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In Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, the lead two characters just can’t seem to catch a break. All they want to do is go to their new cabin in the woods, drink some beer and do some fishing. But what do they get instead? A bunch of college kids accidentally killing themselves on their property. A great send up of hillbilly horror films, the movie’s shining stars are Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, and a couple weeks back I had the pleasure of sitting in on a roundtable with the two actors as they discussed their new film.
Check out the interview below in which Tudyk and Labine talk about the film’s unassuming director, Eli Craig; dealing with murderous trees; their initial reactions to the script; and working with stunt doubles that looked absolutely nothing like them. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is available now On Demand and hits theaters tomorrow.
Obviously you and Alan Tudyk didn’t know each other prior to shooting. Did you two rehearse a lot? Did it just work instantly, acting alongside each other?
Tyler Labine: None of the above. We didn’t know each other and we had one table reading. He showed up two days before we started shooting the movie. I say it as if he just sauntered in [laughs]. We had another actor initially who backed out in the process and kind of left Eli [Craig] hanging. Then Alan [Tudyk] came in and saved the day. He came in and we met each other and we kind of hit it off right away. Calgary was kind of a good breeding ground for getting into some mischief at the time since we were staying next to a casino. We sort of just got to bond the way that friends would naturally as well as filming it while we’re doing it.
What was the most outrageous thing that happened to you guys while filming?
Alan Tudyk: There was a lot of weather. Some people almost got struck by lightning. That would be mine.
Tyler Labine: Is that so outrageous though? [Laughs]
Alan Tudyk: I guess it’s more an act of God. They had a lot of rain and they had these trees, these very tall trees they called “Widow Makers.” And there was a crew that would go around and try to figure out which ones were dead, they would find the dead ones and cut them down before a good wind came and dropped them on people, which is why they called them “Widow Makers” – they killed people. So there was an element of danger to shooting beyond college kids [laughs].
Tyler Labine: On top of that too, the weather… when we first got there — I think it was June 1st and 2nd – it hailed like golf-ball sized precipitation and then two days later I had to jump in that tiny puddle of a lake which had frozen, like, all the way to the bottom, it got that cold. So it thawed out like a few inches, but obviously it didn’t freeze over the whole pond, but it was cold as hell is my point. It had frozen over and then it thawed out a couple of days after that, but it was still just freezing cold. So that was probably my most… I dabbled with hypothermia that night so that was fun. That was good.
Tyler Labine: I’d say for me it was sort of the idea that I could strip away a lot of my usual tricks. I wouldn’t call them tricks but like the snarky, know-it-all best friend.
Alan Tudyk: They’re tricks [laughs].
Tyle Labine: Yeah, they’re tricks. They’re illusions, grand illusions. Eli trusted me to really sort of really simplify what I do normally but be a really sweet, kind of dumb animal and I really like the idea of doing it that way, following with your heart and feeling confused all the time and being overly sweet. I thought that’s cool that somebody sees that in me and let alone wants me to do it as the lead of this movie which hadn’t happened to me yet either so that was pretty appealing.
Alan Tudyk: I was looking forward to the physical and just the comedy of it seemed like a lot of fun to do. Certainly the physical aspect of some of this stuff as a whole. Working with the woodchipper, actually trying to wrench something out of the gears of a death machine is a fun bit to play, while you’re getting sprayed in the face with blood. The scene where the sheriff shows up and having to explain yourself, I love those situations. It’s almost farcical and I like farces a lot. It reminded me of those plays where someone is in a room. “Can I go in there?” “Um, err, no.” “Why not?” “Because…we should stay in here!” And then you realize that we have to go in that room and then you go to this room…I love those, keeping the balls in the air, and this had that element to it.
So was this as fun as getting roof burn on your ass in Death at a Funeral?
Alan Tudyk: You know, it’s more fun that roof burn on my ass [laughs]. I was glad not to get naked or even in the water in this one.
Tyler Labine: You did go through your fair share of physical trials and triumphs.
Alan Tudyk: Yes. The hanging upside-down was particularly very painful. There was hours of that. Because we were shooting fast we didn’t have a lot of time, so it made sense just to leave me there. Not for long periods of time, but while they’re re-setting the things. “We just have a few minutes, do you want us to cut you down?” “No, no, no. Just do it. Just do it. Just do it.”
Tyler Labine: What did that turn into? What was the longest stretch? Like 45 minutes?
Alan Tudyk: No, no. But it was like 15 to 20…it was bad. I couldn’t think for three days afterwards. My head was swollen, my eyes were swollen, I had headaches. It was a really bad thing. I know that yoga people stand on their heads for some kind of enlightenment, and that was not happening at all! [laughs]
Tyler Labine: People, like, sleep in traction. They hang from the bars…
Alan Tudyk: I have a different diet than they do ‘cause…
Tyler Labine: Yeah, we did. It was a very sort of unique brand of ad-libbing. It’s not like we did it kind of an Apatow approach where we threw shit to the wall, filmed it and picked up the bits. We sort of pre-ad libbed, sort of collaborated a bit on the table read with our ideas which would spark other ideas and we would shoot it with pre-approved ad libs in there. Those would lead to ad libbing on the ad lib and it just sort of kept the ball rolling with ideas all the time. It didn’t feel like – it definitely wasn’t like a Vince Vaughn movie. We weren’t definitely trying to kill off and ad lib, we were just trying to add things to every moment that sort of felt that they aided in the story, not in just being funny.
