'Fast, Furious'? No, ma'am, he's a gentleman
By Susan King
Los Angeles Times
By Susan King
Lucas Black, the star of "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," has to be one of the politest actors working today. The Alabama-born and -bred actor prefaces his answers to questions with a "Yes, ma'am" and describes himself as a homebody more at ease in the country than in the bright lights of Hollywood.
Black, 23, came to fame 10 years ago in Billy Bob Thornton's indie hit "Sling Blade" and over the last decade has appeared in the Thornton-directed "All the Pretty Horses," opposite Thornton in "Friday Night Lights," and in "Cold Mountain" and "Jarhead."
In "Tokyo Drift" he plays Shawn Boswell, a rebellious high-school student who loves auto racing. Shawn is sent to live with his stern father in Tokyo to avoid a jail sentence. There, despite promising his father he'll avoid racing activities, Shawn soon finds himself drift racing — a sport built around a kind of controlled sliding — and getting into more trouble than he could have imagined.
Q. What was your reaction at the premiere of "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" when the audience screamed and cheered when your character first appeared on-screen?
A. Well, it's pretty cool, you know. It's pretty cool to see folks happy to see you up there and anticipating the whole movie. A lot of those cheers were from my friends and family. They have pretty loud voices. It may have sounded like thousands of people, but it was only about 25.
Q. Was it daunting to walk into a popular franchise and take over the reins from Paul Walker?
A. You know, I really didn't think about it that way at all. It was just cool to be able to be in a picture like this, where you can have loads of fun on the set. I'm a 23-year-old male, and being able to be behind the wheel of all of these cars. ... You can't beat that.
Q. Did you have a favorite set of wheels?
A. I did. I really like what they done to the Mustang, because it's an American muscle car, but they fixed it to where you can drift in it pretty well. That was pretty cool, because I was able to learn how to drift. Rhys Millen was my stunt driver, and he won the drift championship in 2005. We went to Irwindale Speedway and he taught me how to drift. That was cool. I was able to do a couple of drift moves in the movie.
Q. Which moves?
A. At the end where there's a montage of us tuning up the Mustang and you see the Nissan engine in the Mustang, then they pan up to see me driving — those moves there were actually me ... which was loads of fun.
Q. So how did you go from living in a small town in Alabama to making movies?
A. It's actually pretty funny. I was 10 years old when I did the movie "The War." I didn't even know there was such a thing as acting. Everything I saw on TV I thought was real. A lot of the stuff we watched at home was real stuff anyway. We watched sports or outdoor shows. My mom had heard about the audition on the radio. She heard Kevin Costner was going to star in the movie, so she thought Kevin Costner was going to be there or something. So she just wanted to go and see what it was about.
Debra Zane was the casting director, and she asked me a couple of questions and told me what to do, and I ended up getting the part.
Q. "Sling Blade" was the first movie where critics and moviegoers really acknowledged you.
A. When I finished "Sling Blade," that is when most of the phone calls started coming. That is when everybody started wondering, "Who is this little kid?" After that, my career progressed, though I would kind of limit myself to one movie a year because I wanted to have a normal life.
Q. It is true you turned down a role in "The Horse Whisperer" because they didn't want you to have a Southern accent?
A. Yes, ma'am. I just kind of wanted to see if I could really make it or continue my career just talking and speaking how I normally speak instead of having to change something and maybe just find the characters where I could have a Southern accent and make it work for everybody. I have been lucky that it's happened so far.