As a fan of film and pop culture, chances are that you have already encountered the work of Alan Tudyk. Whether it was capturing the imaginations of legions of fans for Joss Wheadon’s “Firefly” and “Serenity” projects or developing a diverse array of characters in a slew of recent comedies, he has established himself as one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in Hollywood. For his latest project, “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil,” Tudyk is paired with the equally hilarious Tyler Labine in what is sure to become a cult classic! The film is a hilariously gory, good-spirited horror comedy, doing for killer rednecks what “Shaun of the Dead” did for zombies. Tucker and Dale — best friends vacationing at their dilapidated mountain house — are mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of obnoxious, preppy college kids. When one student gets separated from her friends, the boys lend a hand, but as the misunderstanding grows, so does the body count.
A hit on the festival circuit, the film debuted at Sundance, won the Midnight Audience Award at SXSW, took home the Jury Prize for First Feature at Fantasia, captured the Best Director Award at Fantaspoa and walked away with the Best Motion Picture Award at Sitges. Not too shabby for a couple of rednecks! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Alan Tudyk to discuss his start in the entertainment industry, his biggest influence, the making of “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” and what lies in store for the months to come.
“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” will be available On Demand everywhere August 26, 2011, and in limited theaters on September 30, 2011!
Tackling a career in the entertainment is often not for the faint of heart. What drove you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
I think, no I know, that I was one of those type of people who knew that this was the only thing that I could do! [laughs] It was the only thing that I wanted to do and I was going to devote my life to it! I had a GREAT deal of energy when I was younger to where when people, when I was younger, said, “You know! A lot of people don’t make it in this business!” It added a lot of fuel to the fire and gave me that I’ll-show-you mentality! It was like, “it may appear that I am washing dishes at a shitty restaurant but IN FACT I am studying to play the part of a dish washer in a shitty restaurant!” [laughs] I truly looked at life that way! Everything was about finding a way to be a better actor. I was very, very passionate!
Who would you cite as your biggest professional influence and why?
I liked Gene Wilder a great deal as a performer. I liked watching him perform, I thought he was amazing! What I loved about him, and still do, is his ability to go to such extremes but you still buy into it as, “That’s just him.” He almost seems to be living right on the edge of hysteria at all times. Even when he is simply talking to someone, he almost has a tremor in his voice, where HE CAN FREAK and it isn’t too far. He can move just a little bit and he is losing his mind or he can come back down to a very soft level. “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” was one of his films that I really loved but “Young Frankenstein” was amazing. He can be so serious in a comedy, so serious in ridiculous situations. One of my favorite ones is in “Young Frankenstein” was where he is going to go in and talk to the monster for the first time and says to EVERYONE in such a vaudeville way, “Whatever you do, do not open this door … I am going to go in here and if you open the door, you will undo everything that I have worked for! The stakes COULD NOT be higher! DO NOT open this door!” As soon as the guy closes the door, the monster goes “Grrrrr!” and it is “Open … the … door.” He is so serious and believable on both sides of that door and he is so afraid! Anyway! That’s why I love him!
Your latest project is “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.” How did you get involved with that project?
I read the script, it was a script that came through my agent, just like anything else. Actually, I wasn’t the actor originally slated to play my role in the film. There was another actor that had been attached to it for a very long time. He fell out about two weeks before shooting. When I got the script, it was like, “Hey! You wanna go to Canada?! [laughs] Like, next week, go to Canada?!” So, I read the script and really loved it! At first I was a little suspect that it would work, the whole concept of it, but by the time that I got done reading it I believed that it could work! I got the director, Eli Craig, on the phone and we discussed how he wanted to shoot it and how he wanted me to play it. It was a conversation to determine if we were on the same page. It was really kinda like the Gene Wilder thing that we were just talking about, believing in something no matter how ridiculous it is! For example, someone may just have jumped head first into a wood chipper! So you can’t be like, “This is ridiculous!” or not taking it as seriously as “OH MY GOD! WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?” [laughs] He agreed that everything had to be played as real as possible. I was very excited to do that, so I flew up there a few days later!
There are so many great moments in the film. How much of what we ultimately see on screen came from improvisation?
There are a lot of lines that we came up with on the day. There was a lot of improving with Tyler, myself and Eli, who is the director and the writer. When we were on set he would say, “Well, what if you said this right now.” Once the actors put the characters on and started actually doing it, new ideas became apparent that might not have been there before. At points it is like, “Oh, of course! Here is a funny joke.” There is a fair amount of that on this project. Eli was very cool about letting you do things and say your lines. I wasn’t used to that. I am used to having to fight for stuff! Eli was very cool about it. There is a line where they say, “Let’s have some tea” right after I have been tortured by the kids and had my fingers cut off. I say, “I’ll make the fuckin’ finger sandwiches!” [laughs] It’s a corny joke but I was like “PLEASE! Can I say it?” and Eli said, “Oh yeah, say that!” My reaction was “Really!?” because I was so ready for some kind of resistance. Then I was like, “Listen, I know it says that I drink a beer but what if I pour it on my face? I have already talked to costumes and they can double this shirt. I have already talked to makeup and it is waterproof makeup so there is not going to be a long reset time.” I cover all my bases to hear somebody say, “No. No. No. We can’t do that!” but Eli was game for all of it. It was so easy, “Oh yeah, pour the beer on your face! Cool!” [laughs]
That is great! It seems like you had a great work environment!
