Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit the set of Joe Dante‘s new film Burying the Ex, a horror comedy about Max (Anton Yelchin), a nice guy who moves in with his girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene) only to find she’s a controlling nightmare. He’s saved the burden of a nasty breakup when she dies in a freak accident, and soon after meets the girl of his dreams (Alexandra Daddario). Everything seems hunkydory until Evelyn returns from the grave, crazy as ever and now with added undead super strength! As a huge fan of Dante’s I was excited to get an early look at what the film has to offer and speak with some of the folks involved. Though the film is already in production Dante and co have mounted a crowdfunding campaign through FundAnything to help with post-production and distribution. There are some damn cool rewards on the table including exclusive footage, screening invites, and even lunch with Mr. Dante himself. You can check out the official page here.
While on set I sat down for an exclusive interview with Greene. She talked about what attracted her to the project, playing an emotionally unbalanced zombie, working with the effects makeup, and director Joe Dante. She also talked about how the film references and subverts genre tropes, shooting in Los Angeles, crowdfunding, life after Twilight and a lot more. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
AHSLEY GREENE: My agents brought it to me and said, “Hey do you want to do this?” I read it and I really liked that it was very different than anything that I had seen in this genre. It’s very specific to comedy horror and I thought it was also smart. It made me laugh to myself and that’s usually a good sign whenever you giggle out loud to yourself when you’re reading a script like this. Then just the people that were involved. Joe Dante was already signed on to direct and they said they were going out to Anton and I was like, “If you guys get Anton I definitely want to do it.” I just think he’s an interesting character actor. It all finally came together. There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle and once it all did come together we only had a few days before we shot. So that was a bit stressful, just because we didn’t have the preparation time that we would have liked. But it’s turned out really well. We’re almost done. We’re on our last week, which is insane to me, to shoot a movie in a month, and a good movie. I think its going to turn out really well. The dailies are turning out well. I’m excited. Its something I’ve never done before and I think its definitely going to turn out well.
Has it been fun for you working with the makeup?
GREENE: [laughs] You know what, it is. Its fun. The call times are not fun, because it takes about two hours. Gary (Tunnecliffe) does the special effects and he’s phenomenal. He’s been doing this forever. Its really cool to see him create a character alongside me. Hair and makeup and special effects kind of had her look progress, so it’s almost a character in its own, which is very cool. I’ve never had a face cast. I had that. So now there’s a dummy with my face on it that’s really really creepy. I’ve never worn contacts like this. There’s actually two layers of contacts in my eyes on top of each other.
They’re quite something to interview against.
GREENE: I know, I can hardly see. It’s like a really thick fog. It’s very very bizarre. But I guess it helps you get in character.
Is it significantly more challenging than what you had to wear for the Twilight films?
GREENE: The contacts are more challenging. I think the makeup might have been more challenging on Twilight just because we didn’t have special effects doing our white makeup, and on this one its really nice because I go to special effects first and then hair and makeup does their thing on top of that. So it’s kind of very well oiled. On Twilight we just went in and they had to do the whole thing and we sat there for like two hours. So I think that was a little more difficult. Also I think our characters in Twilight were so popular already before the movies came out so there were just so many more eyes looking at you, or people jerking you one way or another about what they wanted Alice Cullen’s look to be and Edward Cullen’s look to be. So this, to me, is a little more fun. It’s a little crazier.
GREENE: Yeah, Evelyn is [laughs], she is a go-green advocate who has her own blog and is the girlfriend of Max, and she’s a bit overbearing and overprotective at times. She has a little bit of jealousy and vulnerability because she’s very afraid of losing Max, because he’s basically all that he has. So she does get a little extreme at times, but you kind of see where she’s coming from. It’s that tragic thing that a lot of people do where you are so clinging on to someone that you actually push them away. That’s what you kind of see in this story. She gets hit by a car, unfortunately, but comes back as a zombie. Progressively turning into the zombie. So when she first comes back she’s dirty, she’s crawled out of her grave, but you can see Evelyn. She gets more and more hideous and more and more rotten as she tries to win back her boyfriend that she lost… probably about five months ago when she died. I describe her almost, when she comes back as zombie Evelyn, it reminds me as bipolar disorder because her highs and lows are so extreme and she just cant control them as much as she wants to.
You mentioned that the script made you laugh when you read it and one of my favorite things about Joe Dante’s previous films is that he has this wonderful tone where he kind of walks the line between genres. Can you talk a little bit about what you think the tone of this film will be like?
