The Twilight star joins a massive international production (plus Kelsey Grammer) to finally play the hero he’s always dreamed of inhabiting.
This year will mark the tenth anniversary of the YA phenomenon, Twilight. Some of us may be happy to forget the fandom insanity swirling around those films, or the fact that it unleashed a stream of genre-laced, teeny-bopper romances. Not Kellan Lutz. The actor is fully aware that he has an entire career thanks to the Cullens. He loves the Twilight films, but he loves the Twilight fans even more.
Lutz expounds a tremendous amount of energy trying to connect with his fan base. With over a million followers on Twitter and 715 thousand on Instagram, Lutz makes sure that a good portion of every day is devoted to interacting with those fans. He doesn’t want them to go anywhere, and he’s hoping they’ll follow him onto his new global blockbuster, 7 Guardians of the Tomb.
Digging into the same kind of archeological snafu that Indiana Jones would have found himself failing upwards into, Guardians of the Tomb is a massive co-production financed by big Chinese and Australian dollars. Joining Lutz’s adventurer is the Fast Five-like family of Li Bingbing, Stef Dawson, and Kelsey Grammer. There are booby traps around every corner and a nest of CGI spiders looking to make a home in their corpses.
7 Guardians of the Tomb is a silly romp, obviously looking to snag a few of your dollars through your enthusiasm for other, superior flicks. That’s OK. It knows what it is and has a good time doing it. I had a quick chat with Lutz over the phone. We discussed every boy’s desire to be the hero of the movie, as well as his life post-Twilight, and the gift that keeps on giving. Lutz also confirms the validity of the one piece of trivia connected to 7 Guardians of the Tomb on IMDB. Hint: It’s all true.
Your character, Jack Ridley, he has a pretty fantastic motorcycle entrance in the film, a real hero shot.
Yeah. We tried, we tried.
I was thinking like, “Every guy wants to be Indiana Jones, and this is your time, right?”
So when you’re on set, and you’re in a film like this, are you thinking about all those classic action heroes in the past?
I think about all the classic heroes in my day-to-day life. I just love action movies, and I love just being a protagonist in my own journey through life. That’s why I’m drawn to these superhero roles that are … They’re real people, and they’re in real situations, but definitely, in that motor bike scene, I remember Kimble [Rendall], our director, was talking about driving in on one of those. I had seen the bike, and man, that thing broke down so many times, in the test run. In my head, I’m like, “Yeah. This is why I love doing action movies. You get to drive fast cars. You get to ride on motorbikes. You get to jump out of planes.”
The one day that we get to do that, it was like one of the first days of shooting, we got to do the Royal Enfield motorbike scene. It just kept on breaking down, and I’m like, “Ah man.” There’s like five or six scenes in the whole script that every actor looks forward to shooting, and that was one of them. I’m like, “Oh man,” but we got there. The bike was beautiful. It’s just that it was an older bike, and obviously, I wish we could’ve done more with it, but it was just like, “Okay, stop here. Stop here, and stop here. Then take your glasses off here.” It was very meticulous, but it was still an action hero scene, and it’s fun. It paid homage to it.
It certainly sets the tone for the film as well. So, when you’re reading that script, you’re anticipating filming specific set pieces when you come across them?
I have a vivid imagination, but they’re always some … We have an all-star crew, and then they’d do sets that are far more elaborate than anything I could ever dream of. I mean, it was a big budget movie, so already going on set and seeing the studio change every other day to a new set design for that new set day, I was just blown away. I really was. We just had a really great crew who just made some really unbelievable set pieces for us. Actors could walk in on and really lose themselves in the scenery, in the set they designed.
As you mentioned, it is a massive co-production with a variety of studios chipping in. It’s globally-minded.
What’s that experience like compared to other domestic productions you’ve been a part of?
It definitely feels larger than a lot of the other ones I’ve been a part of, even just having the international cast that we had going from Kelsey Grammer who, he’s such a legend. I got to work with him on Expendables 3 and got a taste of who he is as a human being. I was really excited that he chose to do this movie so we could get more time with him. He was just so great on set. He’s not one of those actors who … He still loves what he does. He would hang out on set, we would all form a semi-circle around him, and he’d share his stories from just Frasier days or just the wisdom that he’s learned through acting. I just, I can’t wait to work with Kelsey again.
Then we have Li Bingbing who’s like the Taylor Swift of China. I didn’t realize how huge she is, and then how humble she was working on our movie because English isn’t her primary language. So doing a movie in a language that isn’t your primary language is already a feat of its own, and she nailed it. Then you have Shane, who is like the comedic relief from Australia. Him and Kelsey together, oh man I wish they had just left the camera rolling while we were setting up the scenes because they were just so funny in the studio there. We had Stef Dawson and Jason [Chong] and [Chung] Wu, it was just a really great … It felt like a big movie because we have so many actors from all over the world in it, and then we had the set designs and the producers. They just really helped bring it all to light.
You know what’s so interesting to me about the film is that so often with these kinds of movies, where there’s a big crew, and they go into a tomb or an adventure or whatever, they slowly get picked off. Here, the camaraderie is essential, and the walking dead walk on a little longer than usual.
There’s a family vibe to it.
Yeah, for the most part. We lose like three of them at the very end, but we do have quite the family camaraderie going on there. Obviously, there’s some issues that need to be resolved from my character and Jia, and just not wanting a family member in on a rescue because emotions cloud judgment, and I just want to be judgment free. I just want to do my job. I want a successful mission, but then you realize as the emotion unravels why I’m the way that I am. As we move a couple of the characters, it’s a part of the mission. It happens in every great movie. You’ve got to lose half of the team.
Are you aware of what the one trivia on IMDb is for this film?
No, I’m not.
It says on IMDb that Kellan Lutz gave away thousands of dollars in gifts during the last week of filming. A game was invented where the crew members would throw a large soft toy spider ten meters away into a box with a hole cut off. If the spider fell in, they won a prize, anything from an Xbox game to a 50-inch TV.
Oh, my God. I had no idea that they put that on there.
Is it true?
Yeah, we just had … I love giving back, and I’ve been doing this for most of my career, but the crew just worked so hard, and the cast. I always loved games. So when we were all wrapped and picture wrapped, yeah I created a … You know the beanbag holes game where you throw the beanbag into the hole?
Well, I got some spiders made up for that and gave out raffle tickets, and whoever drew them, you threw your spider in. I went to an electronic store, and I think I spent like $10,000 just on like 50 different gifts. It was my way of just giving back. They do work so hard, and it’s fun to end on a high note like that. That’s funny; I had no idea that’s on the trivia.
You’re obviously very connected to your fan base, your crew. You’re incredibly active on social media. It seems like a lot of work too.
Well, I just … I’m a boy from the mid-west. I love people. Even here during the Twilight years, I loved the fans, not in an egotistical way but in an appreciative way, whereas some of the actors maybe hid away and became more reclusive. I embraced them. I love giving hugs. I’m a man of the people I guess. I just love and appreciate them so much that they allow me to do what I love to do. It’s my responsibility to extend my gratitude. Fans have this … I appreciate them. They’re the ones who see your movies, and they’re the ones who will see your movies, whatever they are. So yeah, it’s just my way of just saying thank you to them.
Guardians of the Tomb is currently available in theaters in select cities as well as VOD and Digital HD.