In the horror adventure Knights of Badassdom, a group of costumed LARPers (Live Action Role Players) take to the woods to re-enact a scenario right out of the Middle Ages, and a make-believe wizard casts an all-too-real spell that conjures an actual demon with a taste for human blood. As the demon starts to systematically decimate the players in this suddenly deadly game, three friends (played by Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage) must team up with a hot, ass-kicking LARPer, while hoping to survive and make it out with their lives.
During a recent interview to promote the film’s presentation at this year’s Comic-Con, director Joe Lynch talked about how crazy it was to find out that they were getting a coveted Saturday spot in Hall H, how the film was influenced by Shaun of the Dead and An American Werewolf in London, wanting to be very accurate and completely embrace the LARPing community, using as many practical monsters and creatures as they could, and how having a great cast that were totally into the role-playing made filming a total blast. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did you get into Hall H for Comic-Con?
JOE LYNCH: Holy shit! We just have a great movie. I’ve gone to Comic-Con for 10 years now. I’ve gone as a fan, I’ve gone as media and I’ve gone as talent, but I was still sitting there going, “Oh my god, this is crazy!” When they called me and said, “We got Hall H!,” I swear to God, it was like we were stepping into Oz. I’ve gone to Hall H enough times, and dreamed that I would have a movie there one day. This is a film that appeals to so many different demographics and fan bases, just with Summer Glau’s fanbase, and Peter [Dinklage], Ryan [Kwanten], Steve [Zahn] and Danny [Pudi] We’re bringing all these collectives of fans together. Screw The Avengers! We have such a great Comic-Con cast, but it was never designed that way. We could have gone with complete unknowns or expected types, but it was important not to cast for comedy. We cast the actors who could be funny, but also took it as seriously as we were. Everybody embraced that.
Do you see Knights of Badassdom as an adventure film?
LYNCH: For me, this is the true epitome of what an adventure film is. For all of us, an adventure film isn’t just medieval swords or films like Goonies or Excalibur. You have drama, thrills, chills and laughs, like Army of Darkness. Is that an adventure film? Absolutely! KNB have done a lot of horror effects and stuff, and I see that more obviously as the adventure version of what the Evil Dead trilogy was. So, for us, it was like, “Here’s a rare opportunity to not make a remake or a sequel, but at the same time, do something original that is a little bit of everything that we love.” It’s an adventure film and it’s got a little bit of horror in there, but it’s just mostly got a great sense of humor to it, and it’s got characters that you want to follow throughout. And, to me, it’s got real stakes. That was one thing for me that was very important, from the beginning. We didn’t want it to be like, when the shit hits the fan, you don’t care about the characters. That was the fun part about it. When shit happens, it happens for real.
What were your biggest influences for this?
LYNCH: Two of the films that were very influential for this were Shaun of the Dead and An American Werewolf in London. With Shaun of the Dead, you had two schmoes sitting on the couch saying, “Ah fuck, there’s zombies! Let’s go get an ice cream bar!” But, when people started to die, after they got to the pub, it was dark as shit. That was because they had built up these amazing characters. Edgar [Wright] did such a great job building those characters up, and then when people are getting dispatched, there’s actual emotion involved. And then, with American Werewolf, in terms of tone, you can turn the volume off on that and it’s a gothic horror film with the look and feel, but you turn it back up again and they’re talking about ex-girlfriends and things guys talk about when they’re on the road. The sense of humor came out naturally and organically with the characters. With this film, we have a little bit of everything. There’s a little bit of humor, a little bit of thrilling stuff, and some supernatural stuff as well. This movie is the kitchen sink. It throws it all in.
Did you also take from documentaries, like Darkon?
LYNCH: When I first got sent the script, full confession, the only LARPing that I knew was when I was working with G4 and we did stuff on LARPing. It was just another wacky thing that people do that’s counter-culture. When I read the script, it could have gone any way. You could have made it more of a comedy, where it was more of a comment on LARPing. But, what we wanted to do, from the beginning, was embrace the culture and respect the culture, in a way that hopefully makes someone at the end of the movie say, “Shit, man, I wanna pick up a sword and run out of here.” That was very important to us, right from the get-go. We wanted to be respectful to the culture, so that maybe we’d get a couple of free swords out of it. That was what we thought at first. We got in touch with the LARP Alliance, which is part of the West Coast LARPing community. You’d never believe that there’s LARPing going around everywhere. When we were up in Spokane prepping, we were just driving around looking for locations and there were a bunch of LARPers right there. We had to stop our car, get out and start shooting them. They became extras in the movie.
What does the LARPing community think about the film?
LYNCH: The LARPing community completely embraced this film, which was so amazing for us. We wanted to respect them and respect the culture, and they went above and beyond. Our technical advisors worked on Role Models and this was their leveling-up, in terms of finding a way to get the LARPing culture and the community out there in a very fun and positive way. Because the whole movie is wish fulfillment. Whether it’s LARPing, paint balling or you wish you were a rock star, everybody has a dream. Obviously, life gets in the way. These are 30-something guys who are getting into the later part of their lives, where things didn’t quite work out the way they wanted.
How do you introduce the audience to what LARPing is?
