns in “Smokin’ Aces,” “3:10 to Yuma”, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and most recently, Legion, where he squared off against Paul Bettany as the angel Gabriel. This week, he promises to offer another captivating turn as Little John, the capable companion of Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood in the film of the same name.
Hollywood News sat down with Durand at the film’s recent Los Angeles press day to discuss his portrayal of the storied sidekick Little John. In addition to revealing his attempts to perfect his character’s Scottish accent, he talked about his longtime collaboration and friendship with co-star Russell Crowe, and offered a few hints about what might be in store for him next.
Hollywood News: What was the thing that you saw in Brian Helgeland’s script, or that Ridley Scott told you about Little John that you knew you wanted to sink your teeth into?
Kevin Durand: Initially it was just the concept – the idea of being a part of this story. I hadn’t even read a script, but I knew that Ridley [Scott] was directing and I knew that Russell [Crowe] was going to be Robin. So I went off to Scotland and I knew that Little John was Scottish to learn my brogue properly and was adopted by a family there and hung out in bars until I felt like I could do it justice.
Hollywood News: What sort of preparation do you typically do when you take on a role?
Durand: Every guy is different. With Little John, my main objective from the start was playing this person from another country that I’ve never been to, so I realized that I didn’t want to piss off a nation of Scotsmen (laughs). So for me from the start, it was just to go there and get a feel for the people and the cadence of life and try to catch onto the idiosyncratic behavior of the people. Eventually I found one fella that I thought, this is kind of the spirit of my character, and we drank a lot of pints in Glasgow (laughs). He kind of became a part of me and Little John.
Hollywood News: How easily did you fall into a comfortable rhythm with the other guys playing the rest of the Merry Men?
Durand: These guys, we go back pretty far before the film; Russell, Scott [Grimes] and I did a film together 12, 13 years ago and they became great mates. Russ became a mentor and friend, and Allan Doyle, I’ve been a fan of his music for years, so we just jelled immediately.
Hollywood News: Little John is obviously a capable fighter but maybe not the sharpest tool in the shed. Do you have to be smarter than your character to play him the right way?
Durand: I think when you’ve been living in the conditions that he had been living in and being at war for over a decade under King Richard and living the way that those poor soldiers lived – constantly on a battlefield – it’s definitely very easy to play the joy of the simple things. Like the first time you see us on the boat, it’s like, oh my God, there’s wine, there’s a soft place to lie down, we’re not hearing anybody dying outside. It’s all situational, and very easy especially on a Ridley Scott film because you’re thrust into a situation so you just act naturally.
Hollywood News: How tough is it to act naturally when there are so many logistical demands? For example, you’re part of a castle siege but you have to deliver this moment of connection between your character and another one.
Durand: I think having done all of my prep work, being thrust in that environment, I was already him. So whatever was thrown at me, there was a nice amount of freedom even when there’s 11 cameras pointed at you – a freedom that if Little John felt like saying something, it would just happen. We improvised a fair bit and it was fun, so when you’re placed in that environment, you have to function [because] you have horses coming at you and you become that warrior. He facilitated an environment where you could do nothing but be that, which was awesome (laughs).
Hollywood News: You said Russell became a mentor but he can also be a formidable presence. What sort of environment did he help facilitate as your characters develop a friendship on screen?
Durand: There’s a lot of discussion, but it’s all collaboration. More than anything, I think there’s a lot of trust between us. Obviously for me he is a friend, but like you said, he is a formidable presence; he’s Russell Crowe! He’s such an amazing artist but I think the thing between us that works is just that we have trust. When we did 3:10 to Yuma, James Mangold wanted him to use a retractable fork when he was stabbing me in the neck, and he was like, “oh no, mate – he trusts me.” James Mangold came up to me and goes, “Russell’s going to use a real fork. Is that alright?” I said yeah, yeah – that’s fine. He was coming within half an inch [of my neck], but we trust each other. So when I have to pick him up over my head and throw him into a bale, he knows that I’m going to do it in the way that’s going to hurt the least. So I think that’s been the great thing about working with him again – we’re buddies and yet we both know we get the job done.
Hollywood News: Is it more valuable to you to know what the journey the character goes on throughout the film, or simply to be present in each scene and not think of where he might end up?
Durand: It’s both. It’s the whole shebang, because you have to be present in every moment, because if I wasn’t, I would go and weld pickets in Thunder Bay. But you also have to be aware of that entire journey, so that’s kind of the challenge, the trick.
Hollywood News: What’s next for you?
Durand: I guess it’s too early to say, but we’re in negotiations for a couple of really cool projects. I guess I can’t really say it until things are closed, but we’re really excited just to continue to work with people that I’ve always aspired to work with and learn things from.
Hollywood News: Is this the sort of scale that you want to continue doing? Each project you’re involved in seems to be bigger than the last.
Durand: Obviously this is a dream, to work with Ridley and Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and get to dance within that huge, amazing space they have created. But as I continue to evolve, I’m just excited about content, so I don’t care if it’s a single-camera, tiny little movie; if the content gets my blood boiling, I’m all about it. Or, if I’ve got wings, it’s just all about what excites me now, which feels like a really great privilege.