Nearly forty actors of his generation appeared inGeneration Kill, David Simon’s war opus that premiered on HBO in 2008. The acclaimed mini-series opens with a Humvee gunbattle in Iraq and a Marine playing dead, something Kellan Lutz wouldn’t be doing for long. “It was definitely a passion project for me, because my older brother was in the Marine Corps,” he told me as we spoke at The Loft in Baton Rouge. “I spent seven months in Africa, but grew up five years. To work with Alex, James Ransone, Billy Lush…a lot of these great guys we built friendships with for life.” Though many from the mini-series’ talented cast would eventually emerge, Generation Kill jumpstarted the careers of both Kellan Lutz and his co-star Alexander Skarsgard. After their seven-month tour of duty, Skarsgard booked True Blood. Kellan booked Twilight.
“All we did was work out, eat high protein meals. I was eating sixteen eggs a morning. That’s what helped me transition into Twilight: I was a big guy and that’s what Emmett called for,” Kellan remembers. “It was really funny to work with Alex, then I got Twilightand then he’s doing True Blood. I’m just so proud of him. He’s such a great guy and I was blessed to be a part of that Generation Kill crew.”
The success of Twilight rocketed its cast into the stratosphere, making Kellan and company household names overnight. But while the character of Emmett has given Kellan great exposure, he hasn’t been identified with the role in the same way that Christopher Reeve, while a talented actor, was forever Superman. The result is a great deal of freedom. “It’s been such an amazing process. I fell into acting and I found a passion for it and it’s really like a hobby to me. I have a great agent, we’ve been best friends, and we have the same dream: to not care about the money and to not care about the fame. We can be cool and collected and really plan my career.”
“I’m blessed to be doing the Twilight movies because I know I get to make multiple movies,” Kellan says. “So, let’s go find some independents with meaty parts: let’s find a drama, let’s find a comedy, let’s find a thriller, let’s find a romantic comedy, a love story. I know my strengths and weaknesses. So, I might not take the great paying jobs of playing the frat guy, playing the jock, playing the preppy boy, because that’s what people see me as already. I’d rather do something a little different. It’s very tough for me to be seen as vulnerable or someone who could be beaten up, so its tough to get those roles, but I’m all for it.”
The planning has paid off. While Kellan is currently in Baton Rouge filming Breaking Dawn, the two-part finale to The Twilight Saga, it isn’t the first time he’s filmed in Louisiana. Just a few months ago, he was the lead in two films that could not have been more different. While shooting the action-thriller The Killing Game in Baton Rouge, he was also starring in the romantic comedy Love, Wedding, Marriage in New Orleans.
“It was really one of the best moments in my acting career: doing two movies at the same time, shooting three days here and driving down to New Orleans with a six-hour turnaround, putting on a suit to do Love, Wedding, Marriage for two days. Then, driving back up, putting on prosthetics, getting all bloody and fighting. I didn’t have a single day off for thirty-three days,” he says. “And I was the lead in those two movies. I loved it, because I haven’t had that opportunity. Doing these two completely different projects was so challenging and I thrived on it. I never felt so energetic. A lot of times I only had three hours of sleep.”
“Kellan was an absolute delight,” says Lauren Thomas of Illusion Studios, the makeup artist responsible for creating his “wounds” in The Killing Game. “Even though he had another film going on at the same time, he was always first in, last out. He was just such a gentleman throughout the whole process. I know he was exhausted but he never showed it.”
“The Killing Game is like The Running Man mixed with Gladiator,” Kellan continues. “Sam Jackson plays this new-age Caesar and I play the gladiator thrown into this Running Man-esque, fight to the death battleground.” In the romantic comedy Love, Wedding, Marriage, he plays Charlie, a newly married husband to Eva, a marriage psychologist played by Mandy Moore. It afforded Kellan an opportunity to work with actor Dermot Mulroney in his directorial debut.
“I play a typical, normal newlywed husband, who wants to have that first six months of a relationship, the honeymoon stage. You’re newly married and you just want to be with your wife,” says Kellan. “It was a tough movie for me. My character was just so matter of fact, so I didn’t have to be ‘large’ about it,” he says, indicating his own affable personality. “To have a director like Dermot who you can just go to…he was probably one of my most favorite directors to work with. He was just so nice and so easy going.”
In addition to Breaking Dawn, Love, Wedding Marriage and The Killing Game, Kellan also has Meskada, A Warrior’s Heart and Immortals, in which he plays the Greek god Poseidon. And while his career is clearly keeping him busy, he is careful to make time for causes he cares about.
“[My assistant] Richard and I just went down to New Orleans and worked with the St. Bernard Project, which is an amazing organization that helps rebuild communities and the homes destroyed by the levees breaking. We got to do some painting and woodwork. And there’s a lot of emotional and psychological trauma that comes with losing a house, so they have a great program to help,” Kellan says. “It’s so great when I do have time. And I’ve been blessed to shoot projects here in Louisiana, some in New Orleans and now some in Baton Rouge, where it’s only an hour drive on a day off to go.“
His work in Africa on Generation Kill also raised his awareness regarding the clean water problems of the developing world. “I’ve started working with Water.org, which was started by Matt Damon. That deals with bringing clean water to Africa so I’m really diving into that as well.” As he pointed out, many actors attach themselves to humanitarian projects for the publicity opportunities. It was clear to me that Kellan’s earnest interest is real, stemming from when he was growing up a young boy in a big family. Now, at twenty-five, Kellan Lutz is playing his own game.