TORONTO - Canadian actor Kevin Durand often plays menacing characters, from mercenary Martin Keamy on "Lost," to a bullying former boxer in the film "Real Steel," and a bank robber in the new Canadian drama "Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster."
Onscreen and off, he is a towering presence, standing at six foot six with self-described "lumberjack genetics" and "snow shoes for feet."
Durand is also soft-spoken, humble and goofy, as evidenced when he launched into fast-paced rhyme at the start of a recent interview.
He rapped while growing up as an only child in Thunder Bay, Ont., where he played hockey until he realized acting was his true passion.
"I was constantly searching for venues (to perform) in Thunder Bay," he recalled this week in Toronto, one of three Canadian cities in which "Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster" opened Friday (the others are Vancouver and Montreal).
"I was rapping at the roller rink on Saturdays and they were sneaking me into the Landmark Inn in Thunder Bay when I was 14, into the back door, handing me a 50 (dollar bill), and I would make the adults laugh onstage.
"I remember my girlfriend at the time, I was 15, her mom walked in (to the roller rink) and I was going, 'The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,' and then threw out more curses than a witch can throw at you," he added with a laugh.
"I wasn't her favourite."
Durand also recalled being in his bathroom at home for hours on end, standing in front of the mirror to try out new facial expressions and voices for his future acting career.
As the true story in the Genie-nominated "Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster" shows, Boyd (Scott Speedman) also relished acting out in front of the mirror as he applied makeup for his bank-heist disguise in Toronto from 1949 to '52.
A Second World War veteran and wannabe actor, Boyd at first resorted to robbing banks out of desperation so he could provide for his two children and wife, Doreen (Kelly Reilly).
But the dashing and charismatic bandit came to love the rush and fame that came with the crimes he committed with Lenny Jackson (Durand) and Val Kozak (Joseph Cross); the gang became so bold they broke out of the city's Don Jail twice.
Toronto filmmaker Nathan Morlando wrote and directed "Citizen Gangster," and shot it in February 2011 in Sault Ste Marie, Ont. It debuted at last September's Toronto International Film Festival.
Durand said he didn't know about the Boyd gang growing up, but learned about them through research and from his uncle after signing on to the film.
"He knew of him and the folklore and the legend of these guys, and it was really cool to see the way that he talked about them; it was this childlike fascination," said Los Angeles-based Durand, 38, whose other film credits include "3:10 to Yuma" and "Robin Hood."
"He would hide in the basement and he would be scared that the Boyd gang was going to come and break into their house and steal everything and kill them. I was like, 'Wow, that's really intense,' because I didn't see them like that at all."
Durand can next be seen in David Cronenberg's film "Cosmopolis," due out June 8, as well as the upcoming films "Resident Evil: Retribution" and "Dark Was the Night."
"I've been really lucky," he said. "I think the whole idea for me (moving) to California was just to help me elevate to a point where I could have filmmakers like Cronenberg and Nathan Morlando know who I was, to create a body of work that would hopefully attract amazing artists like that. So it helped."