The chance to play a part in a major comic book movie is a once in a lifetime role. But for Doane Alum Leif Gantvoort '94, it has been a lifetime of hard work, dedication, and self reflection that led him to this new milestone in the Amazing Spider-Man. The following Q&A contains excerpts from an interview with Geeky Mom in Wired Magazine and a personal interview by the Doane University alumni office. Gantvoort's character "Glasses," a cash register thief, is definitely a pivotal role, but we'll try to leave the secrets to the movie!
GM: Did you know you were auditioning for Amazing Spider-Man at the time?
LG: Kind of. My manager, Amy Thompson, had suspicions of what it was. The title of the project for the audition was "Untitled Teenage Drama." Then once I had the scenario that I was auditioning for explained to me - it became pretty clear what the film was.
GM: How did you feel when you discovered which role you were playing?
LG: Excited. I mean, I was and am a huge comic book guy. To be a part of any franchise like this is my dream come true. And the chance to play such a pivotal role, with such history, is truly humbling.
GM: What subjects did you enjoy the most in school?
LG: Physics. Algebra. Calculus. Theology. Anything that challenged the way I thought. There weren't enough of those type of classes for me.
GM: How did you wind up pursuing theatre rather than math in college?
LG: I went to college with the intent of being a math major, but not long into my first semester I realized that all of the math classes were at 8:00 in the morning and all of the theatre classes were at 1:00 in the afternoon. I switched majors not long after that. I'm still not certain it was the right choice.
DC: What made you decide that Doane was the school for you?
LG: I went to Deuel High School in Clear Lake, South Dakota. One of the counselors at church camp was a recruiter. Doane was a school that was big enough to have your own life, but you still knew everyone.
DC: You were active in Doane Players and majored in theatre. What was your favorite show on campus?
I suppose one of my favorites was The Fantasticks, and I received an ACTF nomination for that role. I had the opportunity to do the set design and be the lead in the show. Doing theatre at Doane gave me a well-rounded background. When I'm not booking roles continually, I can still be a lighting designer, writer, producer, and do other things.
DC: Is there a professor that really made an impression on you?
LG: Tom Wolt was the theatre director after my sophomore year. We've kept in contact and he's still supportive after all these years. He's one of my biggest fans and has been promoting and encouraging me the whole time.
DC: What are your fondest memories of Doane?
LG: It was a great environment to get life experiences that I needed. I did not have the best grades, but learned a lot from those experiences and interactions with people. Some of the best learning from teachers was outside of the classroom. It helped keep me well rounded and shaped who I am.
DC: Describe your journey from Doane to the most recent Spider-Man movie.
LG: I had a good background in the tech side of theatre, so I did dinner theatre and a series of similar jobs in the Midwest. But if you want to be an actor, you have to make that choice. It was either LA or New York. I hate snow, so I picked LA. My family and I have been here for about 15 years now. I scrounged for any role, just to keep my head above water. I'm still taking classes, writing, producing, and directing. You just want to get to that next level of work where you can support yourself as an actor. It's a grueling process, but I am finally starting to see the work pay off. I've starred in quite a few independent films, but this is my first role in a big studio film. I've worked on a number TV shows: Justified, Desperate Housewives, Revenge, Death Valley. Besides the comic book research, this role in Spider-Man allowed me to talk with the director about what led up to this moment for the character and what comes after. When you're a bad guy, you have to know the motivation and reasons behind everything. You have to figure it out and inject that into the character.
SPOILER ALERT: Read more about Gantvoort and his character choices, surprise acceptance into Mensa, and tough parenting problems in this month's Wired Magazine article.