GREENE: Yeah, I totally agree. I think he’s- when I heard he was directing this I was like, “Yes, this makes sense. He’s the one to do this if anyone.” And we trust him so we completely just do whatever he says. He’s very simple and very specific and very calm. Its been really fun. It’s definitely not realistic as far as real life goes. There’s sometimes where I’m like, “Why would she do this?” And he’s like, “Because…people have done this, people will get it.” And I’m like, “Okay” He knows this whole world and how it works and I’m a newbie to it so he has kind of had to walk me through it. Because I came to the table thinking very logically. I think its the same thing like the Twilight world. There are some things that are just movie magic that make it more fun.
You guys are doing crowdfunding while you’re in production, which is unique, and you also just did Wish I was Here, which was crowdfunded. Do you have any thoughts on the whole new trend of more studio films dipping into the crowd funding?
GREENE: Well I was really happily and pleasantly surprised by how much money Zach’s film made on Kickstarter and it was really the first time I became aware of crowdfunding. Some people think it’s controversial, but my kind of retort to that is that it’s not like we’re making people give money for something. They were all fans of Zach’s and whoever else is in the film and wanted to see this film get made. I think it’s very cool to allow the public and people who are passionate about film to be able to participate in some way. I thought that was very fun. With this it’s also very interesting because were doing it after we started. But again, it’s all about fan involvement and getting people excited, and there are so many people who are a fan of Joe. So I think its fun to know that there are so many people who are excited about the film before it’s even come out.
GREENE: Yeah, we’ve done…on Friday we did a lot of the stunt work and stuff like that. We did me breaking my nails, we did me projectile vomiting, I was kind of throwing Max around a little bit. The last week is when we’re getting heavily into that stuff. We’ve kind of dabbled in it a bit. Makeup wise as well, by the end of the week my skin will be falling off and my cheekbones will be sticking out so I’m excited to see what he does. They’re phenomenal.
We touched a bit on the way that Joe makes movies, but can you talk about how he is to work with as an actor and how he directs you?
GREENE: Joe is- I mean he’s one of the coolest directors I’ve worked with. He’s very…simple, direct, and knowledgeable are the three words I would think of. There’s no- you hear the stories of madness and people throwing things. Someone asked him how he was going to shoot something and he said, “well”. And he did. It’s funny. I get how he accomplishes this very specific humor in his films, because he has a sense of humor like that, I think. He’s very open to ideas that you have. He’ll let you try something if you have time and tell you if it’s not right or not working. I think he just creates a very fun, easy going, but productive set. It’s really nice. It’s just easy. He makes it really fun.
Talking about time limits, I was told it’s day fourteen out of twenty. Can you talk about what that shooting process has been like for you, especially coming off of something like the later Twilight films where you had a significantly higher budget.
GREENE: Yes. It’s definitely a lot more pressure when you’re shooting a film like this so quickly. To me, it’s the most material I think I’ve ever shot each day. The amount of pages that we’re shooting each day is just insane. I’m used to things where we’re shooting a page and half or two pages a day, and here we’re shooting eight. So that is a little stressful, because you want to come to set and have everything laid out, everything memorized and it makes it a little hard. I think it’s the same thing that the rest of the cast and crew feel. Luckily, again, I think the atmosphere on set trickles down from the director and I think everyone has that mentality of “Were on a tight schedule, but we’re going to get it done and it’s all going to be okay.” That’s very nice that people aren’t running around screaming and yelling, because I’ve seen that happen on sets before. We are still managing to shoot this film, get all the footage that we need and make sure that we are going in with a good product, and I think a lot of that comes from the organization and planning on the directors part. The hours actually aren’t bad either. We work like fourteen or fifteen hour days, and we get to home to our beds, which is really nice. So it’s been a cool experience. I think everyone will be excited for the holidays after working this. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just cool.
GREENE: [Laughs] Well you know I’ve been on some things where they just don’t seem to care and they have to get their shots and just work right through. Yeah, maybe that’s why everyone’s so cool and chill about everything is that we do get to go home and go to sleep. I think generally from crew call it’s about twelve hours. Hair and makeup takes a bit longer, but it’s not bad. And the other thing is we’re never sitting in our trailers twiddling our thumbs. To me that’s harder than being on set all day, because when you’re on set it goes. I think this is our last scene and I feel like I haven’t even been here half a day just because you’re constantly working and not thinking about it. So yeah, sitting in your trailer is miserable [laughs].
You guys shot at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the New Beverly Cinema. This is obviously very much an LA based film, are there any other cool locations you guys shot at?
GREENE: I think those are the two coolest, honestly. All the stuff we’re now shooting is just at the studio. I didn’t get to go- I’ve never been to the Hollywood Cemetery. Alex shot there with Anton, so I didn’t get to see that one unfortunately. I really want to go. Now I’m going to have to before this film comes out. We shot- you know what I don’t even know what the location was called, but we did shoot somewhere that like a hundred million films have shot. We shot this whole scene where we go off to this bar club and it’s a crazy gothic rave. The building, the architecture is just stunning. Everyday on set they would just give us the history and there are just so many things that have shot there previously.