LYNCH: Joe (Ryan Kwanten) is our normal, everyday guy who gets thrown into an extraordinary situation. He’s a guy who’s had a very bad day and his buddies go, “Dude, instead of sitting at home feeling bad for yourself, come with us. We’re going to have a great time. Lose yourself in the culture a little bit. Have fun.” He reluctantly goes and, throughout the movie, before the shit hits the fan and when the shit hits the fan, he starts going, “This is pretty fun. I like this.” You start losing yourself in it. All of us did. It’s excellent cardio, by the way. Seriously, you work up a goddamn sweat. It’s amazing! We were walking out going, “I could do this forever. Oh my God, I’m dying.” But, when you put that helmet on and you have that sword in your hand, I swear to God I was in Braveheart. It was like I was literally in Excalibur. Bills, gone. Responsibilities, poof. All of that stuff that gets in the way of being a 12-year-old kid again, you could let go of and fall into a fantasy world. It all dissipates and you’re in this war. Man they hit hard! The LARPing community really embracing the script was great. We had an unbelievable amount of real weapons that were absolutely regulation-friendly. And then, we ended up having all of our LARPing extras be real LARPers. There was not a fake one in the bunch. We had everyone from Georgia to New York to lower California. All of a sudden, we walked on set and there were a hundred LARPers and we were like, “Where did they come from?” We told them we just needed a couple of days, but they ended up sticking around in Spokane, the entire time. It was great to have that kind of comradery. It only fueled the cast even more. They were like, “Man that guy’s robe is awesome. Can I have one?” [Steve] Zahn came to me and was like, “Hey man, I’ve worked on 50 movies and I’ve never seen extras like this, in my life.”
Is there a part of the country where LARPing is more popular than others?
LYNCH: It’s actually huge in Europe. They literally came from everywhere and it was so amazing to be out there on the set of a movie and have a hundred extras converged together, like in Braveheart. But, everybody was so into it and having such a good time and it was such a family experience. The cast, the crew and everybody were all getting along. It was like a fellowship. Every night, we would just go, “Huzzah!,” and a hundred people would say the same thing. I was like, “Oh my God, this is insane! This is amazing!” It was pretty wild. The crew members were like, “Can I have a sword tonight?,” and I was like, “No, you have to shoot the movie.” I also feel like every movie that I’ve been blessed to make so far is going to be my last one, and I’m never going to get the chance to do it again. So, I had to infuse this thing with as many of the people that I’ve always wanted to work with, and the influences that I’ve always had. When I got the script, I thought, “When am I going to get the chance to make a movie that is a modern comedy that also has supernatural elements, sword-fighting, monsters and heavy metal?”
How much of this film was practical monsters vs. CG creatures?
LYNCH: A lot of the actors had worked in big effects-heavy films before, so they were used to both practical monsters and CG creatures where it’s like, “Look there at that scary tennis ball.” But, to actually have things on set, even just the gore effects and the blood was great. We tried to be as practical with everything as possible because it just looks and feels better, and it feels right.
Did you get the actors together ahead of time so that they could get comfortable with LARPing?
LYNCH: The LARPers and all the actors came a week or two before filming, when we were heavy in prep. The first thing they said was, “When are we LARPing?” Having real technical advisors and not just having to make shit up, we had LARPing boot camp, so that all of us could actually learn all the hit points. There’s a really funny scene in the movie where it shows Joe, the guy who really doesn’t know about LARPing, how to do it. It’s totally true to form and authentic. That’s what they taught us. To watch all of these actors do that, who I’ve admired greatly for years, I was sitting there thinking, “Oh my God, these guys are actually hitting each other with fucking swords. What have we done? This is awesome!” But, [Peter] Dinklage schooled them all. It made them feel so much more comfortable to be out there and do it justice. Steve [Zahn] was very, very present about what he wanted to do, to make sure it was authentic. He would ask, “Would I use this spell? Would this lightning bolt work? What’s in my pouch?” Danny Pudi was a cleric, and he wanted to make sure that everything he did was authentic to the culture. That’s what I love about working with great actors like that. We got so lucky. We got such a wonderful ensemble.
How were you able to assemble this cast?
LYNCH: People are like, “Oh you just designed that,” but no, they all came to us, wanting to do it. Peter [Dinklage] was the first actor who was attached to the film because he had worked with us before on St. John from Las Vegas. When they called me and said, “What do think about Peter Dinklage as this character?” – because that role was originally written as a 6’5″ Asian fat guy – I was like, “I get to work with that kind of caliber of actors?” He’s one of the finest working actors today. And then, the snowball effect occurred, where you have one actor in there, and then another says yes. And then, another actor says, “Well, if he’s in it, then I’m in it!” And then, another one says, “I wanna have fun too!” It just grew and grew and grew. By the time we actually started shooting, we had that big wall with actors and their headshots on there, and I would just turn around in my little office and go, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! Really?!” I had chainmail on, at the same time. It was like a dream come true. You couldn’t ask for magic, in how this movie came together.
Did you allow for any improv?
LYNCH: Not really. Everybody loved the script and was faithful to it. It was the type of film where it wasn’t about off-the-cuff lines. We wanted to be as in game as possible. Improv was out of game. We wanted to adhere to the script like a Bible. I wanted something that had a Sundance soul, but a blockbuster skin. If it looks like that, then we won. We wanted a story that people could care about.
Do you have a release date yet?
LYNCH: We’re in post. The film will be released in Spring 2012. I’m glad we’re the underdogs going in to Hall H. It’s amazing to be on the same stage as Francis Ford Coppola. We’re in between all these big movies. Everybody’s rooting for the movie because there’s a lot of passion and love in it. Making movies is a hell of a time, and that’s what fuels you.