Writing a script about a zombie outbreak that’s contained to Las Vegas is easy. Filming a movie about a zombie-infested Sin City is much, much harder -- as Zack Snyder found out when trying to mount his production of Army of the Dead, which is landing in select theaters on May 14 and on Netflix on May 21. Even before the pandemic brought the tourist destination to a screeching halt, Snyder was wrestling with the best possible ways to evacuate the area so he could flood the recognizable casinos and landmarks with undead creatures. And because he’s Zack Snyder, a visionary storyteller who’s always on the cutting edge of filmmaking technologies, he changed the rules of the game to pull Army of the Dead off.
CinemaBlend traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey in late 2019 to visit the set of Army of the Dead, and set up shop inside the defunct Showboat Casino. The East Coast gambling mecca has seen some difficult times in recent years, with numerous large casinos having to close their doors entirely or shut down huge sections of their sprawling floors to better accommodate dwindling guests. Here, though, Zack Snyder, his producer spouse Deborah Snyder, and Team Army saw an opportunity to recreate a casino -- dressed like it was the victim of a zombie apocalypse -- while also pouring necessary funds back into the local economy.
During a break from filming, Snyder opened up about the challenge to find the necessary casino locations to stand in for Vegas, telling CinemaBlend:
It was super hard. Because you can imagine that Vegas isn't shutting down their entire floor of their casinos. We thought about it. But also, we needed it to be fucked up, so that part was going to be also problematic. And even just here at the Showboat, it's so hard to shut the power off. Casinos aren’t designed to have the lights ever go off. Literally, they didn't know where the switches were! (Laughs) It was crazy. I was like, ‘Hey, can you guys shut the lights off?’ And they were like, ‘What? The lights haven't been off for like 20 years!’ So you could imagine that the bigger casinos, that actually had people in them, that that would've been problematic.
That solved one of the biggest issues facing Army of the Dead, which was securing an interior that could contain Dave Bautista, Ana de la Reguera, Omari Hardwick, Ella Purnell and the mercenaries that Snyder was sending into Las Vegas during a zombie outbreak to retrieve millions from a locked vault. But how do you deftly recreate Las Vegas for an audience that’s going to recognize the desert paradise, even if they’ve never been to the city to see it for themselves.
Debbie Snyder had the solution, as she explained to CinemaBlend:
Our visual effects team is in Vegas this week. They were there last week because they were scanning the entire Vegas strip, so it has been quite an undertaking. And actually, I think we’re the first movie… normally they only let you on the Strip until 10 am, but if we could only be there at 10 am, it would take us like six weeks to (scan the exteriors). Which wasn't going to be very affordable. So they've allowed us extra time on the Strip, so we’re on the median and we have some scissor lifts and we had a couple of ‘helicopter days’ where they have lidar scans and photo geometry of all of Las Vegas. So we'll use that and create a devastated Vegas from there.
Incredible. And you can see how realistic is all looks in the full Army of the Dead trailer:
And then we’ll be able to see how Zack Snyder’s team of treasure-seekers escapes with their lives from the zombie hell that he has created once Army of the Dead opens in limited theaters on May 14, and then on Netflix on May 21.