I just watched you shoot and there’s a contortionist doing your yoga scene.
Are these the kind of antics we can expect from zombie Evelyn?
GREENE: Yes, she gets to do a lot of fun stuff. She’s crazy, but she’s funny. The other thing is, one of the funnier things about Evelyn is that when she comes back as a zombie she doesn’t quite realize she’s a zombie. So in her mind she just thinks everything’s dandy and she can do all these things that she could never do before. Everyone should die and come back [laughs]. To everyone else, the viewer’s eyes and Max, her bones are popping out of her body and doing really unnatural things. There’s a lot of that in the movie.
You mentioned that Alex shot at the cemetery while you have been mostly shooting here. Do you share any scenes together?
GREENE: We have a couple. I know that we’re working together Thursday and Friday because the three of us have a big debacle and it’s going to take two days to shoot the whole thing. So we have those. And we had a couple of scenes the first week, but they’re all fairly hostile. Which is always funny because she’s super nice and sweet and funny, and I like to think that I’m not a raging bitch [laughs]. So we get on quite well, but in the scene Evelyn is just terribly jealous of her.
Did you guys have a lot of location shots? Or was it just a couple and you mostly shot here in the studio?
GREENE: Yeah, we had a couple. But the cool thing is we were able to shoot, which I’ve never experienced before, we shot one location somewhere and then you could walk a block to the other location and a block to the other location. There were three locations within a two block radius, which was really cool because you don’t have to deal with set moves, which are really timely and cut up the production of your day. So that was nice. And it’s just nice to go to the same place everyday and not have to figure out different locations and how long it’s going to take to get there. So we did those all pretty much within the same three blocks and now we’re here.
The zombie genre is very established at this point, are there any tropes or references in this film? Do you feel like this is a movie that’s aware of itself and plays with audience expectations?
GREENE: It definitely does. There’s a lot of jokes in the film, a lot of funny jokes that some people will get and some people wont. I definitely think it makes fun of the whole zombie thing a little bit, but other than that it’s very different from any other zombie film. I think that Max’s character certainly pays homage and touches on the genre a lot more than Evelyn, because she’s very unamused with the whole world. She’s concerned with making the world a better place and recycling and that whole thing, and doesn’t get his whole hobby with the horror genre. But Joe has put in a couple DVDs here and posters here and little remarks here and there that definitely pay homage to what the film is referencing.
When you say that you think the film is different that most zombie films, what do you think are some of the things that set it apart?
GREENE: I think the progression of Evelyn becoming a zombie. Her still having full motor skills and the fact that, again, you still recognize her. She’s still potentially attractive- maybe not now, but while becoming full zombie. And that she can coexist with people and not just immediately eat their brains out. Yes, she’s a zombie, but she still has the ability to make decisions. I feel like most films you turn into a zombie and you eat peoples brains, and the personality and the person that they were just completely disappears. That’s one of the huge differences. And that she’s able to feel sadness, joy, anger. Those are definitely things that you generally don’t see.
GREENE: She definitely does a bit. I think a lot of it’s rationality. She completely loses that. Yeah, she does. She’s still herself, but I think you see all the positive attributes that she has slowly dissipate and she just becomes evil at the very end. Ironically enough half way through the film she lashes out and she does things and she breaks things, but you see it come from a place of vulnerability to a certain extent, self-consciousness and things like that. So it kind of humanizes her a bit, still. By the end of the movie her flesh is falling off and she’s lost everything that makes her positive and she’s just kind of the green-eyed monster that people warn us about. She completely turns into that.
What’s life like for you now post-Twilight? Are you still encountering the same extremity of fandom or has it mellowed out a little bit?
GREENE: It’s not as crazy as it was. I think there’s something about us being together for films and premieres and stuff like that where people just went crazy over it. I think their minds ran wild. And they were always excited to see what we were doing, what we were wearing, what we were going to do in the next film, how they wrote and adapted it. So there was that constant buzz and constant microscope, because everybody wanted to know. I think the nice thing for me now is that there’s still the overwhelming support of the fans, but not the madness on the media’s part. Yes, the paparazzi still will occasionally- I think they’re here today because they want to see what the character’s going to look like, but it’s a lot easier to get around it than what it used to be. It used to be just impossible. It’s good. It’s all very positive. I think I’m in a really good spot, because you want people to still care and you want your fans to still be there, but you want to also have a life and engage with your friends and family without them having to deal with the repercussions of what we’re doing.