CS Interview: Wyatt Russell Talks Overlord and Scary Movies
Paramount Home Media Distribution provided ComingSoon.net the chance to chat 1:1 with Overlord star Wyatt Russell about the WWII horror film produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Julius Avery (Son of a Gun). Overlord lands on Blu-ray today, and is also available on Digital HD!. Check out the Wyatt Russell interview below!
Embraced by critics, Overlord is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and was hailed as “wonderfully tense and truly exhilarating” (Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central). The wildly entertaining genre mash-up boasts a stellar ensemble cast, non-stop action and plenty of wild twists you have to see to believe.
Fans can go even further behind enemy lines with nearly an hour of explosive bonus material on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack or Digital. The 4K Ultra HD disc and 4K Ultra HD Digital release feature Dolby Vision HDR, which brings entertainment to life through ultra-vivid picture quality. When compared to a standard picture, Dolby Vision can deliver spectacular colors, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker. The film also boasts Dolby Atmos audio mixed specifically for the home to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead. In addition, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs include access to a Digital copy of the film.
Nothing can prepare you for the mind-blowing mayhem that is Overlord, an insanely twisted thrill ride about a team of American paratroopers who come face-to-face with Nazi super-soldiers unlike the world has ever seen.
Overlord stars Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbaek, John Magaro, Bokeem Woodbine and Mathilde Ollivier.
ComingSoon.net: I last spoke to you in 2013 on the set of “22 Jump Street.” How do you feel these last years have unfolded for you since then?
Wyatt Russell: They’ve been great. I’ve gotten to do some pretty fun stuff and things that are different, which is always the goal. It’s day by day, you know? So off the next day and off the next thing and that thing you did a year and a half ago comes out and it comes out on DVD and you see what tomorrow brings. That’s sort of how I handled it. I’m lucky to be able to do the things that I’ve done and worked with the people that I’ve worked with.
CS: What’s surprised me so much following the trajectory of your career is the roles you take are so eclectic and it feels like you’re not repeating yourself or you’re not typecast or anything like that. What is your criteria, say when something like “Overlord” comes across your desk? What is it you’re looking for?
Russell: I’d honestly say that it’s the people you’re working with, the director is the person that your performance is in the hands of, and making sure that your vision of what you read and how you interpreted it is how they see it. And also, the character and the story are ones that you find interesting, you find something to do differently, because it hasn’t been done before. Everything’s obviously been done before. Everything’s derivative. If I could figure out a different way for me to put a spin on it that they like, then I feel like I could add something to the moviemaking process and make something that’s enjoyable to watch, that’s enjoyable to work on. That the story is what it’s meant to be, whether that’s just fun, whether that’s just action or there is comedy or whether it’s a mixture of both, whatever that story is meaning to tell is going to come across in the director’s vision, in the actor’s vision of what they’re going to do with it, and on the page. Those three things come together, it’s like the triumvirate that yes, I want to do this.
CS: In “Overlord” you play a soldier who’s very driven. Everything is about the mission. The men and the townspeople, they’re all expendable. What did you have to do to make sure the character was still relatable in the sense that we understand where he’s coming from, and he’s not coming from an inhumane place? That he realizes there’s a lot more at stake than what’s around him?
Russell: There’s a lot of World War II movies, and this one had a different take on a World War II cinematic experience. For the character of Ford, what I wanted to do was not just play this like a rough, scruffy guy. All of those guys, even though it was a movie with zombies and monsters that aren’t immediately relatable, you have to look at that person and say, “Oh it felt real. It felt like he was a guy that existed in World War II.” Those guys weren’t killing machines who went off to war. Now it’s different. They’re trained in a very different way. There’s the history of war. It’s different and they are training and killing machines that are unbelievably efficient at their job. Back then, it was like, this guy was like a pharmacist from Wyoming before he went over there. Through experience he became that way. You need that guy who was in a moral gray area to win wars. You can’t win the war without that guy, even though some of the things he chooses to do can be seen as morally questionable, but that’s what you have to be able to do.To bring that to the guy, but also have some form of vulnerability, so that when the shit hits the fan and he needs to be able to change his mind and be based on a very human condition thing that happens, which is we have to go get the kid, that’s what we have to go do. That has become the mission. And to make that change, you needed to have some vulnerability in it. So it was a little bit of a balancing act, but I thought it came out pretty well.
CS: I saw the movie like, right after I had just read this big book about Nazis and the occult during World War II. Obviously this movie is very exaggerated, but there were some crazy, disgusting experiments that went on in that regime. What were some touchstones from your research of the era that, even though this was a fantasy, helped you create a verisimilitude?
