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Scott Speedman Is Everywhere This Summer, from a Porn Star in ‘Sharp Stick’ to ‘Crimes of the Future’

Speedman tells IndieWire about taking risks on new projects that invert the Nice Guy image audiences have come to expect from the “Felicity" and "Grey's Anatomy” star.

Scott Speedman attends the "Crimes of the Future" premiere at the Walter Reade Theater on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Scott Speedman attends the “Crimes of the Future” premiere at the Walter Reade Theater

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Fans of “Felicity,” or at least those who watched or rewatched the beloved and very ’90s WB series during the pandemic, might be surprised to find Scott Speedman in not one, but two places on the big screen this summer.

First, while Neon’s marketing didn’t even suggest a cameo from the actor, Speedman really should have had top-adjacent billing in David Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future” as leader of a cell of evolutionists repurposing plastic as food for humans and evolving organs to be able to consume such plastics. Meanwhile, in Lena Dunham’s new feature “Sharp Stick,” out July 29, Speedman plays Vance Leroy, the object of the sexually precocious Sarah Jo’s (Kristine Froseth) coming-of-age obsession.

Call it a Speedman-aissance? The British-born, Silverlake-residing actor doesn’t mind the term, especially since in the last year the actor formerly known as mercurial lothario Ben on J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves’ series tapped into massive pre-baked fanbases with starring roles on Season 3 of “You” and the recent seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“This feels a little different for some reason. I understand where it comes from. I’d love to be able to bat it down. I get it,” Speedman told IndieWire in a recent interview. “It’s one of those circumstances that came about with a lot of stuff coming at the right time. I’ve been working through the years, and sometimes stuff doesn’t pop out. And then a number of things squeak through.”

Speedman has starred in major franchises before (the “Underworld” films), even dabbled in a Vin Diesel joint (“xXx: State of the Union”) and worked on smaller pictures with auteurs who’ve their own dedicated fanbases (Atom Egoyan with “Adoration”). But “Crimes of the Future,” as Speedman explained, offered the Toronto-raised actor to chance to stretch new muscles for Canadian director Cronenberg, who pushes his actors with heady concepts for his latest Cannes-premiering body horror.

But when I mention my surprise at seeing Speedman in the film during an early screening due to his absence in trailers and teasers, he said that wasn’t a deliberate ploy by any means, acknowledging he’s not as much a household name as Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, and Kristen Stewart.

Actors Scott Speedman, left, Kristen Stewart, Lea Seydoux and Viggo Mortensen attend the "Crimes of the Future" premiere at the Walter Reade Theater on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Scott Speedman, Kristen Stewart, Lea Seydoux, and Viggo Mortensen attend the “Crimes of the Future” premiere at the Walter Reade Theater

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

“You’re the first person to really kind of say that,” he said. “I loved [the marketing], but I would’ve liked to be more in it. [Neon] is gonna hang their hats where they need to, and when you’ve got those three at the top of the ticket, that makes sense to me. It wasn’t meant to be any sort of surprise. It’s a vital role in the movie, and when you get away from the body horror stuff they were leaning on in the promos, you get into this emotional narrative that I hold, and it becomes confusing to sell that in a movie.”

Still, he said, “It’s nice when people go to see it and see I have quite a significant role, and working with Cronenberg, I was happy on that level.” He added, “If you go from watching ‘Felicity’ to ‘Crimes of the Future,’ that can be a little discombobulating on the Speedman narrative line.”

Speedman, now 46, had his first child in late October 2021, about a month after “Crimes” production wrapped in Greece in September of the same year. His character indeed bears the emotional burden of the film, as he’s grieving the long-ago loss of a child amid heinous circumstances, and now mining his pain to try and better a broken world.

He said he’s in a “different stage in my life, in my career, where that kind of role and taking it where I did probably wouldn’t be something I was willing to do” years ago. Same goes for “Sharp Stick,” in which he plays an adult film star who, in just a few short scenes, has big Simon Rex in “Red Rocket” energy.

Speedman, because of his Canadian ties, said he did not have to audition for Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future” and that he more or less nabbed the project out of the gate.

“That was one of those rare things where there wasn’t a lot of heavy lifting or waiting for this person or that person to pass, and we were waiting for it to trickle down to me,” he said. “It was mine right away. That was rare, if ever happens.”

Kristen Stewart famously said she had no idea what the cast and crew were making while on set for five weeks in Greece and that unpacking “Crimes of the Future” as an ensemble was an actively unfolding process. Is Cronenberg’s approach really so fluid, in Speedman’s view?

“He’s so unpretentious in so many ways, how he shoots, how he talks about shooting, the lightness he has on set. He’s just a confident, quiet artist who’s not looking to impress this person or that person. Part of it is that he’s been doing it so many years, but part of it is his natural style. We do one or two takes, not much more than that. He’s not into beating you down. It’s very opposite of somebody like [David] Fincher in that way,” Speedman said.

Speedman joined his colleagues at the Cannes Film Festival, where he said he was worried after so much press touting potential walkouts on “Crimes of the Future” (not unexpected, given the PTSD Cronenberg surely had after his experience on the car-crash-fetishist psychosexual thriller “Crash” at the festival in 1996) how the film would be perceived.

“I was worried people would be sort of thrown off or disappointed by that but much slower, more interesting, introspective little art piece,” which is what “Crimes” really is. But the finished piece, Speedman said, “what I saw on screen, it’s probably the thing I’ve been happiest that I’ve ever done, just from script to screen. I’ve worked with some great directors that you know, to have that kind of role with David was huge for me. Just to get what I was doing and have it put on screen with David’s touch was rare.”

As for “Sharp Stick,” Speedman said it was a similar process of the role of Vance making its way to him rather than him doggedly pursuing it. The film, which Speedman shot in Los Angeles for one day in early 2021, finds the actor in all manner of tastefully shot, albeit definitely pornographic sex scenes, from almost ASMR-like, solo, staring-directly-into-the-lens cam amateur cam videos to more choreographed group scenes. His Vance Leroy is the sort of adult film actor women (or men!) pay for to feel loved and taken care of rather than degraded, which is largely the opposite of Sarah Jo’s experience with her employer’s husband (played by Jon Bernthal), who takes her virginity but ultimately leaves her feeling debased.

“Earlier in my career, or maybe not so earlier in my career, I would’ve been nervous about this subject matter, but now it’s like, whatever. Let’s go,” Speedman said. “Lena and I would talk about not so much self-consciously inverting some idea of me from the late-’90s, but going from this nice-guy persona of this character, and that’s really what he’s selling as a porn star, and I thought that was an interesting way in.”

As for being directed in sex scenes by a woman, Speedman said it’s not something he even thought of during the filming, especially with intimacy coordinators the norm and Dunham, after a decade of “Girls” and her own well-known openness about sexuality, at the helm.

“The scenes we’re doing are heightened and comedic. We’re not doing ‘9 1/2 Weeks,’ two-week, three-week sex scenes. It’s very much what it is on that day,” Speedman said. “Everybody felt good and safe.”

While Speedman hasn’t announced any post “Sharp Stick” projects quite yet, he said he’s feeling “emboldened” by his recent and unexpected return to form. “I’m feeling like you get to the point where you’re doing this so long, and things work, or don’t work, and nothing really changes, and it’s like, ‘Fine.’ I’m best when I’m being pushed for anything that’s risky or out there or scary. The jobs I’m happiest with are the ones maybe not a lot of people have seen, [and] the ones that are the most taxing emotionally. Anything like that. What that would be, I don’t know.”

Utopia releases “Sharp Stick” in theaters on Friday, July 29. “Crimes of the Future” is now on VOD.

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