Kellan Lutz was ready to step out of the “Twilight” and into the spotlight. And after playing a vampire, the next logical step was to take on the role of a Greek demi-god.
At 6’1” and possessed of a toned body shaped by countless dedicated hours at the gym, the 28-year-old actor was eager for something a little left of center after the conclusion of "The Twilight Sage," in which he portrayed the imposing but sweet-natured Emmett Cullen.
After a brief stint playing the sea king Poseidon in 2011’s “The Immortals,” he finally got his wish playing the titular mythological strongman and son of Zeus in “The Legend of Hercules.”
“Hercules was such an iconic figure and such a classic hero for me growing up,” says Lutz, who bulked up his already rippling frame to achieve the character’s appropriately mythic proportions. “Once I became an actor and I could actually bring to the big screen and portray a lot of these heroes that I used to play growing up in real life, he would have been up there on list: ‘If I could be anyone, who would I be?’”
He’d chased various superheroic roles before, including Thor, Captain America and Conan, but fell short of claiming them as his own. “All these characters that I would have loved to have been, but then when Hercules came around, I was like ‘Yes!’” he says. “So much passion was there because I always had that dream from a little boy to play him…The great thing about Hercules is that there's so many stories that you can tell about him. There's no right or wrong answer, so unlike Tarzan, where there's a book you can't really sway from too much. With ours, there are a lot of different stories you can do. We did our origin story and we took it a new way.”
Lutz joins the pantheon of actors who played the demi-god in the pop culture, including muscleman Steve Reeves, the most famous of the stars of the series of Italian-made “sword-and-sandal” films of the 50s and 60s; bodybuilder and “Incredible Hulk’ star Lou Ferrigno, who starred in two 80s-era films; the animated Disney incarnation voiced by Tate Donovan, and Dwayne Johnson who tackles the character later this year in “Hercules: The Thracian War.”
Lutz admits he has two favorite incarnations: “Arnold Schwarzenegger – he was Hercules [in the 1969 film ‘Hercules In New York,’ under the screen name Arnold Strong]. And I grew up watching Kevin Sorbo [on the syndicated TV series ‘Hercules: The Legendary Adventures’] – he has the long hair and really just the demeanor of Hercules, and I’m a fan.”
He’s hoping that audiences embrace his take, which despite the many challenges his Hercules faces is a much sunnier and fun-loving approach, and that the box office will be enough to spur future sequels. “It's already a dream job – I'd be spoiled to do a sequel, as I'd love to,” he says, alluding to the famed feats of penance that earned Hercules his immortality in myth. “I'd love to do the Twelve Labors. I think that would be really fun to show next, and to develop more of his God-like strength.”
Meanwhile, his role in a second dream job is also heading to theaters in 2014. In "The Expendables 3," Lutz plays the leader of a youthful, rival team of mercenary commandos who clash with big guns Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. “I'm skinnier because of 'Expendables' – they didn't want me so big like I was for Hercules,” he chuckles, insisting their was no pec-driven pecking order imposed by the vets. “Everyone was just there to shoot a badass movie, “ he says.
He’s still eager to take on a full-fledged superhero from the comics-to-screen world. “There's so many characters that I'd love to be a part of,” he says. “I love Marvel and I love DC. I really want to play Venom. I really want to play Aquaman. My favorite character was Nightcrawler [from the X-Men] – playing the video game, I always loved playing Nightcrawler. I love superhero movies!”
And Lutz has no qualms about honoring his first fan base with a swoon-worthy role in a romance sometime soon – it’s all party of his game plan. “That's why I love Matt Damon,” he says of his on-screen role model. “I love my action movies, just like he has his Jason Bourne – I want my own franchise and maybe Hercules can be that. But then he's also wise to do his comedies like 'The Informant,' and I love doing my comedies like 'Stick It' and 'The Comeback.' And doing his 'We Bought a Zoo' or his brilliance in 'The Departed.' I really would love to emulate his career, to have a well‑rounded one.”