The hilarious horror comedy The Revenant, from writer/director Kerry Prior, tells the story of fallen solider Bart Gregory (David Anders), who not long after being laid to rest has seemingly joined the ranks of the living dead. Part zombie and part vampire (known in the film as a revenant), he decides to do law enforcement a favor by cleaning up the streets, while he and best friend/sidekick Joey (Chris Wylde) do whatever they can to find a constant supply of fresh blood, in order to keep from diminishing to dust.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, to promote the September 18th DVD release of the film, actor David Anders (Once Upon A Time, The Vampire Diaries) talked about what attracted him to The Revenant, his frustration over the long time it’s taken for the film to reach audiences, how difficult the make-up and contacts were to wear, the most disgusting things he had to do, and how much he and his co-star Chris Wylde kept laughing during shooting. He also talked about what a huge reveal it will be when viewers find out the alter-ego of his Once Upon A Time character, how much he enjoys interacting with fans, how the people involved are what attracts him to a project, and that his dream role would be on Game of Thrones. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
First, here’s the trailer:
Collider: When you read this script, what was your first reaction to the story? Did the humor and outrageousness of it come through, right away?
DAVID ANDERS: I think (writer/director) Kerry Prior did a great job. There is some great written humor in there, and sight gags and lines. But, it just came when Chris [Wylde] and I were together. We’d just feed off each other and riff. I think that’s what really sold it. Chris may be the funniest person I know, and he’s one of my best friends. It was just a joy to feed off of him. The original take on the vampire/zombie genre that Kerry created drew both of us in, and then we went from there. We did this so long ago. When I saw Attack the Block, I was like, “Oh, my god, this is fantastic! This is exactly the kind of genre that our movie is!” I’m just very pleased that people are finally getting to see it.
After getting such a great reaction for the film at festivals, have you been frustrated with the long road it’s taken to come out?
ANDERS: Yeah, there is some frustration, and Kerry has done a bunch of tweaks and stuff. The first cut, I hated. I was like, “Oh, my god, this is a different fucking movie!” And then, there were five more cuts after that cut. It’s still maybe a little over-long, but there’s so much good stuff in there that hopefully people stick with it. There has been frustration, but I’m at peace with it. It’s finally out.
When you read something in a script, it’s different than actually having to shoot it. Did you really know what you’d be getting yourself into when you signed on to do this?
ANDERS: Yeah. I sat down with Kerry and talked about it, and I knew there was going to be prosthetics and make-up, but my only qualm was that I have very sensitive eyes. I was like, “Are we going to do these eyes in post, or am I going to have to wear contacts?” And he was like, “We’ll probably get them in post. We’re thinking about both, but we’ll probably do it in post.” But, I ended up having to wear the contacts, which were absolute hell for me. Chris kept giving me a hard time about it. He was like, “Dude, you’re such a pussy! Just sac up!” And then, we he had to put those contacts in, he was like, “You were right! These are terrible!” It was freeing, as an actor, because I couldn’t really see. It really helped me live in this character’s skin ‘cause none of what you see is really me. It was beneficial, in that way, but also painstakingly awful. They turned me onto these eyedrops that are like crack for your eyes. I think they had to go to Mexico to get them. They burned at first, but then they were very helpful.
When you’re playing a character that’s part zombie and part vampire, do you try to find a way to identify with him, or do you just give in to it and have fun with it?
ANDERS: It was more giving in to it and having fun with it. I did have to dig deep, a little bit, for the serious moments. But, I just played it as it was. This was my new truth. This was a wrinkle in the road, and he knew what he had to do to survive.
Did you ever wonder why this guy’s girlfriend wanted to stay with him while he was rotting, and how she could possibly overlook the smell?
ANDERS: I know, right?! She loved Bart. He was a great guy. She just loved love. There was a scene with them in a restaurant, on a date, that I loved shooting. That was fantastic! It’s in the special features on the DVD, and it answers that question deeper.
Would you say that the message of this movie that you should never, ever feast on your friends and, if you do, that you should at least cut their head off before they come back to life?
ANDERS: Yes! That’s the moral of the story. That’s the crux. You should always cut your friend’s head off, before they come back to life. That moment when Chris and I just keep shooting each other, I had the idea to just drop to my knees and say, “Hey, what happened to us?!,” and that he should say, “You happened to us!” That was a great part of the movie.
What was the most disgusting thing that you had to do for the movie?