Russell: Basically what I did was I watched World War II documentaries. I’d work out and instead of watching a movie I just watched documentary after documentary after documentary about everything World War II Nazi related, and American soldier related. I never like watching a performance because then you end up by de facto, almost by osmosis copying a performance and you try not to do that. We had a really great military advisor named Freddie Joe Farnsworth who put us through this boot camp. The boot camp really helped put into perspective what they had to do, and then elements that they had to do it in. That was a big shocker for me, “Oh wow, it’s not just fighting and being afraid that you’re going to die, it’s more about what you have to do after you get there.” You traipse through water and mud and fucking days of not showering on these army rations. It’s a total nightmare, before you even get to the fight. And then, once you get to the fight, then you have to win the war. That was the mental capacity those guys had to be able to take that on, that’s what made them special, and that’s what you try to sink in and do justice to the person in the uniform, even though it’s a sci-fi movie with monsters in it. We’re going to do justice to the uniform.
CS: This is a Bad Robot production, JJ wrote the story. The curtain of secrecy whenever Bad Robot does a film is amazing. There was so little known about this one, other than it took place during World War II, that people were like, “Oh is it a ‘Cloverfield’ movie? What is it?” Obviously it is its own thing, but I was wondering, when you’re working on a Bad Robot movie, how is it different from working on any other kind of movie?
Russell: There is a cloak of secrecy as everyone’s clamoring to find out what it’s about and what JJ’s doing. Things are encrypted in script form and you can’t just willy nilly leave your script around, that kind of small stuff. That would be bad if it got into the wrong hands and things got out. But as far as the process goes of trying to make a good movie, I don’t think there’s anything different about that. You still have the same conversations, something doesn’t feel right, you still have to bring up your questions. You still have to execute the movie in a way that they needed to be done so that they get the results that they want. And that stuff’s the same. That stuff’s the actual process of making the movie. My job is to interpret the material, talk about it with the filmmaker, talk about it with the castmates, try and figure out the best way to do it. And I mean, I’m doing that right now on a show that’s probably the most furthest thing away from “Overlord” as you can possibly get.
CS: Back when you were talking with us on “22 Jump,” you were talking about how you turned down a role in “The Hunger Games” franchise to do that film because it was more in line of what you wanted to do. Have you been kind of generally shying away from franchise stuff over the years? Have there been offers that you’ve kind of tossed aside because that’s not the direction you want to go? Or are you just waiting for the right franchisey type of thing?
Russell: That’s a good question. In some ways yes, and in some ways no. There have been things where I’ve looked at it and gone, “This isn’t it. This just isn’t it.” Because at the end of the day, if you’re going to do one of those things, you’re going to be locked. You’re doing it, you know? Those can go on for a long time and you can be defined by that. There’s nothing you can do about it, especially for younger actors. I feel like if you don’t build up a body of work before you do one of those movies you can be defined by that and it’s not even your fault. It’s not just by circumstance. And by the way, everyone should be so lucky, but I didn’t find myself for the ones that I was reading, going up for, going in for. I didn’t find myself having a very natural take on what they were. If you’re going to do one of those movies, then you have to be 100% sure. You cannot go into it going, “I don’t know. I just took this as an opportunity.” If you’re doing that, you’re fucked. You have to be committed. You have to be 100% committed to the character and to the story you’re playing and portraying, especially in that world because people lose their minds over these characters, and if you’re not committed, I think you feel that in the film. You’re not doing justice to filmmakers who are trying to make it and you have to be able to see what it is that it can be before the process happens. I’d have to have a take on it that was unique. And yeah, I’ve never seen whatever name you want to pick, Superman, Batman, fucking X-Men. For me, it would have to be that I’ve never seen that done that way. That would be an interesting way to see that. That’s the criteria, and hopefully, it comes out good, and you’ve got to be prepared to go, “Okay. You’re this guy now.” You’ve got to be okay with that. So I would like to be able to build enough of a portfolio so that if you do one of those things, they say, “You can’t be pigeonholed, because you’ve done all these other things.” That takes time.
CS: Because this is “Overlord”, what are a few of your favorite horror movies?
Russell: “The Shining” is… I know it’s a lot of people’s favorite horror movie. That was a movie for me that made me go, “Oh wow. That’s a really special way of getting into my head.” And another movie that I would consider a horror movie that’s another Kubrick film is “2001,” which to me is a horror movie. We’re sort of going through it now, but the idea that AI could do that to mankind is horrifying. I never was a blood and guts guy. My brother and my other partner John Stahlberg loves “Evil Dead 2.” They love “Suspiria.” I love those movies, but they didn’t affect me. They weren’t affecting. They didn’t make me go, “Oh god.” Actually, the one movie that I would say affected me in terms of being really scary and I’d never watch home alone is “The Strangers.”
CS: The Liv Tyler one?
Russell: That one, as far as pure horror goes, that one is fucking terrifying because that’s just going to happen.
CS: I never thought about it until just now, but I guess the whole thing with “2001” is -if you break it down- the whole middle of that film is just two guys trapped with a killer robot in space.
Russell: Yeah, that’s basically what it is. It’s terrifying. Looking at it now, having been made that long ago, it really does, you start to look at it like, “Is that mankind from the beginning to the end?” So that was the kind of stuff that it made me think go, “Oh, that’s kind of scary. That is scary.” That was what actually made me fearful of things.