Interview Date: 07/22/2011
Run Date: 08/29/2011
Only time (and marketing) will tell if first-time feature director Eli Craig's powerfully funny reversal of horror flick clichés will find anything like the same audience that took "Shaun of the Dead" and "Zombieland" to its bloody heart. We kind of hope it does. "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" (currently available on Video On Demand and in theaters for a limited engagement on September 30th) is a cartoonishly graphic comedy about what happens when a bunch of aggressively stupid college kids make some incredibly inaccurate assumptions about a pair of goodhearted rural types. The film costars Katrina Bowden of "30 Rock" as the least stupid of the students whose non-kidnapping sets off the story's amusingly deadly mishaps. Much of the positive post-Sundance attention given to Craig's enjoyable debut has been deservedly focused on its talented leads, Texas-bred Alan Tudyk and Canadian-born Tyler Labine.
Tudyk is already a superstar among fans of "Buffy" creator turned "Avengers" director Joss Whedon for his portrayal of lovable space pilot Hoban "Wash" Washburne on the legendary but swiftly cancelled western space opera, "Firefly," and its 2005 big screen follow-up, "Serenity," as well as the psychotic Alpha on the more recent "Dollhouse." Others know him best as Steve the Pirate in 2004's "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" and for his motion-capture performance as the lead automaton opposite Will Smith in that year's "I, Robot." A standout as a luckless doctor in "3:10 to Yuma," he exposed his zany comedy stylings in Frank Oz's 2007 version of "Death at a Funeral" and on Broadway in "Spamalot." For his part, Labine should be pretty well known to Bullz-Eye readers by now. He was stalwart second-banana Bert "Sock" Wysocki alongside Bret Harrison and Ray Wise on the underappreciated cult series, "Reaper," as well as a regular on Shaun Cassidy's "Invasion." Labine can currently be seen in the summer blockbuster, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
The occasion of my talk with Tudyk and Labine was the madness of this year's Comic-Con. As others nearby finished downing Bloody Marys (we weren't in the bar), the three of us chatted in sober yet pleasant fashion while the affably outspoken Mr. Labine attempted to finish his hastily gobbled lunchtime sandwich.
Bullz-Eye: This interview might mark a kind of dual milestone. Tyler may be, I think, the record holder for number of interviews with any one person at Bullz-Eye.
Tyler Labine: Really?
BE: I think so.
TL: I've done a lot, I know that. I'll take that title.
[Note: Alas, he can't have it. We'll have to admit to a bit of Comic-Con induced hysterical overreach. It seems that Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" holds the record, but Mr. Labine appears to be at a strong #2 position.]
Tyler Labine: "What happens with me is, when I end up on a set, my goal is to have fun usually and make things light, and [create a feeling of] love and fun... Maybe that's not as prevalent as I think it is. I go around from set to set hopefully making things fun. I don't think a lot of actors necessarily have that experience on set."BE: And Alan is my first interview with a crewmember of the spaceship Serenity, which for me is a personal milestone.
Alan Tudyk: Brilliant!
BE: Yeah. I have a Browncoat side, but we'll try to tamp that down.
AT: It's all right. We're at Comic-Con. Gotta let that freak flag fly, man.
TL: What does that mean, "Browncoats"? Is that a brown...?
AT: He hasn't watched it.
TL: I've never watched "Firefly" or "Serenity."
BE: Fans of "Firefly," basically. That's the very short version.
AT: They were called "Browncoats," who fought against the Alliance.
TL: Got it.
BE: Having got that out of the way, I had to apologize to people around me yesterday as I was watching "Tucker & Dale" online because I was laughing so loudly. You're both veterans of forging comic chemistry with other actors. Tyler did it very well on "Reaper" and Alan on "Firefly" and other places. Is there anything specific that you guys do to build that kind of rapport. Any particular techniques?
