Scott Speedman’s no stranger to playing romance on screen. But Barefoot‘s central relationship — between an unlikable man and a mental patient — doesn’t read like your typical romantic comedy.
Yet, that’s what Speedman calls it. Directed by Andrew Fleming, the film stars Speedman as Jay Wheeler, the “black sheep” son of a wealthy family who strikes up an improbable relationship with Daisy, a free-spirited patient at a mental hospital played by Evan Rachel Wood. (Check out the first poster for the film above.)
Speedman talked to EW about why he jumped on board to play a “jerk,” working with Evan Rachel Wood, and filming in New Orleans:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let me get this clear: Your character works at a mental institution and basically kidnaps a patient as a date?
SCOTT SPEEDMAN: [Laughs] I wouldn’t exactly say “kidnaps” her. He’s just a down-on-his-luck guy who owes a lot of money to some pretty bad people, and he needs to find a date to his estranged brother’s wedding where he’s going to beg for some money. And one night, he has an interaction with a patient at the mental hospital where he works, and she’s quite taken with this interaction, follows him out one night, and he decides, well, what can I do? Maybe this is a great candidate for the job, I’ll bring this mental patient to my brother’s wedding. It has pretty mixed, disastrous results, but it’s fun along the way.
That makes a lot more sense than a kidnapping.
Yeah, it’s this dark romantic comedy, more or less.
Why were you attracted to the film? Was it the story or the character?
For me, it was the character more than anything, because I haven’t gotten to play a lot of characters like this… As soon as I read it, I knew I could play it. [My character] is kind of a jerk and we didn’t shy away from that, so it’s not an easy match, between her being a mental patient and me being a pretty committed jerk, but in the script, it works really well and played out really well.
Was that the main challenge for you? Making this unlikely romance between a jerk and a mental patient logical?
Yeah, but she was so easy to play off on because she sets everything up. She’s such a committed character that it was just easy to find the humor playing off of her. When those moments came, they played out really naturally. I can always tell when you’re on a movie that has something or it doesn’t, so I felt this had some energy to it for sure. And I like [Evan Rachel Wood] a lot, I’ve always admired her from a distance and wanted to work with her very much.
What was working with her like?
She’s unlike a lot of gals of her era and generation, she’s a real-deal actress. … I don’t know, she doesn’t worry too much, she has a lot of fun while she’s there, and she just does a really good job, which is actually really refreshing.
And her character, from what I understand, is a bit eccentric.
[Daisy’s] a zany character, and she’s got some twists and turns in the story that I don’t want to ruin. But she likes to be barefoot, she’s got an interesting view on the world, and she hasn’t seen a lot of the world, I’ll tell you that.
Yeah, she looks pretty wide-eyed in the poster.
[Laughs] We both do! We both look pretty wide-eyed, like, “Whats going on out there?”
You filmed in New Orleans. Tell me about that experience.
It was my first time there. I’ve always wanted to go there, and I figured at some point, the best way to go is when you’re shooting and you can spend two to three months there and be really immersed in the city. It was just a great experience. It’s a hard city to shoot in. [Laughs] I mean, I try to be in bed by 10, so it becomes a bit of a challenge there to not partake in what the city has to offer. I loved walking up and down Magazine Street on my days off and getting on my bike and riding around the city. I thought it was amazing.
Looking ahead, you’re also going to be starring in Ryan Murphy’s show, Open, for HBO. Anything you can tease about the show or your character?
It’s one of those things that you read and are just like, “I can’t believe they haven’t made this yet.” It’s a character who’s just sort of a — I don’t know if you want to call him a Jerry Maguire type — but he’s a sports agent, and he’s pretty fast-talking, interesting kind of guy. I’ve been playing just different kinds of characters throughout my career so far, so it’s a real challenge. I’m very excited about it, we’re going to start shooting in the new year.
Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you back on television.
Yeah, me too! [Laughs] I think it’s gonna be good. I have a special feeling about this one, so hopefully it comes together.
Barefoot hits theaters Feb. 21, 2014.