Alan Tudyk: We had one table read and some actors are…some actors will read a thing and try to figure out the best way to do that thing. There are also actors who come in and say, “You know what’s wrong with this thing is this…” We tended, and I think this is why we got along so well from the beginning, was that we would read and go, “What would be good here is this” or “I had an idea! You know what could be funny? What if I said this and we were in the…” You start getting into that with Eli where we would try to one-up each other. “What about that?” What about that?” What about that?” So we had all these things out on the table and when we got to the day for shooting, some of that got picked up, some of it got left behind. Some of it got added on to. It was a creative collaboration throughout.
This is Eli Craig’s feature film debut. What was it like working with him as a first-time director in terms of his style and his guidance?
Tyler Labine: It was good, it was really good. I think there were some moments where Alan and I were like “What are we doing? What is he doing? This doesn’t make sense. This can’t be the way you want me to do this” or even at times it was like “Are you sure you shot everything right? Did you put the camera there and shoot everything this way?” Eli was – in retrospect afterwards when we watched the cut of the movie we were like “Whoa, okay, he obviously knew what he was doing” and kind of felt like we owed him an apology because we both didn’t totally have faith in what he was doing…
Alan Tudyk: He’s very unassuming. You’ll be like, “Look, I know about woodchippers because I worked with a woodchipper when I was with my grandfather and I was 13 years old. This is how it works, da da da da da.” And he’ll be like, “Ok, great. Well, we can maybe try to do that, yeah. So are we good? It’s just I’ve been studying them for a while now and I’ve looked at seven different kinds…” and he actually knows everything about the thing but he won’t give it up immediately unless you prompt him. He gives you enough rope to hang yourself on the asshole tree [laughs].
Tyler Labine: I’ve known Jesse for a long time and he’s not as young as you might think [laughs]. He’s blessed. We really, other than Katrina and Jesse, we were in a different movie than the kids. That was very intentional, that was the way that Eli wanted it to be perceived with different perspectives and we just didn’t – we barely knew they were there. We saw them on set three times, four times and when we did it was like, “Oh, right. It’s an ensemble, we’re doing this big fucking thing.” They were always going out and having drinks and me and Alan were like, “What?” We were tired, man! But it was really fun for me seeing so many Canadians in the movie because I’m a Canadian and had to struggle for a long time when I was younger, finding my path and getting some exposure. And now I ended up in this really cool movie that’s being seen by lots of people. Some of my friends from Vancouver… so it’s very heartwarming for me to see some Canadian kids do good.
Alan Tudyk: It really breaks my heart to see that many Canadians working at one time [laughs]. Taking jobs from all of the unemployed Americans.
This is a very physical movie. Did you guys do all of your own stunts?
Tyler Labine: I guess we did. I didn’t have a ton. But I did all of the fighting with Jesse.
Did you get an extra bump in pay for doing all that?
Alan Tudyk: Extra bumps, yeah. For sure [laughs].
Tyler Labine: They had stuntmen, but…
Alan Tudyk: It was like, “Tyler, have you met your stuntman?” “That black lady over there?” [laughs]
Tyler Labine: He was like a foot taller than me, muscular. It didn’t work really well. So if you’re watching the movie the fight isn’t very good because we couldn’t use the stuff that the stuntmen were doing, so we had to cut in all of the close stuff. So it’s sort of discombobulated fighting because it was just two other guys [laughs].
Alan Tudyk: One guy and one little black woman. Now that’s a movie right there. Yeah, I didn’t have many stunts, just the upside-down. There was a stuntman for when Tucker gets cut down and he lands. “He can do that part.” And he was up for such a short amount of time and we’re in the makeup chair and I was in a daze. And he was like, “Do you have a headache?” [laughs] “A headache? You do this for a living! How can you be complaining about… so much pain.”
Alan Tudyk: There were three levels of bee stings and those were time consuming. I think we got it down to an hour for each. During the day, because we were doing so much during the day, there would be three different makeup sets during the day. So it was tricky. If you got it wrong, ugh. I was really adamant about getting… I didn’t want it to be a movie where something happens to somebody and they have this big gash and in the next scene they don’t have it and you’re supposed to buy it. You can’t do that, this has to be real, we have to have a gradation. And I must have been so annoying about that because now I watch it and I don’t even think about it. But I think maybe I don’t think about it because it doesn’t happen like that. But once you get blood on me, you’re like, “What’s in there?” It’s just a mess of…we had blood in our ears and…
Tyler Labine: Those boils on your face. I wanted to pop them.
Alan Tudyk: I paid for them. I paid for them totally. They would get stuck in your hair…
Tyler Labine: That was the worst. My beard was so long in this movie, and, Alan more so than me, but you’re covered in blood from dawn to dusk. You just get in the chair in the morning, get covered in blood, and that shit dries, man. My beard would get caught on my overalls and stuff, it was that long. You’d sit down for a while and then try to raise my head and my head was stuck to my chest [laughs]. It would just pull out all of the most sensitive hairs. It knew exactly which ones would hurt the most. It sucked.