Words by Ms Hermione Hoby
Mr Lucas is describing the vagaries of his profession: "In this business it's always tides - you're on an 'in' tide or you're on an 'out' tide."
But now, as he admits, is most definitely an "in tide". It's close to 10pm on a Monday night but Mr Lucas has only just finished the day's filming for The Firm, a TV remake of the 1993 legal thriller, in which he reprises Mr Tom Cruise's role as Mitch McDeere. Meanwhile, Red Dog, a family film in which Mr Lucas plays the owner of a preternaturally devoted pet, is making box office records in Australia. There's also the forthcoming Big Sur, an adaptation of Mr Jack Kerouac's 1962 novel in which Mr Lucas plays the poet's best friend Mr Neal Cassady, and then J.Edgar, the keenly anticipated Mr Clint Eastwood-directed biopic of Mr John Edgar Hoover.
Working with Mr Eastwood was not something Mr Lucas was going to miss. The actor admits that he wrote him "basically a fan letter saying, 'I want to come and work for you'". It paid off. Mr Eastwood cast him as aviator Mr Charles Lindbergh to Mr Leonardo DiCaprio's Mr Hoover and, as he explains, there's even a family connection to the role.
"My grandmother was one of the first female pilots in this country, so she flew with some of those early pioneers of the aviation industry. There were bigger parts in the movie but I was more interested in this because it was connected to my life."
It's a life that warrants obsession. In 1927, Mr Lindbergh became the most famous man in the world after his solo flight from New York to Paris ("People say no movie star in history compares to the level of fame that the pilot had at that point") which meant that the kidnap and murder of his infant son in 1932 became a global cause célèbre. It was in attempting to solve this "Crime of the Century" that Mr Hoover made his name. Three years later he founded the FBI.
Working for Mr Eastwood was a revelation: "It's like coming in and sitting in on his jazz ensemble: when he looks at you he expects you to know your notes perfectly and if you don't it's your problem. He doesn't answer to a single person on earth," says Mr Lucas. "You go through this long casting process but he finds auditions too intimidating both for him and the actor, so you send in videos and don't meet him until you show up on set. I was there a few days before filming for a costume fitting and it was a beautiful moment to walk up and meet a legend. He is who he is for a reason."
It's not all work and no play with Mr Lucas, however. He also has stake in a cocktail garnish range called Filthy Food (you'll find his gherkin-stuffed olives in spots like Soho House and The Bowery Hotel) and he was also one of the founders of The Box, the notorious Lower East Side nightclub, known for its outré cabaret acts and celebrity clientele. Mr Lucas worked with its owner, the director Mr Simon Hammerstein, in the early days of their careers - originally, the two of them intended to open a theatre.
"We just wanted a place to perform our own plays because we couldn't get jobs in New York but over the next four years it ended up turning into a nightclub. We brought in a number of investors and it became what it is now. Obviously now it's open in London and Vegas is next. I've had some incredible, crazy wild nights there... I miss it, I must say."
Now, though, he's too much in demand to let his hair down. "I have to come home and learn lines and go back tomorrow - I'm not doing that hungover, that's for sure."