TL: I don't know. I mean, that's a weird question to me because it's sort of like asking to describe why you have a certain quality or something. What happens with me is, when I end up on a set, my goal is to have fun usually and make things light, and [create a feeling of] love and fun... Maybe that's not as prevalent as I think it is. I go around from set to set hopefully making things fun. I don't think a lot of actors necessarily have that experience on set. So, I don't know...
BE: You two came across very believably as friends.
TL: When we met each other that was pretty obvious that we were just like...
AT: Likable guys?
AT: If you're there to do the work and especially when work is as... this is fun work, at the end of the day.
AT: It's hard work. Like laying in a pit for four hours in the cold while someone bleeds on you.
TL: Deciding whether he should bleed in my mouth or on my chest.
AT: I remember my last shot. I was laying in the mud -- cold, at night, covered in wet...
TL: They had your hand like this [positions hand in awkward pose] for I don't know how many hours...
AT: Just covered in dirt and shit and thinking...
TL: It was late, too, man. The sun was starting to come up.
AT: ..."This is unbelievable, what is being asked of us." [Laughs] It's so hard. But, ultimately, what an interesting day of work, being covered in blood and sitting in mud and acting.
TL: And almost dying.
AT: And almost dying.
TL: And being funny whilst doing it. It's not easy to do.
BE: Did you guys do a lot of the stunt type work in the movie?
TL: We did a lot of it. I guess the biggest stunt in the movie would have been the fight sequence that we did at the end. That didn't work out so well. I feel that's my one criticism of the film, is that [making] the fight sequence, we let the stunt performers do more than we were comfortable having them do. We should have stepped in a little bit more as the actors and done it.
AT: [In highly dramatic fashion] It looks great!
TL: It looks awesome!
BE: Tyler, you're never shy about criticizing works you've been involved with.
TL: I criticize my own projects. I'm so self-deprecating. I can never just be like, "It's great! I love it! I'm awesome. Game over. Let's go."
BE: I was just talking to another writer who was part of a roundtable with an actor who was discussing a project that didn't turn out very well and the actor admitted that there were problems with it from the start, and that he never expected it to turn out well in the first place. It turns out, though, that the writer says he has the same actor on tape from the year before saying that it was one of the best scripts he'd ever read.
Alan Tudyk: "That's my biggest criticism of comedies. When you use something that happens that's outrageous to make the audience laugh, and then you abandon the stakes of that situation immediately. Now, somebody died – somebody actually did just die in the reality of the movie. So, maintain that."BE: Alan's smiling very devilishly.
AT: That's great. They should put that mash-up together.
TL: Nice to get him busted like that.
AT: I have a different timeline. Mine is the farther away from a thing that I get, the better it was.
TL: You forget the little...not even little, the big problems.
AT: I remember the weather being an issue, kind of, on "3:10 to Yuma." If I go back to what I was writing during that time, I was in hell with the weather. It was one degree one day. I couldn't get over the fact that it was one. "It was one. What do you mean 'one'? 'One' isn't a degree. It's got to be more than one or else it doesn't count, and don't give me 'two'!" Then, I did the hanging upside down bit [during a segment of "Tucker & Dale" in which Tucker is caught in a booby trap] that was the one stunt in this that was actually...
BE: That looked uncomfortable.
AT: It was really uncomfortable. Surprisingly.
TL: You were up there for a long time, too. Right?
AT: I was up there for a long time.
TL: You're a tough guy.
AT: The blood starts to pool around your eyes. My head was swollen for a couple of days.
TL: It gave you that good voice, too.
[TL and AT make goofy and unintelligible voices vaguely reminiscent of lines from the movie.]
AT: It was a tough one to go back and do looping on because my voice was [off]. I had to loop one line in there. There was something in the way and I had to redo it. I had to get my voice back in that place of... extreme pressure.
BE: One thing I noticed -- it's a movie about the foolishness of stereotypes. You both kind of reversed your usual stereotypes of what people think of you. Tyler was the under-confident sweet guy; Alan was the least zany person in the whole movie. You're the most stable person there.
