Flipping The Script: Talking With Kellan Lutz about ‘What Men Want’

It’s an eternal question that is both incredibly simple and infinitely difficult to answer…

In What Men Want we meet Ali Davis (Taraji P Henson); a successful sports agent who’s constantly boxed out by her male colleagues.  After a wild night out with her girls, she mysteriously gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts.  With her new found power, Ali looks to outsmart her colleagues as she races to sign the next basketball superstar but the lengths she has to go to will put her relationship with her best friends and her new love interest to the test.

In theatres this past February, What Men Want was a modest hit raking in a worldwide gross of $72 million US and delighting audiences everywhere as it turned the table on gender norms with hilarious results.  In advance of the recent Blu-Ray release we got the unique pleasure to talk with star Kellan Lutz who had the unique role of ‘Captain F***tastic’; otherwise meaning someone for Taraji P Henson’s character to ogle and objectify.

When I talked with Kellan I asked him about the unique nature of his role and embracing the comedy of it all he has this to say…

You know the script was just so damn funny and I loved What Women Want back in the day and the influential role that it played not just with Mel (Gibson) in the main lead but also how it played with gender stereotypes and with Taraji (P Henson) here in this type of film obviously you’ve got to have the long term more stable love interest and then you’ve got to have the guy who very obviously catches her eye and would have people gravitate towards him but then the he ends up flipping the script when we discover his preferences.  When I was talking with director Adam Shankman, this isn’t a role you really see on any kind of call sheet and it was really different.  I REALLY love diving into the character and figuring out what we’ll do with it all, making sure it isn’t super risqué or anything but to make sure we play it kind of comedically risky.  It was really fun working with Taraji on this and I had a great time.

From the outside looking into the business, comedy generally never gets the credit it deserves and while you can’t doubt the performers are having fun, it’s still a lot of hard work.  Kellan’s character has a key pivotal moment in the film where Taraji’s Ali can hear his every thought and she takes full advantage of that until it goes horribly awry.  I asked Kellan about having to get very physical sometimes for the sake of a laugh and how it can be hard to keep a straight face, especially when you job is basically to crack each other up…

Yeah there was A LOT of laughter that day!  You can see some of it on the deleted scenes on the disc and really the fun thing about working is just getting the chance to improv.  When you are able just throw in the most random stuff while you are working, that’s what makes the day so fun.  For example in the apartment scene with Taraji on every take we’d always throw in some little variations and that’s what makes the job some much fun, especially when you’re working with the kind of quick and funny people that we had on this movie. 

For them it’s like breathing and they use improv all the time.  It’s so much fun when you say something or do something and you know it landed and you get a laugh from behind the camera, which really is the joy of the work.

From an actor’s point of view it seems like comedy is always the hard thing to pull off.  I asked Kellan about the mindset you have to have going from job to job as an actor and he had this to say…

Every job really is different even though it is obviously in a very similar space with the goal to entertain people.  It’s important to put in an effort to bring fresh air into every character that I do.  There are dramas that I’ll do where you really have to tackle it with much more of a serious mindset because you want to be able to live in that headspace that you need for that character and give yourself as much back story as you can but with other ones, it’s just about having fun and comedies really are that space where you can come in and just play.  Historically I have WAY more fun on a comedy set then I would on any kind of other shoot.  When you just get to be there to see these legitimate comedic talents shine and getting multiple takes to play around with different ideas it’s amazing to watch.  And I mean at the end of the day everyone involved from the director, the actor to even the editor just want the material to come out the best it can be, the one that gets the most laughs and is ultimately the most entertaining movie for people to watch, and getting to be a part of that kind of creative energy is really a beautiful thing.

Spending time around this business of show, there’s a certain degree of impermance about it that can be unsettling for some people, but not Kellan who really felt like he has an almost zen relationship with the ride that show business is taking him on…

Yeah, you know the truly great thing about being in the entertainment industry is that there are a lot of lanes to it.  Even recently I’ve been looking at the theatre and trying to do some more theatre stuff because it’s different and switching it up would be a cool thing to try from some of the other avenues I’ve gone down.

Plus you know I’d love to star in my own action trilogy/franchise (Laughs).  I’d love to produce, I’d love the chance to direct; there’s really just a plethora of options out there, even writing something!  It’s really just such a cool industry to be a part of in anyway.  I mean as much as you are sometimes waiting to see what kind of roles come your way there’s also the freedom to try and create something for yourself.  Sure there’s always more of a risk, but even when you boil it down to your own personal story, if you tell it the right way it could make a film that someone might want to see.

That ability and that freedom just feels really fun to me and the really cool thing about this industry from my perspective is that when it comes down to it, the future is a pretty unknown thing.  I like that feeling.  I mean I have this movie in Puerto Rico that I might do, plus the FBI: Most Wanted show that I start on in July will be really interesting with up fronts coming up, make it all really sort of fun for me and there’s a weird adrenaline rush to the life that we live that I really enjoy.

I’ll grant that it’s natural for us regular folk to have an unnatural sense or expectation of how actor’s exist and work on a day to day basis, but after talking with Kellan I can certainly appreciate that he’s just an everyday guy, who loves what he does, is looking for the next challenge and can appreciate a good laugh.

What Men Want is on DVD & Blu-Ray now.

Dave Voigt

David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf, to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema. Having launched his own home; In The Seats (intheseats.ca) back in 2015 for all the latest and greatest movie reviews and interviews he’s one of the leading voices in the film criticism scene in Toronto, and eventually the world. David is the Entertainment Editor for Addicted Magazine.

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