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His ‘Van Helsing’ role brings out the animal in dancer Will Kemp

Will KEMP’S head is spinning with the ritual details that follow the making of a major Hollywood movie.

“It has been such a wild day for me,” says the 26-year-old Kemp, who plays the Wolf Man in the new monster movie “Van Helsing.” “I am like the president with all of these people walking around me with headphones, saying, ‘We’re in the elevator and coming up to the fifth floor.’ You don’t do this for ballet.”

And Kemp would know. He made the grand jete to film from Matthew Bourne’s groundbreaking London-based dance company, Adventures in Motion Pictures, where his smoldering looks and penchant for playing tormented characters led him to be described as the “James Dean of Ballet.”

Though you can count the number of contemporary male ballet stars who have had success as an actor on one finger -- Mikhail Baryshnikov actually did get an Oscar nomination -- Kemp was eager to try. And actually, he says, acting in films isn’t much different from dancing a Bourne ballet.

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“The productions have very strong characters,” says Kemp, who starred in Bourne’s “Swan Lake,” “Cinderella” and “The Car Man.” “Matthew treats us all like actors who can dance.”

Kemp was appearing in a Bourne ballet in London when he landed the role of Velkan, a prince with a deep, dark secret in “Van Helsing.” And he was able to put his ballet experience to good use in the transformation scenes.

“I actually got to play out being a human climbing up a wall and changing into a wolf,” he says.

Soon after the “Van Helsing” part came along, Kemp was hired for a Gap ad campaign that included him dancing solo in loose-fitting pants in a sexy TV commercial.

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So does he actually wear the jeans?

“Now and again,” he says, laughing. “They can be quite comfortable.”


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