IN CONVERSATION WITH JOSH DUHAMEL
Interview by Jana Letonja
A dynamic and versatile actor, Josh Duhamel is one of Hollywood’s leading male actors. He made his directorial debut at the 2019 Mammoth Film Festival with the ‘Buddy Games’ and is currently in production on an unscripted series for CBS based on the ‘Buddy Games’ movie. Josh is starring in Amazon’s comedy ‘Shotgun Wedding’ alongside Jennifer Lopez, which is premiering on Amazon today (27 January).
Josh, you’re starring in the romantic action comedy film ‘Shotgun Wedding’ alongside Jennifer Lopez. Needless to say, the ultimate destination wedding, couple getting cold feet and then being forced to work together to save their loved ones as they’ve been taken hostage, is a recipe for a perfect romantic action comedy. How would you sum up the film in a few sentences?
It is one of the most awesome times I’ve ever had making a movie. We’re in the Dominican Republic. Like you said, it’s the perfect backdrop. We’re at this amazing resort. My character spent all of his time and energy making sure this thing goes off perfectly, but as we all know things don’t always go to plan. And this one especially goes off the rails quick and it’s just a wild, hilarious adventure and it’s completely bonkers. I think Jason Moore did an amazing job with it.
Darcy and Tom easily found themselves getting cold feet on their wedding day. How did having to work together in this stressful situation bring out the best and the worst in them?
Well, oftentimes plans that don’t go according to the way you set them up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In our case, because of these incredible circumstances that happened, that prevented us from having our wedding, it brought us that much closer. It forced us to address things that both of us were sort of skirting around because we didn’t want to make waves in the relationship. It forced us to address things that neither one of us wanted to talk about. So in that regard, it’s probably good for the relationship, even though the wedding was a total disaster.
Like you said, your characters needed to have this talk to get back on the same page.
You know, these kinds of situations sort of strip everything away. Everything that we thought was important was taken away. And now it’s just ‘Who are you really? And who am I really? Why are we great together? And should we be together?
Often, couples avoid all the landmines just because on paper they’re supposed to be together. But unless you go through some really difficult times, you’d never know people’s true colors in these situations.
Jennifer Lopez is such a powerful woman. How was it working alongside someone like her?
She’s definitely a force. And in the best way, she is as impressive in person as you would probably think from afar. Incredibly hard worker, super professional, super talented and just still down to earth. She still is Jenny from the Block in a lot of ways. But when it gets down to it, she’s just a regular person who treats people with respect. And I think that’s what I like most about her. She treats everybody with a lot of respect. She doesn’t act like she’s J.Lo, she acts like a regular person on the set. And I love that about her.
When filming a romantic comedy, there must be so many funny behind-the-scenes moments. We’d love to hear the funniest one from the set of ‘Shotgun Wedding’.
I mostly remember how they put me in another house and they put her in another house, and the rest of the cast got to stay in this giant mansion of a place. This mansion had 20 bedrooms, so they all had their own bedroom and they all ate together and drank wine together every night. I just remember feeling so left out, I was like “Why don’t I get to stay with you guys”? And I think they did it on purpose because they didn’t want me eating and drinking and having fun with them every single night when I was supposed to be getting ready for the next day.
I remember hearing the stories about all of them having this amazing dinner the night before and drinking and talking and playing basketball or going in the pool or whatever it was. And I’m sitting at home in my house while they’re having all the fun. But I gotta say, Jennifer Coolidge, Cheech Marin, and this whole cast were really fun and sweet and understood the kind of movie that Jason was trying to make. I don’t remember any real pranks happening other than just them having to sit in a pool for about a week. That was not their favorite thing to do, having to sit in that pool throughout most of the movie.
Recently, we’ve been able to see you in the bank heist thriller ‘Bandit’, based on the true life story. The film was the most-watched Redbox Original film of 2022 and the critics called it a career-best performance by you. What made you resonate with your character or this story so much, that you believe resulted in you delivering such a terrific performance?
