Best known for his comedic performances, Matt Walsh takes a more serious turn in Steven Quale’s Into the Storm as a tornado hunter with a chip on his shoulder. The committed stormchaser has laid it all on the line in order to get the once-in-a-lifetime shot from inside the funnel of a tornado. Once we stepped away from the torrential rain and raging winds on the Detroit set of the film, Walsh talked to our small group of visiting journalists about his research for the role, driving the stormchasing vehicle Titus, his own life experience with tornadoes, and just how serious his character is.
Also starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Jeremy Sumpter, Kyle Davis, and Jon Reep, Into the Storm opens August 8th. Be sure to check out the film’s recently released trailer here. Hit the jump to see what Walsh had to say. Spoilers follow.
Matt Walsh: I play Pete who is the veteran storm chaser. I’ve been on the road chasing storms for at least ten years and I put together what I think is a vehicle that can actually dig into earth and capture the shot that no one has captured which is the center of the tornado, the eye of the tornado and we’ve had a pretty dry season this year and Alison who’s my meteorologist who was attached to our crew recently to help, because it’s all probabilities. You’re trying to figure out where the next one is, when you’re covering in tornado alley, you’re covering from Iowa to Texas and Oklahoma so you’re kind of predicting three or four days out where we need to be and where we need to intercept so she was added to our group to guarantee we’re going to get that shot and she has not delivered so I’ve been very frustrated with her so that’s kind of where I’m at in the movie. I built the Titus myself. I evolved it over ten years and have a lot of experience. But I’m more of a fisherman as opposed to a scientist perhaps and chasing the whale. But I’ve had some success.
Probably not a huge fan of twister hunters.
Walsh: No. We run into these guys a lot. They’re annoying and not safe and they think it’s easy.
How much research did you do into storm chasing and storm chasers in general?
Walsh: I mostly did research into weather formation so I could understand how to predict and the probability of intercepting these things and what the symptoms are and what the likelihood of catching it was. It’s a very random event there’s no way to really guarantee you’re going to be at the right spot at the right time. It’s very lucky to make that happen. And then I watched, there’s a lot of YouTube footage like an incredible amount of found footage of people getting lucky and seeing stuff with their cell phones and handheld everything. There’s actually a tremendous amount of footage. And then there’s some actually pretty good nerdy podcasts about the weather so I kind of gave myself some weather education.
Do you hold a camera in the movie?
Walsh: No, Pete drives a camera which is the Titus and that has some 24 different angles on it. But I never, I have Jacob and Lucas who hop between the weather van and my vehicle.
Where did the name Titus come from?
Walsh: Titus, I honestly don’t know. I want to say it’s Latin and it’s a Roman god perhaps but I don’t know where it came from.
Thought it might be an acronym.
Walsh: No it’s not. It’s named after a god and I believe it’s a Roman god.
Walsh: Yeah I grew up in Chicago land and I can remember seeing two. I was never in harm’s way but we had many moments where the siren is actually as scary as seeing the thing I think because once you hear that thing you know there’s death and destruction somewhere in the neighborhood. So I’ve been in the path of a tornado watch certainly and I saw two that were relatively close but I was never, fortunately, in harm’s way of the path. They’re terrifying.
Does your character have a fear?
Walsh: Oh I think so because they’re so unpredictable but I think if I’m in the vehicle…like if I’m on the outside, exposed and there’s a hundred mile an hour winds or hundred fifty mile an hour winds then there’s a certain amount of caution I would definitely exhibit. But if I’m in the vehicle and I think we can clamp it into this thing, because it has these grappling claws that I can dig down into it, then I feel safe, yeah. So I don’t think I’m terrified no, I enjoy chasing them and I enjoy getting close to them but in the wrong circumstances I have enough foresight to get in a ditch or go into a basement. But I don’t think he freaks out or anything anymore, no. But there’s definitely an adrenaline boost.
You actually drive the Titus right?
Walsh: I drive the Titus, yes.
How does it drive?
