I have admired Josh Duhamel’s acting since he played sympathetic bad boy Leo Du Pres on the long-running but now defunct soap opera All My Children and had the chance to interview him for a few of his more recent projects including Lasse Hallstrom’s Safe Haven and the very interesting and intense Scenic Route with Dan Fogler. Duhamel has also starred in several network TV series including Las Vegas and the recent Battle Creek. In his latest film, Lost in the Sun, written and directed by Trey Wiggins, Duhamel plays John, a desperate crook who is struggling to survive who finds an unlikely accomplice in Louis (Josh Wiggins), a newly orphaned teenage boy. As their adventures on the open road continue, John drags Louis on a string of robberies. But despite the danger, the two forge an unexpected and powerful bond. I sat down with Josh Duhamel in Los Angeles and discussed his skill at playing bad boys who somehow retain the empathy of audiences.
Danny Miller: You’re so good at playing these slightly malevolent characters who somehow manage to hold onto their core values and have “hearts of gold.” Do you prefer the complexities of those roles rather than playing pure villains?
Josh Duhamel: Yeah, I think so. With this guy, I never even thought about making him moral or likeable, I just wanted to figure out why he does what he does. I mostly see him as a guy who is just desperate — someone who is in straight-up survival mode and does what he thinks he has to do to get through the day. He owes a lot of money, he is probably hungry, he’s living in his car, and when you’re desperate like that, you’ll do some pretty desperate things. John has made a string of bad decisions in his life and I think he’s finally at a place where he wants to find some peace and redemption but, as he says, “these mistakes keep piling up inside you.”
It’s an interesting dynamic between John and Louis because at first we don’t know what the hell his intentions are.
Yeah, the idea was that it was supposed to be a little creepy at first, before you really understand what’s going on. Even my wife when she was watching the film said, “You seem like a pedophile!” But that’s not what the character is about at all, thank God! I don’t think John even realizes the danger he’s putting this kid in.
I thought your narration at the beginning of the film was really interesting. Was that your character reflecting on his life many years later or did I just read that into it?
No, not really. In my mind it was just him a little bit later in the story talking about what had happened to him. But it’s funny — I watched the film again last night and said, “Jeez, I sound like an old man!” To be honest, I was just trying to make him sound scared and dehydrated and desperate!
I thought it worked really well to think that it was him as an old man looking back on his life.
Cool — I guess it could be!
I thought this movie was beautifully acted by everyone involved, even the small parts. I was very impressed by Lynn Collins as Mary.
Oh, good, I’ve always been a big fan of Lynn’s. She’s an awesome actress and I don’t think she gets enough credit. She was perfect — Mary has to be hot and trashy but at the same time vulnerable and someone who can stand up to John when he’s being an abrasive prick.
And Josh Wiggins was amazing as Louis, not a false note in his performance. Did he remind you of you at that age?
Oh, he’s way more evolved than I was at his age! He’s a really smart kid and he’s been through a lot — he just lost his mother this past year to cancer and he was dealing with that while we were shooting the film.
Whoa, considering his storyline, that must have been very intense for him.
It was, but he was such a professional, he never let it affect him. And he has a wicked sense of humor. I never had that kind of confidence as a kid — I still don’t!
I play a really screwed up guy — no moral ambiguity there, I promise you! We just finished it a few weeks ago, I think it’s going to be very good. But my guy is really the worst dude ever!
I can’t wait! I’m also a big fan of your wife’s [singer Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas]. I know acting isn’t her main thing, but can you imagine ever doing something with her?
Maybe! I’m actually writing something now that I hope she’ll do a cameo in. But she’s got an album coming out really soon that I think you’ll love — it’s fantastic.