That’s very nice for you to bring it up. This type of film is maybe not as big of a showcase, but this one in particular I really had a chance to just be free and have fun. And Allan Ungar, the director, really sort of let me. I had a lot of ideas on how I wanted to make this guy funny, yet slightly threatening and also very vulnerable at times. He just let me really improvise a lot. And I think that’s probably what people responded to. Plus the story was so compelling, because it’s true.
It was a movie where Allan and I kind of had to go it alone in a lot of ways because we had a lot of extraneous stuff going on around the set that made it very difficult to make a good movie. But he and I stayed laser-focused on what we wanted to do. I came with ideas, he let me run wild and you put it in the movie. A lot of times you do things that never make the movie because people are afraid to put them in, like “Oh, that’s not good for the character”. Or that’s too crazy or too silly or whatever. But he wasn’t afraid to put some of that stuff in there. And I love that because for the first time, a director really let me shine. So that’s why I’m gonna make another movie with him this next year.
Having this creative freedom has a greater impact than most people think it has.
It’s hard to get it to set an environment that allows you to do that. Oftentimes it’s so restrictive. The set is like ‘These are the lines. Say the lines, you move from here to here and say it like that’. And it doesn’t give you a lot of freedom. So I would come in on that movie and there was a scene where I walk in, where this guy named Bill Bonney had a mustache in a short tie. I gave them a list, but I didn’t tell anybody I was gonna do it. I was like, in a funny voice, “My name’s Bill Bonney and you need to show me your safe, if you don’t mind”. At first everybody off camera was laughing because they couldn’t believe I came on and started it like that. This is supposed to be a serious movie, but I wanted to play these characters all differently, all these characters that went and robbed the banks.
And so at first Allan was like “Yeah, could you dial that back a little bit”? So I did. And sure enough, he used the one with me talking like that and that’s the kind of stuff that I loved about him. He wasn’t afraid to let me just sort of act a fool and have a lot of fun with the character.
If you look back on your first acting role, how would you describe your growth and evolution as an actor?
I think for the longest time I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt like I was fooling everybody, like I was some kind of a fraud. Like “I’m not really an actor, what am I doing here”? And I never felt like I was part of this community in Hollywood or in this town. It took me until the last few years until I really started feeling I do belong here and I do have something to say and I have something to offer. And I’m a valuable asset to have on the set, not just for the acting, but I really am a collaborative, good team player on the set. And I trusted myself.
I think when I directed my first film, that was really when I felt like I finally belonged because I truly understood every aspect of the business at that point. From the financing to the writing to the physical production, to editing, to marketing, to casting, art direction, I had my hands on all of it. So that was like a big feather in my cap, because then I felt like I do belong here because I was able to pull this off and that was the hardest thing I’d ever done in the business. I think that was a big sort of confidence builder for me. And as a result, I think that helps your acting when you understand all aspects. When you’re in front and behind the camera, you know what the directors are looking for, what editors are looking for, what the marketing departments are looking for. So that was a big learning experience for me. And I think it really helped me become a more comfortable actor.
In 2019 you also made your directorial debut with the ‘Buddy Games’. What do you love most about directing and producing? In what way does it excite you more than acting itself?
From the very beginning when I started on ‘All My Children’ back in 1999, I was so green as an actor, I was brand new. I didn’t have any experience and I always had these ideas about how a team could play. I always felt like I had an eye for, but never had the confidence or the trust in myself to go for it because I didn’t think I knew enough. I didn’t think I knew all I needed to know about cameras, lensing, what if somebody from the sound department needs something and I don’t know the answer. Well, what I realized was I knew that I didn’t have to know everything. I just had to have people around me that could help me get it through and sort of help me see my vision. And that’s really what I love about it, being able to shape a story, be able to shape a scene right, in a way that I think is funny. And then sort of shoot it in a way that I think will make it most impactful.
