I Am Number Four’s Kevin Durand On Improvisation And Real Steel
I Am Number Four, director DJ Caruso’s adaptation of the bestselling sci-fi novel by James Frey and Jobie Hughes, follows two alien refugees hiding on Earth to escape the invaders who destroyed their homeworld. Called the Mogadorians, these invaders are led by an imposing commander played by Lost and X-Men Origins: Wolverine actor Kevin Durand. Expanded from the book, the role allows him to have some fun, climbing into an elaborate costume and menacing the puny humans he comes across.
In an interview earlier today with Spinoff Online, Durand wasn’t nearly as menacingas the characters he often plays. He actually comes off as a pretty humble guy, appreciative of the opportunities that have come his way. When a project he’s worked on is released, he celebrates by doing something that few actors often choose to do: He watches it.
“I think watching it and not hating myself is celebration enough,” he said. “It’s good, especially in recent years. I can watch myself and go, ‘That was really cool. Whoever that big guy is who plays that part, he’s really good.’ It’s really fun for me because by that time I will have left it and moved on. So to go back and watch it, it kind of feels like I’m watching somebody else anyway.”
Recognition isn’t a big problem in the case of Durand’s Mogadorian commander. You can definitely see the resemblance if you’re looking for it, but the actor undergoes a physical transformation in stepping into the villainous alien leader’s oversized boots. “I stand at about 6′ 6″ normally, I’m a fairly tall drink of water,” he said. “With the boots I was about 7′ 5″, which is almost Manute Bol height. I was bigger than Shaq!”
Another part of Durand’s transformation was the language. While the Mogadorians can hang with English, their native language obviously sounds quite different. Durand revealed that it wasn’t just him making strange noises during his scenes; there was an actual vocabulary and sentence structure to be learned.
“It was a language that one of DJ’s creatives had worked on, and they started sending it to me, how to enunciate and stuff, and I had a different idea of how it should sound,” he said. “So we just worked on it. It was just an evolution of figuring out how would any kind of language sound when you have a different anatomy. Who knows what the hell is going on in a Mogadorian mouth or throat? So it was just messing around with a bunch of different placements and words and sounds [until] we found something we all liked.”
“They had created a glossary of sorts [for the language],” he continued. “I just focused on what each word meant in each sentence and what it was I was actually trying to say. I didn’t want to just start spouting sounds. It was a lot of work, too, especially for what ended up in the film. It was pretty stressful at first when I was trying to learn it because it was like nothing I had ever heard before.”
While the alien dialogue may have been scripted, much of what Durand did on the set wasn’t. “I met with DJ and I was told that DJ and Mr. Spielberg” — Stephen Spielberg produced the adaptation, along with Michael Bay — “really wanted me for this part,” he said. “They wanted to bring added dimension and personality to it [as compared to the book], and they really wanted me to run with it. It just sounded like a lot of fun.”
“We improvised a lot [for the commander],” he added. “A good percentage of what I did was improvised. At the end of the day you kind of walk away from it going, ‘I wonder what’s going to make it in?’ You tend to fall in love with certain things and some things don’t make it in, some things make it in. When I watch the movie as a whole it completely makes sense to me. With a lot of those things [that got cut from Number Four] he was probably going to be too likable or too funny, but I always think that those are the villains that are the most interesting. The ones that kinda make you go ‘I like him. Wait, I can’t like him.’”
Durand is now getting set to promote himself playing another character who isn’t much of a nice guy, appearing alongside Hugh Jackman in director Shawn Levy’s Real Steel. “In Real Steel I play this guy named Ricky,” Durand said. “Myself and Hugh Jackman’s character Charlie have kind of a history. We used to fight against each other, we used to be boxers. Then he has to come and work for me for this one thing and … [my character] is not exactly the nicest guy in the world. Another really fun bastard to play.”
I Am Number Four is in theaters now.