GIANNI Capaldi has done enough living for several lifetimes. Up until the age of 19, he’d set his sights on becoming a professional football player, even getting as far as being in Motherwell’s youth team.

“As a boy growing up in Scotland, that’s all I wanted to be,” Capaldi tells The National over the phone from his Las Vegas home, which he shares with his wife Amanda Fitz. “I wasn’t really thinking about anything else and what I could do with my life.”

Capaldi was forced to do just that, though, when injury curtailed his sporting pursuits. Since entertainment is in his blood – Capaldi is related to Jimmy Logan, Peter Capaldi, and Lewis Capaldi – he shifted his focus to acting. In particular he was inspired by the likes of Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis, the two actors who initially generated his excitement and enthusiasm for the craft.

“They both just have such great range and can play so many different sort of characters in a variety of genres,” Capaldi, 48, said. “Whoever they play, they’re able to change into any character, any shape, or form. They’re just chameleons.”

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Rather than honing his craft in Scotland, Capaldi set sail for the US, learning his skills at the renowned Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theater in Los Angeles.

“I just thought I’d go out there and try it,” he said. “If it didn’t work out, I could always just come back home and figure it out. But the sunshine, the palm trees, and just the fact that everyone was so positive and chasing the dream. I just really enjoyed it out here.”

So much so that, once he was done with his studies, Capaldi decided to stay in Los Angeles. Since 2010 he has appeared in 37 feature films, opposite stars such as Elliott Gould, Vinnie Jones, Toby Kebbell, Taye Diggs, John Cusack, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis.

“It’s strange, because I’ve had a long career,” he said. “But I’ve done a lot of independent movies. I’ve always just really loved the job and the last few films have been finding bigger and bigger audiences, especially because they’re now easier to find on streaming and VOD [video on demand] platforms.”

Capaldi’s latest film, Damaged, sees him venturing into new territory once again. Capaldi came up with the idea for the action-thriller alongside Paul Aniello, co-wrote the script with Aniello and Koji Steven Sakai, co-produced it, and stars in it alongside Samuel L Jackson and Vincent Cassel.

The National: Samuel L Jackson and Katie Dickie
Dan Lawson (Jackson), a Chicago detective, travels to Scotland to link up with Scottish Det. Boyd (Capaldi), following the resurgence of a serial killer who's crimes match an unsolved case that he looked into 5 years

Jackson plays Chicago-based detective Dan Lawson, who is called upon by Scottish authorities to investigate a series of serial killings alongside another detective, Cassel’s Bravo. Lawson discerns a pattern that connects with another killing spree he investigated five years prior.

While Capaldi had always had good ideas, he had never found the time to write a script before Damaged. “With this, I told myself I was going to take the time to write it down and work it out,” he said.

In the summer of 2022, Capaldi began to flesh the idea out into a script, alongside Aniello and Sakai. Once they completed the script, Anthony Hopkins briefly flirted with joining the project, before Samuel L Jackson signed up.

“My character is a local Scottish detective,” explains Capaldi, who plays Glen Boyd in the film. “So you have this great contrast with Samuel L Jackson. It’s a very colourful blend as he is so charismatic and full of expressions.”

Damaged also gave Capaldi a rare chance to shoot in Scotland, something he was particularly excited about since most of the filming he’s done has been in either America or Eastern Europe. “Shooting in Scotland was really appealing to me,” he said. “It was amazing to film in Edinburgh and then near the docks in Greenock. I was so thankful for it.”

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Alongside Jackson and Cassel, the rest of Damaged’s leading cast is rounded out by Scottish character actors Kate Dickie and John Hannah, both of whom were able to bring a grit and ruggedness to the film that made it feel authentic.

Capaldi said: “There is so much Scottish talent. Obviously I knew that going in. But it was just so great to be able to work with them and to get the chance to spend some time back home.”

When it comes to what he hopes audiences will experience with Damaged, Capaldi just wants to keep them on their toes. “There’s a lot of twists and turns in there. When the audience feels comfortable, the idea is to then turn the tables on them and develop a new twist. That’s what this movie has. It’s exciting and keeps audiences on their toes.”

But while Capaldi clearly loved returning to Scotland for the film, he has continued to work stateside since filming wrapped on Damaged in May, 2023. In October and November, he teamed up again with Jackson on Unholy Trinity, which was shot in Montana, and also features Pierce Brosnan.

“Me and Pierce hit it off really well,” he said. “I was filming there for like six or seven weeks. It was delightful. It’s been great to keep the momentum going. I’m excited to keep it going even more and see what’s around the corner.”

Damaged was released in selected cinemas and on demand last week.