ANDERS: Everything! They kept splattering me in goo, so I had this sweaty layer cooked in that was in my hair and my eyes. I had to jump on the subway with one arm, and run with one arm. All of that is under the same umbrella. On day one, I had to do some pretty awful things. I was like, “Oh, so this is what it’s going to be like. Let’s do it!”
Was it ever difficult not to laugh, when you’re doing things that are so absurd?
ANDERS: There was so much laughter. When you’re with Chris Wylde, there’s never not laughter. I think Kerry had issues with us laughing. I’m always laughing, on everything I do, up until, “Action!,” and then I give my performance. I’m a pro. But, Chris is something else. Everything that comes out of his mouth is funny.
Obviously, you can reveal anything, but have you personally learned your character’s alter-ego on Once Upon A Time?
ANDERS: Yes! I’ve known my alter-ego since I agreed to do the show. That’s why I did the show. We just wrapped Episode 205, and I’m not saying anything about it because I can’t, but it will knock your socks off, fold them and neatly tuck them in your drawer. It’s that good! It’s really epic, and it’s going to answer a lot of questions. We just wrapped that yesterday.
Is the reveal in that episode?
ANDERS: Maybe! But, me saying maybe should answer your question.
Along with that show, you’ve developed quite a fan following from doing work on Alias, Heroes and The Vampire Diaries. What have you enjoyed about having those loyal fans and getting to interact with them?
ANDERS: Oh, it’s great! I do these conventions sometimes. We’ve been doing a lot of The Vampire Diaries conventions, but I do Comic-Con and stuff all over the world. They can be taxing and they can take it out of you a little bit, but it’s just great for the fans. They get such a kick out of it. They’re mostly sweet people, and it’s a thrill. I just love people, sweaty palms or not. I have a fun time, doing the meet and greets, the pictures and the autographs. Every show I’ve ever done, lends itself to that kind of thing. My convention life has legs.
What do you look for in a project and role, these days?
ANDERS: It’s the people involved. Eddie [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] from Lost were involved with Once Upon A Time. Kevin Williamson, who I loved, was involved with The Vampire Diaries. I never thought I’d ever be on a CW teenaged vampire drama, or that I’d ever be on The CW, period. But, I was buddies with Ian Somerhalder, so I said, “I’ll go to Atlanta and have fun with Ian, sure!” Now, I have friends for life from that show, with Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig, Matt Davis and Nina [Dobrev]. Everybody was so great on that show. Even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, I had fun doing it. It’s about the people. It’s not necessarily the part. Everything I’ve done has been wicked cool. That was the biggest hit on The CW, and Once Upon A Time is a big, fat hit. Let’s cross our fingers that that keeps going. And, Alias was my first job. I owe my career to J.J. Abrams. He fought for me. That was a part for a 30-year-old. There were six different accents that I had to do, and then I ended up being English. And then, I suddenly became an English person when I’m from Oregon. This is a town of no. I say no to a lot of things, and I get told no for a lot of things. Sometimes there’s a yes, and you hope you see something in it.
As an actor, do you enjoy getting to develop a character over a longer period of time, like you do with television, or do you like being able to tell the full story in a film?
ANDERS: I love TV, don’t get me wrong. But with film, you’re just banging out this one product and you’re not waiting on another script. You have your script. It’s great, in that way. It’s as close to theater as you can get. I miss theater. I miss living the arc of the character, from curtain to curtain, and I miss the immediate audience response. Film is closer to that. You’re focused on this one product and this one script, and you don’t have people from the top coming to you and being like, “Well, you can’t really do it like that because, two episodes from now, it’s going to be completely contradictory.” There’s none of that shit. But, I love them both. TV has been very good to me, and I hope I’ve been good to it, but I also love film. I’m proud of our film. While doing it, I didn’t have any expectation of it, for it to be as good as it turned out. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty fucking good.
Is there a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
ANDERS: My people want me to get out of genre, but I like serialized television. I feel like procedural is death. I could never do that shit. I think I need to be on Game of Thrones. I think that’s just an obvious play. Breaking Bad is done, so I can’t do that fucking perfect show! Game of Thrones is my wet dream. I’d probably have to play a Lannister, which is fine. It’s an amazing show! I would be blessed, if they gave me even a shot. I’ll move to Belfast, I don’t care. But, I have other irons in the fire, up in Vancouver, so my loyalties are there right now. I’m 31 years old. My manager said that I’m finally at the age that everybody always thought I was. So, the sky’s the limit!
The Revenant is available on DVD on September 18th. Once Upon A Time returns to ABC on September 30th.
Finally, here’s an exclusive clip from the film: