Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, available on Magnolia On-Demand and in select theaters starting September 30th, is a hilariously gory comedy about two lovable redneck best friends on vacation at their run-down mountain house, who are mistaken for murderous hillbillies by a group of preppy college kids that end up dying, one by one. While Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) try to lend the students a hand, the misunderstanding grows and the body count gets uncontrollably higher and higher.
At the film’s press day, actor Alan Tudyk spoke with Collider for this exclusive interview about making sure he and first-time feature writer/director Eli Craig were on the same page with how to handle the film’s tone, how easy the friendship came between him and co-star Tyler Labine, and that hanging upside for the film was actually really painful. He also talked about how his Stephen Douglas in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is different from the actual historical figure and that the changes from the book were necessary to make the film more active, that he loves working with Joss Whedon (they did Firefly and Dollhouse together) because he’s daring and different and challenges him as an actor, why he was drawn to the new ABC comedy Suburgatory (premiering on September 28th), and what he enjoys about doing voice-over work, including the upcoming MTV series Good Vibes. Check out what he has to say after the jump:
ALAN TUDYK: Yeah. From the initial reading to being in Calgary, I think there were maybe three days there. I was given the script and told to read it fast. Truly, I read it and was very impressed by it. My hope was that (writer/director) Eli [Craig] saw it the way I saw it, as far as playing it, and that he didn’t want to be too over the top with it. I was hoping that he wanted to be as realistic as possible with it. The situations are so crazy and they pile up so fast. It’s not a small, quiet acting style. I wanted to make sure the stakes were respected within the script and that it not be the type of comedy where you couldn’t have the moment between Dale (Tyler Labine) and I, when I say, “You’re a good man. You’re smarter than you think you are. You’re better looking than you think you are. I care about you. Friends forever.” Also, in that same speech where he’s pouring out his heart, Tucker says, “I think she needs you right now, more than ever, because she falls down a lot and she’s always bumping her head.” You can acknowledge how ridiculous the situation is within the realism. That’s my favorite kind of comedy. And, Eli was right on board with it.
Were you nervous at all about not getting to meet or work with Tyler Labine before shooting this?
TUDYK: I don’t think I had time to worry about that. I really don’t. It was so fast that I was worried about getting up to speed, as fast as possible. And when I met Tyler, it was over breakfast. Eli was talking about what he was looking forward to and basically giving us the schedule for the next couple of days, and I remember thinking that he was really laid-back and cool. That was it. We made a plan to see each other that night. He said, “Come over to my place.” He was staying at this really nice apartment that overlooked the whole city. Now that I think about it, why the hell did he have such a nice apartment? What kind of bullshit is that? And then, we worked that night, and we got along really easy. It wasn’t a concern at all. He’s a really easygoing guy. It was based on us both wanting to do the best job that we could, and we weren’t competing with one another. I think that’s big. That’s rare, sadly. It’s such a competitive business that it’s tough for some people to put that down.
TUDYK: It’s the comedy that drew me into it. I was really looking forward to that. I was really looking forward to the cop scene. I think that’s really funny. All of this stuff has happened, and they’re finally at a place where they feel like they understand what’s going on, and they’re aware that people are killing themselves and dying, and then they make the plan to cover it up and they’re involved in these deaths and getting their hands dirty, right as the sheriff pulls up, and it’s just so funny. That shot of the two of us dragging half of a corpse, covered in blood, and he pulls up and we go, “I can explain,” is so ridiculous. You’re on their side because it really isn’t them, but it doesn’t look good at all.
What was the biggest challenge in making this movie?
TUDYK: Hanging upside was very painful. There was hours of that. Because we were shooting fast, we didn’t have a lot of time, so it made sense to just leave me there, not for long periods of time, but while they were resetting for 15 or 20 minutes. It was bad. I couldn’t think for three days afterwards. My head was swollen, my eyes were swollen, and I had headaches. It was really a bad thing. I know yoga people stand on their heads for some kind of enlightenment, but that was not my thinking at all. I have a different diet than they do, or something.
TUDYK: The one line that really says what this movie is about is when Dale goes, “I should have known, if a guy like me talked to a girl like you, somebody would end up dead.” That really encapsulates the message of the movie.
Is there anything that Tucker and Dale could have done to not have had this entire thing spiral so badly out of control?
TUDYK: Yes, of course! There’s always a way to get out of it. Instead of paddling back to the cabin and keeping Allison (Katrina Bowden) there overnight and fixing her up themselves, they could have put her in their truck and driven her to the nearest hospital. Done! Obviously, they have some knowledge of head injuries and they realized she was fine because she only hit her head and there was no fear of concussion. I’m sure Tucker just poured beer on it, at some point, in the dressing of the wound.
TUDYK: I’m afraid he’s very different from the real Stephen Douglas, in that I’m a pompous guy. I don’t think he was really known for that. He did have money, though. I’m also in cahoots with vampires. I collaborate with vampires to aid my political career. I don’t think the original Stephen Douglas did that. That’s the main difference, right there. I’m also kind of a fool, and the real Stephen Douglas was not a fool. He was a very smart man, and actually really helped our country. He wasn’t on the right side of every issue, for sure. He ran against Lincoln for the presidency, and should have won – and thank goodness he didn’t – but he switched positions. He had originally been anti-slavery, and then switched. He married someone that had a plantation down in Georgia and he found that it was more politically expedient, not to be anti-slavery.
Do you think the changes made from book to screen were necessary to turn the story into a film?
TUDYK: Oh, yeah. It makes it much more active. Reading is a heady thing. You can be into the action of someone’s thoughts and take a whole trip down someone’s ruminations while seconds tick by in the world that they’re in, but you can’t really do that in film. Some films can, but not too much. The way it is now, it’s very active. It’s a very active movie. There’s things going on. There are physical representations of thoughtful ruminations. Don’t extrapolate what has been changed from what I’m saying, it’s just much more active.
You are very much loved by Joss Whedon fans from the work that you’ve done with him. What do you enjoy about working with him, and what do you think he draws out of you, as an actor?
TUDYK: I like working with him because he is daring and different. I don’t know if he would say it was daring because it’s just how he thinks. What somebody else would call off-the-wall is just how he sees it, as the only way it can be done. I like working on projects like that. I think Tucker & Dale is like that because it’s fresh. I liked that about Firefly. It was a fresh idea on space. There were no aliens. They were on a ship where they couldn’t just go, “I’ll have beef stroganoff,” and then it showed up. They had protein balls, and they were lucky to have that. And, they were crooks. He also sees me as an actor, in a way that other directors certainly haven’t. He gave me an opportunity to play Alpha in Dollhouse, which was a killer who was evil and had multiple personalities, and was a real challenge. He does Shakespeare readings at his house, and he gave me the role of Julius Caesar, which isn’t a huge role in that play, but it is a serious role and a political role. He said, “After seeing you in that, I knew you were Alpha.” I don’t know how he got there, but god bless him. That was disturbing, challenging and fun.
TUDYK: I’m playing a guy named Noah Werner. He’s the jackass best friend of Jeremy Sisto’s character. I just read the script and really liked it. It was very different from everything else that season. It’s stylized, in a way. It’s a shinier world than reality. It’s just above reality. And, within that reality, since they’re creating it, things that are absurd can take place. Somebody can fall into a pool while texting, float to the surface with her fake breasts because they are basically flotation devices, and continue to text, without noticing that she’s in the pool. It’s a different reality. I like that about it.
And then, the character itself is someone very different from me. He’s very fake. He loves fake tans. He loves jewelry. I don’t wear jewelry, as a man. I’m amazed at it. He wears a ring and a bracelet and a watch, and I think he’s going to move up to a chain. It just changes everything. He’s rich. He believes in getting laid. He’s the asshole friend who gives bad advice to his friend, who’s just trying to be a good father.
I haven’t had a regular role in television since Firefly, and I really wanted to get back to doing that because I think you can grow so much as an actor when you’re able to see yourself so fast, and then adjust. We shot Tucker & Dale and it takes a long time to know what worked and what didn’t, and you can’t reapply it. With the TV show, you can go, “Oh, that wasn’t working. Scrap that. This is what’s working.” You can apply it and hone your craft. I’m a geeky actor, in the way that I like the craft of acting. I trained as a stage actor and was given a lot of technical tools to play with. I like the craft of acting. It sounds geeky when I say it, but it’s true.
What do you enjoy about doing voice-over work?
TUDYK: I’ve done a lot of voice work lately. I did Ice Age 4, the new Chipmunks movie, and The Life and Times of Tim. In this show on MTV, called Good Vibes, that comes out in October and will air after Beavis and Butt-head, we did 13 episodes, with Josh Gad and Danny McBride. I first got cast as this stoner Mexican guy who lives at the beach in his van and he has flashbacks of things. I also play another Hispanic character who is big and he’s 16 years old. And then, I play another 16-year-old, and a 45-year-old dad, and this other mother fucker called Mr. Proper who hangs around on the beach, and I play old people. In the same episode, I’m playing seven characters. I love that. It’s a blast. That is really fun.