And the editing part was just so much fun. Way more fun than I thought. I was like “Oh my God, now I gotta go edit this thing in a dark room for five months. It’s gonna be a nightmare”. But I loved it. You don’t even realize how much you can change a story and manipulate and change the pacing, the cadence of a scene by just taking a few frames out here or there or pulling a reaction from a scene that happened. For example, in the second ‘Buddy Games’ film, I was looking for a reaction from one of the characters and we didn’t have it in the act well after we said action in the actual scene. There were some really funny things he had when he wasn’t even acting. And I pulled a couple of those and it made the scene totally pop. So there’s things like that, that you can do and I found that to be really interesting and helpful.
You have to become someone else for every project you do. From which role did you find it the hardest to disconnect when you got back home from the set?
That’s a good question. I think anytime I’ve had to go to really dark places in a scene. I think about when I was on ‘Las Vegas’ and I’d just come back from Iraq and I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and I had to go to this dark place. It took me a full day to shake out of it. And then again, a day or two to shake out of it. I was just kind of in this weird and dark spot actually. And then again, when I was on ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’, my character started losing his mind. He started going crazy after seeing these images, after watching his dad jump off the roof of this building. And he really went into like a tailspin and I had to go there.
For me, I have to really go there. I have to kind of force myself into that place. And it’s not fun and I don’t like it, but it’s also cathartic in a lot of ways because you’re forced to look at things and feel things that we all sort of avoid. So as an actor, it’s sometimes therapeutic to go through some of the things emotionally, even if it’s make-believe, because you’re forced to sort of work through things that you would never even go near in real life. And I think that as much as I don’t like having to do it and as exhausting as it is, it’s actually therapeutic in a lot of ways.
For which role or film or series did you feel the most out of your comfort zone?
I would say there’s a few that pop into my mind. One would be ‘The Thing About Pam’, playing this attorney cause just the words alone were so hard to remember. It’s all so legal and it was a very sort of contained character, but there was a lot going on. That was a tough one. I think ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ was very tough, mostly because the superhero stuff for me was always weird. I’m in a giant superhero suit, with a big gray wig and a big old bushy gray beard. That was physically uncomfortable to shoot because we were in the heat and in those giant suits. It was just not fun.
I mean, you try to find things that take you out of your comfort zone because then that’s when you have to really do the work. That’s part of the fun of being an actor, you have to force yourself to do things that you would never otherwise do. It’s a lot of mental preparation and getting into a head space that isn’t always comfortable. And I think it’s part of why I love doing this.
When you’re not on set acting or directing, how do you love spending your downtime the most?
I love hanging out with my son and my wife. Those are probably my two favorite things. But I love doing it at my cabin. I have a cabin out in Minnesota. If I had a hobby, I guess it would be that.
It used to be golf, used to be art. I still love art, love to do all those things, but I really love homesteading and getting on my tractor and pushing dirt around or just doing work at my cabin. There’s something very basic about that lifestyle I have out there and it’s the idea that I’m building something. I’m building a property that I enjoy as much as anything in my life, but also my kid hopefully. And his kids will be able to enjoy it. So that’s what I love. If I can spend my time doing anything, it’s that it’s out of my cabin.
To you, what would you say is the most important thing in life?
Success professionally is what I think we all sort of fall prey to. And I’ve fallen prey to it, but I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that none of that matters if you don’t have people around you to share it with. I have a group of friends that are just the best. We talk every day, we’re on a text thread all day, every day. And those guys have been such a huge part of my life. So I’ll say friends and family are the most important thing to me by far.
Talent Josh Duhamel @joshduhamel
Photographer JuanKR @juankr_
Stylist Christian Stroble @christianstroble
Groomer Natalia Bruschi @nataliabruschi
Styling assistant Kassidy Nagy @kassidytaylorxx
Market assistant Dane Nikko Alvero @danenikkoalvero
Editor Timi Letonja @timiletonja
Cover design Arthur Roeloffzen @arthurroeloffzen