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Speedman Lands Felicitous Role in Film

02.21.03 (Boston Herald)

With the tough cop drama "Dark Blue," which opens today, Scott Speedman isn't exactly running away from "Felicity," the television series that made his reputation.

But for the London-born, Toronto-raised, one-time Olympic hopeful, playing the idealistic cop to Kurt Russell's burned-out detective is only good.

"It's completely different from television or the type of show I was doing," the 27-year-old Speedman said. "On a television show you're in a studio every day and my show was a very romantic show about college. 'Dark Blue' was shot on the streets of Los Angeles and is about the Rodney King trial and it's incredibly different.

"Although we didn't have a huge amount of money, the pace was different. It wasn't sitting in a coffee shop talking to a girl about college. It wasn't a world I knew, much less a world I want to be a part of; being a cop isn't something I want to do. It wasn't easy, but I liked the pressure of it."

Set in April 1992 in the Los Angeles Police Department, "Dark Blue" unfolds days before the acquittal of four white officers in the beating of black motorist King, a verdict that prompted now-historic riots in Los Angeles. In this racially charged climate, the film tells a story of the Los Angeles Police Department's elite Special Investigations Squad, which is assigned a high-profile quadruple homicide.

Russell stars as hot-tempered, quick-triggered, hard-drinking veteran detective Eldon Perry. Speedman is SIS rookie Bobby Keough who, much as Ethan Hawke's character discovered in "Training Day," must choose to either follow his mentor's way of intimidation and corruption or find a way to maintain his values.

Befitting his hunk status, Speedman does get to indulge in the film's only tender moments, in a wary but sexual relationship with Michael Michele ("ER").

"Scott was respectful but was as uncomfortable as I was," said Michele.

"He would look away and I'd look away . . . and (Ron Shelton) being the smart director he is, seeing us really giddy, said, 'Let's allow the discomfort to show.' "

Speedman spends most of his time onscreen with Russell, a veteran whose career dates to child stardom in the '60s. "They didn't want the type of thing where it was just Kurt's movie and they'd let this great actor walk over this younger guy, so that whole thing was challenging for me," Speedman said.

He prepared for the role through research. "There are a lot of tight lips about the division and what happened," he said. "It's even hard to find a ton of books on Rodney King. I hung out, spent time with cops, and there was an ex-cop who was our adviser on the film and a huge help."

As for handling weapons, Speedman said, "I'm from Canada, man. The arms didn't come easy. I'm not that comfortable holding a gun. It took a bit of time to learn how to shoot guns."

As a Toronto youth, Speedman was hoping for an Olympic swimming career until, at 16, an injury forced him to reconsider his life. "It was an overtraining injury and probably the best thing that ever happened," he said.

While sidelined, Speedman entered a special Toronto school for artists and athletes. "When I got injured, only then did I meet the artists and watch one-act plays and dance shows," he said. "That's when I got interested in the arts. Sarah Polley was there and we just did a movie together, 'My Life Without Me.' "

Speedman recently returned from the Berlin Film Festival where "My Life" had its world premiere. He also recently finished filming "Underworld" with Kate Beckinsale in Budapest. Speedman describes the film as "a war movie: werewolves vs. vampires. I'm an ordinary guy, not a werewolf."

Looking at his post-"Felicity" life, Speedman sounds anything but blue. "I've tried to stay away from doing crap and teen-angst movies," he said. "I know everyone from television wants to be in the movies and all that but now that I'm doing it, it doesn't seem so different. Maybe because I never felt I was a 'TV actor.' I felt like these grittier stories would be something I'd fall into."


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