Walsh: It drives like a beast. We’ve had many problems with it. It’s like the shark in Jaws, keeps breaking down and I’ve broken some windows but when it works it’s pretty fun. It’s very large and heavy and there’s a turret where you can sit on top so you can get that angle of where you’re shooting. And like I said it has these grappling claws that dig in. It’s pretty amazing.
Do you ever feel like you’re one of the marauders in Road Warrior?
Walsh: It’s very much like that yeah. Did you guys see it out there? It’s pretty amazing with the gull wing doors and bulletproof glass. It’s pretty amazing.
You’re known primarily for comedy, is this more of a dramatic role?
Walsh: Yeah it’s an action role. I’ve always wanted to do an action movie so this is pretty thrilling, hopefully. A lot of the acting is just hauling ass to get away from a tornado so it’s pretty easy. Especially when they have giant fans on you and rain towers. But it is a turn away from what I’m used to, yes.
Do you have any one-liners? Any quips?
Walsh: He’s pretty serious actually. We’ve had a little room for improv. Steve likes a bit of improv but there’s so many factors in shooting this movie in that 50% of it is going to be added in the edit. Like look over there, that’s a tornado, now there’s wind. So there’s many things to focus on so sometimes we stick to the script just because you create problems if you add too much information. So there’s a little bit of improv and that’s been fun but it’s pretty much as scripted.
Is your character a very serious guy as well?
Walsh: Yeah he’s dead serious. He literally is losing his funding and the guy says you gotta get a shot or we’re pulling your funding and so he’s like we have to get this and we’ve been on the road for three months. So he’s put everything in. He’s mortgaged his home everything in to get this. He doesn’t have much else besides this Titus and his little crew.
Is he riskier because he has to get this shot?
Walsh: Yeah I think so. I think he’s more likely to take chances but he’s experienced, he’s the most experience on the crew. But yeah he probably is a little riskier than everyone else. More concerned about the shot as opposed to other people’s lives, that’s true.
Will you be doing some wirework?
Walsh: Unfortunately I don’t think I get to do anything too awesome. I get to do a little bit but there was one scene they took out for various reasons that I got to like swing on a wire. I was very excited about that. But we’ve done some real crazy explosions and running through 100 mile an hour winds and things like that. It’s been pretty fun.
Lots of rain?
So is your character the one trying to get into the eye?
Walsh: Yeah he’s the guy.
What is his motivation for needing to get in there?
Walsh: Because no one has ever captured that. He’s like, I think he wants to separate himself from all the amateurs that are out there and there’s so much footage on YouTube but he literally has the Cadillac of storm chasing. He built this vehicle that has multiple cameras and a turret and he wants to use that to capture footage that represents the quality that he wants. Obviously the ultimate shot would be right in the middle of that sucker.
How did your team happen upon this town?
Walsh: Allison is our meteorologist so she is basically saying our best chance at this point is to follow this trailing system because there’s these hook echoes and tornadoes tend to happen on the back end of systems so she’s suggesting that we go here and all the other meteorologists are going this way and I’m like it better frickin happen alright? I’m taking your word so that’s kind of our tension and then eventually it turns into this freak system which, chance of a lifetime, all these tornadoes start happening. It’s a very bizarre weather pattern, which apparently do happen.
Be sure to check out our set visit interviews from Into the Storm with the following cast and crew:
- INTO THE STORM: 35 Things to Know about Steven Quale’s Natural Disaster Film Starring Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies
- Director Steven Quale Talks INTO THE STORM, the Film’s Timeframe, Shooting from Multiple Perspectives, Interlinking Stories & His Special Effects Background
- Richard Armitage Talks INTO THE STORM, How the Story Incorporates Found Footage, Character Interaction, Wire/Waterwork & Practical Effects
- Sarah Wayne Callies Talks INTO THE STORM, Insight into Her Character, Intimacy of Trust, Green Screen vs Theater, Wirework Stunts, and Tornado Chasing
- Producer Todd Garner Talks INTO THE STORM, Found Footage in Natural Disasters, Shooting on Multiple Cameras, Special Effects & Their Real World Influences