By Christopher Lisotta
After seeing Jim Sturgess in Julie Taymor's musical Across the Universe, Robert Luketic (pictured right) had to have him for the lead in 21, the Kevin Spacey'produced nail-biter movie based on the true story of a group of MIT students who gamed the blackjack tables in Las Vegas. A native Londoner, Sturgess was awed by shooting on location in Sin City, 'but to spend a month there, we slowly started to lose our minds,' he admits. 'We were living in the casino we were filming in. One day I realized I hadn't left the building four days straight.'
Best known for directing what he calls 'wedding dress movies' Legally Blonde and Monster-in-Law, gay director Luketic was ready for a departure. 'I felt a lot more creatively free because the romantic comedies operate under such strict genre code,' he says. Taking on the gritty and sometimes violent 21 was made that much easier by having Sturgess along for the ride. 'He had that movie star thing going on,' Luketic says of his lead, before ribbing the unshaven and casually dressed Sturgess. 'You wouldn't believe it looking at him now. When the camera rolls, it's something else. He is spot-on and flawless.'
For Sturgess, there are many parallels between gambling and his chosen career. 'Challenging yourself,' he explains, 'and doing things you're not necessarily comfortable doing is a big part of what acting is about."