In Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, available on Magnolia On-Demand and in select theaters starting September 30th, two lovable hillbillies (played by Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) head to their fixer-upper vacation cabin to drink some beer and have a good time. Once there, they cross paths with a group of preppy college kids who mistake them for chainsaw-wielding killers, and what was supposed to be some relaxing time away, quickly takes a bloody and hilarious turn for the worse.
At the film’s press day, actor Tyler Labine spoke with Collider for this exclusive interview about signing on for Dale so early on that they went through a whole list of actors (including Johnny Knoxville and Dane Cook) looking for the right Tucker, making sure the tone of the horror comedy was right on, playing everything for the reality of the situation in the hopes that the comedy would come through, the challenges of being covered in blood from dawn to dusk, and how he would love to return to the role of Dale for a sequel. He also talked about playing the title role in the independent feature Lumpy, and a new show called Guidance, that he’ll be producing (along with Ryan Reynolds and Allan Loeb) and starring in for Fox. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
TYLER LABINE: It came through the normal avenues. My agent was like, “Hey, I’ve got this indie movie, called Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, that I think they’re going to offer to you.” So, I was like, “Let me read it and take a look at it.” I read it, and it’s obviously changed things for me now. I remember thinking, right away, “Who is this guy? Who’s Eli Craig? How has he written such a genius script? Can he actually direct this movie?” I was also really flattered because I don’t get offered a lot of things in the movie world. TV is a little different.
What was your first meeting with Eli Craig like?
LABINE: He happened to be in Vancouver. I think they were scouting in Vancouver for awhile, and I was back home there. He was able to meet for lunch, so I went to meet him and told him that I had some concerns. I said, “I want to make sure that, tonally, we’re talking about the same movie and how we’re going to walk the line with the comedy and horror. I don’t want to be winking to the camera.” He was so funny. He had two binders with photos of the locations he’d scouted, he showed me the cabin that he wanted to build, and he had a little one-liner sheet that he was pitching to me. I was like, “Fuck, I like this guy. He knows his shit.” I could tell that the only guy who could make this movie would be him. He visualized it perfectly. I remember that I said, “Why did you think of me for the role? I don’t understand. What have you seen me in?” I guess he’d been watching some episodes of Reaper online. I was like, “How did you jump from my character on Reaper to Dale? They’re completely different guys.” And, he was like, “I just see something in you that I want to strip away. I see something that I think would be really great as Dale. It would be fun to watch you get rid of some of your schtick.” I was like, “Fuck you! I like my schtick.”
As an actor, you always hope that someone will give you a shot to do something that you wouldn’t normally get to do, and he was doing that. I was like, “You don’t have a track record as a feature film director, and I don’t have a track record as a lead in a feature film, so let’s take a chance on each other.” It just worked out. I actually signed on really early, and then we went through everybody for Tucker. It was Johnny Knoxville, at one point. And then, it was Dane Cook, the comedian. Eli kept calling me and was like, “What do you think about this?,” and I was like, “No! Who? Why? No! Get a good actor in there. We need a good actor.” There was another guy attached to it for awhile, who I really liked, but he backed out. And then, Alan [Tudyk] came in and saved the day, and I can’t even picture any other actor, period. I’m a big Alan fan.
LABINE: When you read the script, it blows your head back a bit. You’re like, “Holy shit! This is so funny.” But, as an actor, you know that reading a good script oftentimes means that it’s not going to be a good movie, and Eli had no track record. I’ve seen the film a lot of times now and, every time I watch it, I still notice new things and I put things together that I didn’t quite get before. But, when we were shooting it, it wasn’t that funny. We weren’t trying to make each other laugh all day. We were covered in blood and doing fucked up things with body parts. It just felt weird. Alan and I knew that if we played everything for the reality of the situation, hopefully that would make the other elements of the movie funny. That was the only power we had. We couldn’t over-react to things or try to make a joke out of the gore. So, we were like, “Shit, I hope this works!” Then, when we saw it, we were like, “Oh, that really worked well!” Honestly, the reaction to this movie has been in another world. We had no idea. Even after I saw it, I was like, “This is really good, but who knows?” But, people just really like it, and I love that.
LABINE: He was really good. There were some moments where Alan and I were like, “What are we doing? What is he doing? This doesn’t make sense! This can’t be the way he wants me to do this.” At times, I was like, “Are you sure you shot everything? Did you put the camera there and shoot that?” In retrospect, after we watched the cut of the movie, we were both like, “Woah, okay, he obviously knew what he was doing,” and I felt like I owed him an apology. We both maybe didn’t totally have faith in what he was doing when we were there.
Do you think there’s any way that all of these misunderstandings might not have spiraled so far out of control for these guys, or was all of this just inevitable?
LABINE: That’s what makes it so fun to watch. You think, at any given moment, one of them could figure it out and articulate what’s going on and talk to these kids. But, I think it had to go all the way down the rabbit hole. It was gonna happen. It was fate. It’s a life game-changer for the two of them. It had to go all the way down.
Did you do a lot of ad-libbing in this?
LABINE: Yeah, we did. It was a very unique brand of ad-libbing. It was not like we did a [Judd] Apatow approach where we just threw shit at the wall and filmed it and picked out the best bits. We pre-ad-libbed. We collaborated a little bit after the table read. We came up with some ideas that sparked other ideas, and then we would shoot it with pre-approved ad-libs in there, which would lead to more ad-libbing. We kept the ball rolling with ideas, all the time. It definitely wasn’t like a Vince Vaughn movie. We weren’t trying to show off and ad-lib. We were just trying to add things to every moment that felt like they aided the story, and not just in being funny.
