Brandon Routh weathered his post-Superman career fairly well with memorable supporting roles in Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and a recurring role on TV’s “Chuck.” He continues to parlay his leading man cred into indie movies like this week’s Crooked Arrows. Routh plays a part Native American businessman who coaches a tribe’s lacrosse team to sell a land deal, but really learns about his heritage. It hits all the sports movie beats, and has a classic soundtrack including the ‘90s tune “Tubthumping.” We got to chat with Routh in Los Angeles prior to the film’s June 1 opening.
CraveOnline: Are you a Chumbawumba fan?
Brandon Routh: [Laughs] That one song’s great, you know. It was a highlight of the ‘90s but I can be honest, I don’t really know any other songs.
Are you disappointed that that’s what I got out of the movie?
[Laughs] You know, that moment, it plays. It’s funny. It’s a good funny moment.
Did you ever play lacrosse?
I did not. I’m from Iowa. At least where I was from at the time, we didn’t have lacrosse. Other than in P.E. [in which] I think we played it for two days, a little segment with plastic sticks. It was the only exposure I’d ever had to it and I really liked it because I saw a lot of similarities to soccer but there was no outlet for it.
Did you shoot the old lacrosse videos on actual VHS?
No, I think just through the magic of digital stuff they degraded it.
How did you like those moments of getting to play?
Actually, I think I was busy. That little moment is not me because they had me off doing something else that day.
Do you have any Native American background?
I do. A little bit of Kickapoo which I was not in contact with at all, but it’s in the ancestry a ways back.
So it’s just a coincidence that you got this role and have some background?
No, it was a question that was asked of me. I think it was important for the producers to have somebody who had some connection to that, to be able to bring truth and to be honest about the character and the role.
Were you looking for a Native American story to do?
It hadn’t been something that was high up on my list just because it was so far back in my ancestry, but when the opportunity came about I really thought it would be awesome to be able to do, since I had no connection, to have this little bit and learn about the culture and why they play this game. The spiritual aspect to it was really something I was looking forward to and got a lot from subsequently.
How did you like giving an inspirational sports speech?
That was tough. That was the most challenging thing actually that I did in the movie I think. We shot that very early on so I hadn’t had a lot of time to really explore the character on film at that point, and that being kind of the pinnacle for Joe I think, one of the biggest moments, and also the fact that it carried so much weight with it, because it was explaining why the Native Americans played the game of lacrosse to entertain the creator, the ancient game and how the game was played. It was important that I had enough weight and emotional connectivity to that so that was a challenging thing but I’m fairly happy with how it turned out. I think it did the job.
How about shooting the training montage? You’ve got to have a montage.
Yeah, that was fun. Just a lot of running. Those couple days were a good workout, that’s for sure.
How many setups was it over those few days?
I think we only had that location for one or two days. We might have all done it in one day or it might have been two days, kind of remote locations running through the woods.
Looking back now that you have some distance and perspective, did Superman make things in some ways more difficult for future projects?
Well, I think to say that is to negate the fact that I probably wouldn’t be here where I am without it, so even if it did, it doesn’t matter because I’m very fortunate and blessed that I have the opportunity to have played that role. Any inconvenience that comes because of Superman is kind of silly to be worried about because I don’t think I’d be in this position without it.
How long was a Superman Returns follow-up actually discussed?
I think for a couple years until they finally made a decision, it was kind of a lingering issue.
Were you at least notified politely that they were going another direction?
Um, not really.
How are you choosing your roles now?
The same way I always have. Superman was kind of one of those things that you just say yes to period, but any movie depends on the script. I have to have some kind of passion about the character or the movie as a whole to be able to bring truth to it, so that’s what I always look for.
On Crooked Arrows, you’re also a producer. How did you get involved in that capacity?
I think because I was helpful in being able to speak to prospective investors and bring people on board who hadn’t been in the movie industry before. So engaging with them and making them feel comfortable that the movie was going to be in good hands with me as the lead I think was a big aspect of it. I’m out talking it up all over the place so that’s an aspect of it too.
This is an independent movie coming out in select cities in June. Does it seem like we’re in a time where you can make movies for a really specific audience – like people who’d be interested in Native American culture and lacrosse – and get it specifically to them?
Yeah, it’s a grassroots campaign. This whole film, we have over 50 investors in the movie who are all just people who love lacrosse. That’s an amazing thing. I don't know that that’s ever been done in the film industry. To have that many single investors in a project is a really cool thing and speaks to the love and passion for this game. So the production team has been doing everything they can on the social media front to get the word out there and getting all the lacrosse fans to talk about it, and invite their friends who don’t play lacrosse and get all the people out there we can to see the movie and to spread the sport.
50 investors sounds like it could be a problem too.
Well, thankfully I didn’t have to deal with that aspect of it but I think they’re all happy with the end product and hopefully they get a return on it. I think they’re just excited to have been a part of it. It was kind of a “for the love of the game” thing versus anybody in it just for the money.
Is something happening in the industry right now where something like Crooked Arrows can reach an audience, whereas even 10 years ago you might not be able to without a big ad buy?
Yeah, I think social media gives you free [advertising], other than somebody running the social media campaign for your project, I think it makes a huge difference. We can get the word out about this in many different ways than you could [before]. The traditional media was just film and television. The internet has opened up huge avenues for something like this. Friends just talking to friends, it’s easier for them to reach people all across the country. Kids just talking about putting their movie review on Twitter and everybody can see it. Kids don’t read movie reviews anyway I don't think. They get their movie review from their friends. “Yeah, it was awesome,” whatever, or it wasn’t.
Are you still getting good feedback from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night?
Scott Pilgrim for sure. I think a lot of people enjoyed that movie and it’s finding audiences on cable a lot. Unfortunately it didn’t find its whole audience in the movie theater but I think it’s one of those cult movies that will continue to garner support and fans in the years to come.
And Dylan Dog fans aren’t reaching out to you?
A few. I think that movie was even less seen by a lot of people.
The die hard comic book fans though.
Yeah, I don't know how everybody feels about it. That was kind of more of a mixed bag of responses.
What are you doing next?
I’ve got a sitcom on CBS that just got picked up called “Partners” by the creators of “Will & Grace.” So I’ll be on Monday nights for weeks to come starting in the fall.
Was a weekly TV gig something as a working actor that was really appealing to you?
I’ve done more TV as time has gone on so it’s become more appealing. I like film as well because you go and shoot something and then you can be done for a little while. Especially with a sitcom, it’s pretty easy hours. It’s the best schedule in TV because you only film one day a week for the audience so it can be very nice, especially since my wife is expecting and we’ll have our first child in just a few months. It’ll be nice too that I can get back home and change diapers and do all that stuff.
What kind of character will you get to play on “Partners?”
The show is about two architects and their relationships. One architect is straight and one is gay so I play the boyfriend of Michael Urie. So my character, Wyatt, is a reformed former alcoholic model and now he’s a sober vegan nurse. I kind of liken him to Mr. Rogers a little bit, just really sweet and really nice. Mr. Rogers wasn’t dimwitted but this character is not always the smartest person, but well meaning.
Photo Credit: Kent Eanes