Like “Chinatown” producer Robert Evans, who discovered Jack Nicholson as an extra in another actor’s test reel, Joel Schumacher is always on the lookout for a fresh face, and his eye for talent is keen. But why not let him tell you?
“I saw Demi running down a hall at Universal, and she had very long black hair, down to her waist,” he says of Demi Moore, whom he later cast in 1985’s “St. Elmo’s Fire.” “She just whipped past my office, and I said to my assistant, ‘Follow that girl and find out if she’s an actress.’ I didn’t know she was going to become a star, but I knew I needed her.”
Today, Schumacher, whose home-invasion thriller “Trespass” opens Friday, is just as giddy about his latest discovery, Cam Gigandet.
To date, the 29-year-old Tacoma, Wash., native has made an impression as a supporting player in movies such as “Twilight” (2008) and this summer’s “Priest,” but Schumacher believed he was ready for bigger, better things.
Gigandet’s French surname (pronounced “Ji-GON-day”) isn’t above the marquee for “Trespass.”
That space is reserved for Nicolas Cage, whom Schumacher, 72, calls a “wild, one-of-a-kind talent,” and Nicole Kidman, playing a seemingly well-to-do couple whose perfect marriage is a sham, torn asunder daily by misplaced priorities and subtle deceptions.
Enter Gigandet, as the desperate, hopelessly deluded psychopath who plans to make off with Cage’s riches and possibly his wife.
The melodrama is lurid and overblown — Karl Gajdusek’s screenplay relishes every twist and preposterous turn — but the young actor, whose light-blue eyes sparkle with jittery intensity, sells it.
“Cam is the un-neediest actor I’ve ever worked with,” the director says. “He’s very much like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kevin Spacey — they might look to you for a nod, but they don’t like to talk too much. Cam has that look. Julia Roberts had the same thing. If you met her at 20 and didn’t hire her, you shouldn’t be in the movie business.
“At the very end of ‘Twilight,’ there’s a huge action sequence, and Cam, who’s not been in the movie before, jumps out with white-blond hair and tries to kill Kristen Stewart. I perked up — ‘Who the [heck] is that kid?’ It was his screen presence. He woke me up. I don’t know if he’s going to be as big as Julia or Demi, but I know there’s nobody like him.”
Starring Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Ben Mendelsohn, Cam Gigandet, Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro
Written by Karl Gajdusek
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Running time 1 hour 31 minutes