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Terrence Howard on Dead Man Down: You pay for revenge

There was a lot of competition in Dead Man Down — both on set and off. Find out what Terrence Howard did in his downtime to help other actors build their characters.

Terrence Howard has an interesting process to prepare for roles in films like Dead Man Down.

“I only read the script up until like 70 percent of it, so I’m always in suspense of what’s going to occur,” he told SheKnows in a recent interview. “Because if you know how your day is going to go, you don’t approach it naturally.”

“There’s nothing more unnatural than an attempt to look natural,” he continued, adding that being natural in a character allows him to “create the dynamics that allow the audience to empathize [with the character].”

Battle of the flicks: Oz vs. Dead Man Down >>

Howard plays dirty real estate mogul Alphonse in the Niels Arden Oplev–directed film. Alphonse enlists Colin Farrell’s assassin, Victor, to carry out a vendetta. What he doesn’t know is that Victor is also seeking retribution against Alphonse for the death of his wife and daughter years earlier. Howard told SheKnows that he liked playing a flawed character.

“It was the fact that he wasn’t that great of a guy,” Howard said of what attracted him to the role. “He reminded me of the younger incarnations of myself.”

Not because the actor’s a killer, but because Alphonse wants to get what he wants without really earning it.

“When you consider that you have some right or entitlement for happiness without paying for it,” he said of the similarities between young Terrence and Alphonse. “You have to earn your piece.”

And if you think it’s serious onscreen, the seriousness also translated into the behind the scenes action.

“The first thing with men is there’s always competition. There are always alpha males walking about,” he said of the mood off set.

Howard added that he liked to play chess with some of his big, burly co-stars — but not for fun and games.

“Off camera, we’d play chess,” he told us. “I’m a bit of a monster and my son is a bit of a monster, so I brought my son up there, and I let a couple of guys beat me. Then I let my son come in there and tear them a new…”

The point? To keep them on their toes.

“When someone thinks they’ve got you figured out and then [you] show them you’ve been playing them, then they watch you from two or three more dimensions,” he said.

Sounds intense.

Ultimately, Howard believes the message behind the film — that revenge isn’t always so sweet — is just as intense.

“Anytime you’re unwilling to let go of the past and seek revenge, you’re always going to pay,” he said.

Noted, Terrence.

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