AT: Yeah. Right.
TL: You had a handle on everything.
AT: I'm much more of a spaz, usually.
TL: I'm overly confident. I'm a big, overly confident guy who's cocky. It's funny. We talked about that a lot. Eli, for whatever reason, pegged us as these two guys, even though he based his decision on "Reaper" and "Invasion" and stuff like that. So, I thought he wanted me to be that, in this character. I [thought], "All right, I'll do that." But then I got there and he was much more, "You can't be confident. You need to be like a wounded bear that has an indomitable spirit but let’s this guy push him around a bit." We had some arguments where I wanted to go toe-to-toe with Alan because he's throwing in these zingers, and I wanted to…
AT: Zing back.
TL: Zing back, but I wasn't allowed to. Eli had to really hold me back a few times. I'm glad he did.
AT: (archly) You had to chain-up that Tyler Labine wit.
TL: I had to chain up the tiger, man. I had to put a chain on my tiger.
BE: But it's interesting...
TL: I had to put the snake in its cage.
[Laughter and mumbled silliness follows.]
BE: No, it's all right. Speaking of letting snakes out of cages...
BE: As a segue...
TL: Oh, you guys have some history.
BE: No, I was actually catching up with "Death at a Funeral" for Alan.
[Alan laughs uproariously. Your intrepid interviewer was actually not thinking about the fact that he is fully disrobed for a good portion of the movie.]
BE: Hey, there's no full-frontal in there. [To Tyler] You've seen the movie. Alan is...
BE: ...And on serious hallucinogenic drugs for most of the movie. That's more what I want to get to, rather than the naked part. How do you get that silly without being too silly? It was extremely funny because it was real but, also, you were very silly.
AT: It all depends on your director. That movie owes so much to Frank Oz. Just the whole process beforehand. I wasn't secure with some of it, and I remember talking to people [and saying], "This is a trust thing. I'm absolutely just going to have to trust that he is the man that I think he is." He helped moderate the size of things. We first started by doing the scenes – we had three levels of how high I was and we were going to do every one, and he could mix and match them later [during editing]. But then it became, "This is just too hard and unnecessary"; he's like, "I'll tell you how high you are." It's just an acting thing, I guess, about believing in your circumstances. Investing in the stakes of a scene.
That's what we had to do in "Tucker & Dale." That's my biggest criticism of comedies. When you use something that happens that's outrageous to make the audience laugh, and then you abandon the stakes of that situation immediately. Now, somebody died – somebody actually did just die in the reality of the movie. So, maintain that.
TL: We can't just make a funny joke about it and then kind of slide off.
AT: By the fourth or fifth death there's a... [In an intense voice], "You kids have got to be more careful!" and it's not just like, [Underplaying it, almost sarcastically], "You kids have gotta be more careful."
TL: [musically]: Bow-wadda-bow.
AT: A wink at the camera type thing. It's so much richer, I find – stories that maintain the stakes that you invest... I don't think I'm saying that right.
TL: I get it.
AT: The stakes are maintained throughout.
BE: I'm getting the slashy-throat signal from the publicist, but there's a scene that you did from my favorite of your "Firefly" episodes, "War Stories." You probably know where I'm going. You and Nathan Fillion's character are being tortured and it's one of the funniest scenes I've ever seen and, at the same time, you totally believe that they are being tortured in a very serious way.
TL: That's what makes it so fun to laugh at is the feeling that, "I shouldn't be laughing at this." That's what the whole premise of "Tucker & Dale" is. These kids are literally jumping into wood chippers. They're losing their lives and you’re laughing your ass off because we're allowing you to laugh at it, finally. You can laugh at the actual seriousness of somebody dying becoming funny. It's taboo, in a way, almost.
AT: For all of those people who've been wanting permission to laugh at death, see "Tucker & Dale."
TL: This is your film.