Yeah! It results in you coming up with more stuff because you have someone who is encouraging you!
What can you tell us about your co-star Tyler Labine. What did he bring to this role?
Oh, so much! Tyler is such a nice, good hearted and funny guy. He is so genuine and I can’t say enough about how that effects a set. He is someone that is a nice guy and is there to work, not put out by anything! He is up for it all and really funny. He brought a lot in regard to a lot of the lines that you hear. There were so many great things that he came up with for that character. One thing in particular was when he is with Katrina Bowden for the first time and she asks his name and he stumbles to get it out because he is so taken with her. Little things he did like that added to the character. There is so much stuff that it is hard to separate. We got together yesterday to work on the DVD and we found places where I said, “I came up with this.” Then Eli would say, “No you didn’t. Check your script! I did!” and I would be like “Oh! I thought that was my idea!” [laughs] And vice versa, everybody came up with great stuff and couldn’t remember where it was. We were all just moving so fast and trying to make the best movie!
What was the biggest challenge for you as an actor on this project?
Hmmm. Biggest challenge? Well, my focus on the movie was to keep it real. That was what I went in thinking. You’ve gotta go through this and don’t chicken out on it. Really try to put yourself in the mindset of someone who is going through this. And when you are shooting the scenes, don’t go for the easy jokes. The challenge for me on this film was the challenge that we all had, we didn’t have enough time. When you can only do two takes, you better know what you are doing with those two takes. It is two times doing that scene and that is it! You think, “Imagine if you could have done four!” [laughs] You kinda have to really be ready and know not just what you want to do but even what is going to be in your way to do what you want to do, if you know what I mean. You have to know what the questions are, as well as the answers when going into a scene because you just don’t have any time.
You and Tyler together make such a great duo, which people might compare to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. What are our chances for a sequel to Tucker and Dale or seeing you two paired up again on another project?
If we are lucky! I would love to work with Tyler again. I don’t know about a sequel because I am not sure how it would work. I would love it though! I would love to do an “Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy” kinda thing. I am not saying that Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are Abbott & Costello, they were national treasures … [laughs] but that template is what I am suggesting!
Your career has been and continues to be very diverse. Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?
Wow! That is a GOOD question. I would have said a western but I have done a western now. I would love to do what I would call an acting movie. I want to do a movie where I get to act. I guess that you could argue that I am acting in everything that I do BUT I want to do a movie with subtlety, subtle themes, complex relationships and that the movie hinges on complexity of the human condition. Something serious! Something like that. I guess I have done some stuff like that but barely. I have done one play. Something with acting!
Looking back on your career so far, how do you think you have evolved in your craft since starting out?
I think that I am a little more relaxed. I am more likely to wait for something to happen in a scene rather than make a thing happen in a scene. I was pretty surprised when “28 Days” was on television not too long ago and it wasn’t my first movie, but it was the first role that I was on set for more than just a week. I played such a crazy character and in every scene that I did, I was trying to make a joke or trying to be funny. I don’t do that any more! I just try to be honest and if there is something funny, it will just be there but I am not coming in, forcing something to be funny. When I watch “28 Days,” I just want to tell myself, “RELAX!” [laughs] “Stop chewing the fucking scenery!” All I had to do in one scene was mop the floor and I am doing this whole, “She just walked over the floor that I just mopped and now I am upset with her and where is the mop water and … ” I watched and went, “Oh God, stop! Get over yourself! This movie isn’t about mopping!” [laughs] But that energy led to other things, so what are you going to do!
What other projects are on the horizon for you that we should be on the lookout for?
I am doing a TV show right now for ABC called “Suburgatory” that starts this Fall and will be right before “Modern Family.” I play a jackassy, douchebaggy but well-meaning cosmetic dentist who is best friends with Jeremy Sisto. My character lives in the suburbs and I have called him out to live there where I always seem to be in the country club. I wear Speedos, which I will be fashioning! They will be in the pilot episode! My ginger skin will be on full display! [laughs]
I have a fake tan right now. I am overly fake tan, that’s the character. So I am now living my life with an extreme fake tan! It’s bizarre! Then the other thing that I just finished, and will be out next summer, is “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.”
We will be looking forward to those! What is the best advice that you can give to all the aspiring actors out there?
What I find more and more is … enjoy yourself. A lot of people say this but if you feel that this is the only thing that you can do, then absolutely do it! If there is something else that you can do, go ahead and do that because it really is very, very hard. There are people out there with such determination that do live and breathe it. So if you are one of those people, go for it but have fun doing it! Don’t get all caught up in the disappointments that absolutely are going to happen and those frustrations that are absolutely going to be there. Enjoy the fact that you are pursuing your dream and that it is a commendable thing! When you perform, give it your all but enjoy it but don’t try to succeed … [laughs] because that is a mistake!
Thank you so much for your time, Alan. We look forward to spreading the word on “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.” It’s a great film and a whole lot of fun!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.