LABINE: She surprised me. I’d only ever seen her as Cerie on 30 Rock. The trick with Katrina is that people see her that way, but she’s really smart. She’s a very well-read, articulate girl. She’s sweet, but she’s shy, so people probably think she’s a bitch. But, she’s really, really sweet and smart. Eli gave her a shot to play this more rounded-out character, who is a smarty pants from a university. She was really fun to act with. She had a lot of cool approaches to things. We didn’t do much ad-libbing together. It was pretty by the book, but I think those scenes needed to be. They were pretty quiet and intimate, between me and her. But, she was fun. She was really cool. She was really connected. She stays with you in a scene, which is cool. If you don’t have that, you don’t feel comfortable. There’s no support there. You’re just doing it on your own. But, she’d stay with you. It was cool.
Was part of the attraction to this role the fact that these guys stayed really sweet guys, throughout the entire movie?
LABINE: They never give into the dark side. Yeah, I think that’s totally it. The charm behind Tucker and Dale is that they’re not changing for anybody, and they don’t even know that they should. There’s nothing wrong with the way they live their lives. It’s everybody else. Without getting too deep, what’s so cool about the movie is that it does break down those class walls and has that “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing. Just ‘cause these guys want to go fish, and one of them has a crazy beard, and they just want to drive their truck and drink beer, it doesn’t mean that they’re murderous hillbillies, and they’re not pieces of shit. They’re good guys. The message of the whole movie is that we’re all just trying to get by.
What was the most outrageous thing that happened to you during filming?
LABINE: When we first got to Calgary, it hailed golf ball size precipitation. And then, two days later, I had to jump in that little tiny puddle of a lake, which had frozen all the way to the bottom. Obviously, it didn’t freeze all the way to the bottom, but it was cold as hell. That was my most outrageous moment. I dabbled with hypothermia that night. That was fun. That was good.
LABINE: You’re covered in blood from dawn to dusk. You get in the chair in the morning and they cover you in blood, and that shit dries and sticks to your clothes. My beard would get caught on my overalls, it was that long. I would go sit down for awhile, and then get up and try to raise my head, but my beard would be stuck to my chest. It just pulls out all the most sensitive hairs. It knows exactly which ones hurt the most. That sucked.
What’s your favorite death scene?
LABINE: The wood chipper. I do love the bee incident, too. It’s not so much the death, but the build-up to that one.
When you play a character that’s this fun, is it hard to let go of it? Are you happy to know that Eli Craig is already working on doing a sequel about Tucker & Dale going to college and having to fight zombies?
LABINE: When we were shooting it, I was always joking around about Tucker and Dale going to Yale. I thought that was a funny sequel, and maybe he’s run with that a little bit. I know that we’ve all said that we would do it. Alan and I both said that, if it’s a good script, we’ll do it. I want to hear more about it. Somebody came up with the final chapter being Tucker Vs. Dale. Someone is going to die. That’s it. One of us is going down. I’ll be a lycan and Dale will be a zombie or something. I thought that would be a funny way to go, with the two of us eventually having to take each other down.
LABINE: Basically, Justin Long and Jess Weixler play the two leads of the movie. They’re getting married in the beginning, and I’m the best man of Justin Long. I’m just a real horror of a man. I’m a drunk who’s really out of control. Jess is like, “Why is he here?,” and Justin ends up kicking me out of his wedding, at the end of the night. I go to my room and end up killing myself by accident. I bash my head on the floor, and then I wander out into the desert and impale myself on a cactus. It plays like this really goofy comedy, and then all of a sudden, I’m dead. And then, throughout the movie, Justin and Jess have to take my body back from Arizona to Minneapolis.
Along the way, they start learning all these crazy things about me, like me potentially having a 15-year-old girlfriend, who’s played by Addison Timlin, and that I had dropped out of university and drained all their bank accounts. And then, they eventually find out that I was actually already dying. I had a heart condition and was trying to help save this 15-year-old girl and get her away from her crack addicted mom. It’s a crazy movie. It’s a really amazing story. Ted Koland, the writer and director, was a first-time feature director as well. It’s just beautiful, and it’s a bit of a dramatic turn for me, which is really cool. I think it’s going to be a really good movie.
Didn’t you also recently sell a new TV show, too?
LABINE: Yeah, I just sold a new show to Fox that I’m producing and I’m going to star in, with Ryan Reynolds and Allan Loeb’s production company, and Tim Dowling is running it. That’s going to be really fun. It’s called Guidance, and it’s about two beer salesmen. The economy crushes their dreams, and they end up going back to their high school and becoming guidance counselors there. It’s really funny.
What do you look for, when figuring out what you’re going to do next?
LABINE: Yeah, the variety is what I look for. I spend a lot of time on TV doing the same sort of thing. I found a niche in TV where people are willing to steadily employ me to do this one thing, which I put spins on and change. But, in the movie world right now, I get excited by projects that are completely different from one another. I had Rise of the Planet of the Apes, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy and Tucker & Dale all come out this year. Those movies couldn’t be any different, if you tried. It’s three very, very different genres. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll start getting a reputation for being a guy who can be pretty versatile. That’s the challenge and the fun of being an actor. I love getting to play and do different things.