Now available on VOD and in select theaters is Joe Dante‘s (Gremlins, The ‘Burbs) zombie comedy Burying the Ex. From a script by Alan Trezza, the film stars Anton Yelchin as Max, a nice guy eager to break up with his overbearing girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene) when fate intervenes and she gets hit by a bus. Weeks later he meets his dream girl Olivia (Alexandra Daddario, who is making a career out of playing dream girls), but everything goes to hell when Evelyn rises from the grave convinced she and Max are still an item.
After visiting the set last year (you can check out my on-set interviews with Greene here and Yelchin here), I recently had an opportunity to speak with Trezza about the film. He talked about going from a self-produced short film to landing Joe Dante as the director, what makes Dante so special, finding the right leads, and more. Check out the full interview below
Collider: Tell me about the long path to production for Burying the Ex and how Joe came on board.
ALAN TREZZA: Burying the Ex came from a deep love of horror films, in particular the zombie genre. I was holding a zombie movie marathon at my house 7 years ago and realized that the best and most effective zombie films were the ones that used the zombies as a metaphor for something greater and deeper. I believe Romero explored race relations with Night of the Living Dead and mass consumerism with Dawn of the Dead, which takes place at a shopping mall. Danny Boyle also did it with 28 Days Later, which is really about fear of disease. I thought to myself that no one had ever used the undead as a metaphor for a relationship that just won’t die – that partner you just can’t seem to get out of your life. I immediately started writing, and within a month had shot a short film that played at many festivals including Screamfest and Comic-Con.
I felt that there was more story to mine within the short and adapted it into a feature length script which took much longer – about six months – because I had to essentially throw out the short version and start from scratch. When I was finally finished I realized that what I had was actually a Joe Dante film. It had elements of horror, fantasy, and comedy which no director can bring together like Joe. I sent it to him through his agent David Gersh, he read it within a week and agreed to come on board to direct it.
Joe fucking Dante! The man who brought us so many classics. What does he bring to the film that sets him apart from other directors?
TREZZA: I was by Joe’s side through every aspect of this production – especially the filming – and if I knew what made him so special I’d bottle it up and sell it! Seriously though, I believe Joe has a stronger grasp on the material than anyone, and knows exactly what the film will look like, sound like, and feel like before he shoots a single frame. That being said, he’s also incredibly collaborative and welcomes ideas from every-and-anyone on set.
I know you’re a huge horror fan, what was it like for you seeing your work brought to life by a master of the genre?
TREZZA: If I were only the writer on the film, I would probably be brought to tears every single day at seeing my words being spoken by Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario and Oliver Cooper. However, I was also a producer on this film so that meant I had to put out the occasional fire (on a Joe Dante set there aren’t very many), make sure we stayed on schedule and also demand that certain scenes be rewritten.
The characters in the film are huge horror buffs and that comes from your love of the genre. What kind of Easter Eggs and nods are we going to see?
TREZZA: Almost too many to list. I’ll just say keep an eye on what’s playing in the TV sets in the background of most of the scenes.
This is a rare film that was shot in LA, why was that important and what was it like filming at these icons of Los Angeles movie culture?
TREZZA: I’m a proud member of the LA filmgoing subculture – the people who check out double features at the New Beverly and revivals at the Cinematheque. I spent many lonely nights watching Mario Bava marathons and Dario Argento double features at these theaters and thought it would make the perfect environment for a film where the characters actually find themselves inside one of these movies.
Ashley Greene is pretty much a dream girl. What made her right for the nightmare girl?
TREZZA: Ashley has the perfect balance of intelligence, compassion, humor, and beauty. On the other hand, she can also be extremely formidable in a fight. That’s what we needed – someone incredibly smart and stunningly attractive who you didn’t want to get in a fight with, verbal or otherwise. Ashley’s capable of going to some pretty extreme places, so when her character Evelyn loses her temper…oh boy.
Your lead, Anton Yelchin, is obviously a great actor, but what made him ideal for the lead in this script?
TREZZA: Anton was my first and only choice for the role of Max. He’s a phenomenal actor who’s also believable as a cinema buff who finds himself in this unusual situation. Anton also loves old Universal horror films and would stay up sometimes until three or four in the morning doing research during the shoot. He must’ve gotten no more than two hours sleep each night, but he was always incredibly well-prepared and ready to go every morning.
Tell me about the effects. There’s always pressure on a zombie film. How much can we expect to see practical and what sets your effects apart?
TREZZA: I think only two or three shots are actually computer generated. The rest of the effects are done practically by Gary Tunnicliffe from the Hellraiser films and who most recently did the Neil Patrick Harris throat slit gag in Gone Girl. He’s one of the best in the business and a truly great guy.
Burying the Ex is currently available on VOD and playing in theaters at AMC CityWalk in Los Angeles and AMC Empire 25 in New York.