Everybody loves Alan Tudyk, even if they don’t quite know who he is. The star of this week’s Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil has appeared in everything from Serenity to 28 Days, from I, Robot (he was the robot) to Transformers 3 (he was the “humorous” supporting character who actually was). He’s hard at work on the other side of the Atlantic right now, but we got hold of him on the phone to ask about his new redneck horror comedy and catch up on some career highlights to date…
When I first read it, I remember getting the idea that it’s gonna be a misunderstanding, that the college kids are gonna think that Tucker and Dale are these bad guys and they aren’t. And my first thought was there’s no way to maintain this; yeah, it’s funny but there’s no way they’re gonna be able to make this work. Then when the first kid died I was like, “Well, that’s really interesting, the stakes are high.” It seemed like every time I got to a place where doubt crept in and I’d say, “Nope, cops would show up, this is too unreal now and silly”, the cops did show up and it added even more humour.
By the time I was done, I got on the phone with Eli Craig, who wrote and directed it. The main thing I wanted was to be on the same page with him as far as how it was to be played. Was it going to be a Scary Movie-type comedy where everybody’s winking at the camera? Or was it going be two guys going through something absolutely ridiculous and responding to ridiculous things? That’s where the humour comes from, trying to be as real as possible. I went to Canada a few days later and got to work.
We lucked out. I went over to his apartment, and we worked in a way that I have never worked with another actor since, like, drama school. We cracked open the script and went through page-by-page and asked questions of one another, and of ourselves. Where we were from and how we know each other and how much this means to us. Then when we met with Eli, we all three worked together. I’ve worked with a few different writer-directors and it seems like there’s two kinds: one is the, “It’s taken me so long to get this here, every word is precious” type; and the other is, “Hey, I’m up for the collaboration” and Eli was that.
When you go from the script to the actual location, everything is different and you think, “OK, we’re gonna have to make this work.” That that’s where the chemistry really comes into play, the ability to improv and bridge those gaps. And it was such a short shoot; we did it in, I think it was three weeks. It was so fast that we got one take with the script and then Eli would say “Go” and flub around a little bit and that would be it, now packing up and moving on. We didn’t linger very long on anything!
The gorier, the funnier. We used a lot of fake blood. There were different kinds, different consistencies, fresh blood versus older blood. I’d never done a horror movie or had anything with so much blood. You know you have to wear the same clothes over and over again, you can’t have a back-up outfit and you can’t wash them either; it has to look the same. So this blood, which is mainly corn syrup, it hardens, so they would have to spray it down with water and knead it and work it till it’s moving again. So you’d start your day off in a wet, syrupy mess. It helped, I think, add to the the feeling of horror!
It was a ridiculous role and I love ridiculous roles. Michael [Bay]’s another one as well, more so than any director I think I’ve ever worked with, where you get on the set and he’s like “Yeah, the script doesn’t work, what are we gonna do? Right, what are the basics? We’re getting information over the phone that we need to print out.” He just blocks it out, and you do the lines and then immediately throw them out. If you have punch-lines or new ways of doing a thing, he’s up for them, and they’ll put them in the movie!
We had three or four jokes, and ended up sticking with the Cyrillic alphabet joke. The one that I liked was, “This isn’t a language; it’s just the last seven letters of the alphabet rearranged over and over again!”
That character [in Transformers] is actually very similar to the character I did in 28 Days with Sandra Bullock, Gerhardt Weihnacht. He was the gay German who is in rehab. I decided that it’s the same guy: he had gotten out of rehab, got himself on the right track and then… entered the army, became a specialist, found that he had skills in computers and weapons. Then he got burned out after too much killing and just decided to become a valet to Agent Simmons. There’s a moment where he just goes crazy, and I say, “That’s the old me” and that was all based on that bullshit idea that it was the same guy.
Hopefully Sandra Bullock will turn up in the fourth instalment, that’d be a wonderful crossover. And Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West! Bring ‘em all! Marianne Jean-Baptiste. They’re some bad-ass actors. That was my favourite movie of my own for a long time. There was no script for that ending: the movie ended a different way and the audiences they showed it to didn’t like it and they liked the weepy, gay, German guy so we did the scene in the flower shop in a day; director Betty Thomas came in with the basic idea, and that was it!
I wish I could tell you what that is! It means something actually. I asked the director, Brian Helgeland, constantly. I’m like, “Does this mean what I think it means?” And it doesn’t! It means something in the art of leather-making; it’s a move you can do when you’re curing leather. He knew it the entire time and never told me, just said, “It’s whatever it means to you, man, define that for yourself.” I think I defined it as… I’m sure, the most obvious way is how I defined it.
It’s shocking, and I was really moved by the Kaylee line. You know, the character Kaylee says afterwards when they move on, “Wait a minute, where’s Wash?”, and it was so sad! And then Zoe says, “He ain’t coming,” it’s so, so sad.
After I read it I called Joss – he had told me before, “Just call me when you’re done reading it,” so I knew something bad was coming, or just potentially very embarrassing. As he explained it, it was to raise the stakes on the movie. At that point in the story, everybody starts to get injured and it looks like nobody’s gonna make it out alive and with Wash dead, there’s a moment where you actually think: “He’s just gonna kill everybody!” Especially when the doctor goes down and three other people have gone down, it’s like, there’s no way out! They’re running out of ammunition, there’s just no out. So I think it worked. If it didn’t work, I’d be mad, but Wash died in the service of something greater than himself: the story.
I play Stephen Douglas and it’s based on the book so there’s a good idea of what’s happening there. It’s Timur Bekmambetov directing, so it’s that book processed through him, with his stamp on it. It’s sort of action, you’ve got vampires and Abraham Lincoln locked in battle. It’s all so funny, the idea’s absolutely ridiculous. So I found myself being a little bit of the ridiculous.
I’m a historical figure so I provide a lot of historical moments, so I seem to show up whenever Abraham Lincoln is making a decision; I work as his foil, you know, the other side of the argument on slavery – which you just don’t get to hear enough of. I’m in cahoots with vampires and Rufus Sewell plays the lead vampire and I haven’t worked with him since A Knight’s Tale so it’s really great working with him. And we’re on the same side, pretty much. Whenever you’re working with vampires it’s like you’ve got an attack dog. And politicians are even less trustworthy so really it’s a bad pairing.
I’ve been doing a lot more voiceovers, those are great. I’m still doing Green Arrow, I just did that the other day. It’s cool to be part of it and this one’s huge. I’m gonna show myself to be really ignorant if I try to go onto this too much; this is comic book-land, and I’m not as good on my comic book lore. Nathan Fillion is the guy for that. I went to go see that ‘X-Men’ movie and he was like: “Yeah, but he didn’t build the plane; this person built it and then this person turns into this person after this…” But like, really? Cool, way man, you’re legit! The video game voiceovers those are mainly for Halo, which is the only game I play. It was only because I love the game and they were fans of Firefly, and they asked Nathan Fillion, myself and Adam Baldwin.
But I’ve been doing a lot of voiceovers. I do a voice in Ice Age 4 and there’s Alvin And The Chipmunks 3 coming up. I do a voice of a little chipmunky person. Well, I guess that wouldn’t be a ‘person’. And I’ve done Pixar. I don’t know how much I can say on that one except it’s a really cool role that I can’t wait for people to see, but I’m sure it’s at least two years out, maybe a year and a half at best. We’ve been working on it for a while though. It’s great, they really take their time.