One friend of the horror community is gracing the big screen this Friday in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, but you won’t be seeing his face. But then again, you rarely ever do in film as he has made a name for himself playing various creatures and on-screen villains in films like Predators and 2009′s Friday the 13th remake. Yes, we’re talking about Derek Mears, the amiable, funny, rock wall of an actor (and comedian) who is getting more recognition these days for his non-”under total make-up” roles (The Aggression Scale).
In Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, however, he plays “Edward” the troll – a role which required him to shoulder a monstrous creature suit. That’s right, no CGI here. Edward is all practical. And to talk about his latest turn, we recently interviewed Mears about the film and the upcoming Hatchet III.
Shock Till You Drop: Was director Tommy Wirkola a fan of yours? How did you wind up landing this gig?
Derek Mears: I got a call for this new fairy tale feature, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and you know me, I’m a big fanboy and I was like, ‘Oh, another fairy tale movie.’ They pitched this Edward character to me. I hadn’t read the script yet, but I thought it was awesome. But where I was at in my career, I didn’t want to go backwards and they were like, ‘No, we know you’re a professional actor, but the suit is going to be difficult and we need someone to do a practical version of it who can act and survive the suit.’ I read the script and it had a full character arc. Being a nerd, what I want to see in film is old school Labyrinth and Star Wars-like practical effects. Like, the character should have a soul. Then I found out Tommy Wirkola was involved, I thought Dead Snow was so good and I liked his sensibility. It all worked out, it was awesome.
Shock: How was your interaction with Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner – with you being the guy in the suit and all?
Mears: They treated me really well. A lot of guys who do the monster work are getting that respect these days, like Andy Serkis. The actors understand we’re actors too and not just a big guy in a suit. We all hung out and goofed around. Gemma was wonderful, I think she sort of pitied me because of my suit’s heat and weight. We had time to improvise and connect with our energy on set doing the dialogue. So, it was organic like any other acting.
Speaking of Dead Snow earlier, I watched that movie three or four months before going to Berlin to shoot Hansel & Gretel. I was like, ‘These Norwegian guys, these are the guys I would laugh and hang out with. They seemed really cool.’ Tommy cast a lot of his friends from Dead Snow and there we were months later hanging out in a pub in Berlin – how surreal it was. Because being such a fan, there’s this weird disconnect or connect between being a nerd for these movies and then actually working with people you’re watching on screen. It’s crazy.
Shock: I spotted you briefly in Gangster Squad, how was that experience? Who did you get knocked out by?
Mears: [Josh] Brolin. I read for the film and I don’t exactly look that period, but I went in and got to play around. My best friend was the stunt coordinator on that show. Hanging with him and Brolin on set, Brolin is such a guy’s guy. I think every answer I have is, ‘It was really cool, I’m lucky…’ [laughs]
Shock: You seem to be getting more recognition these days, perhaps because of The Aggression Scale in which you have a fairly big role, would you agree with that?
Mears: Yeah, it’s given me more and more opportunities as an actor. A lot of people know me as playing Jason Voorhees, because he’s known world-wide. Other people, who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, go, ‘Hey, this guy’s intelligent and can put words together’ and things are snowballing into bigger and better things. It’s been an amazing run and I’m beyond fortunate to have a bigger audience to play to.
Shock: In addition to Hansel & Gretel, fans will be seeing you later this year in Hatchet 3, what can you tell us about that one?
Mears: Hatchet 3, I play a douche-y SWAT team commander named Hawes who is no-nonsense and leads a team of officers into the swamp to take out Victor Crowley once and for all.
Shock: How would you say this entry differs from the previous two movies?
Mears: I just went an did ADR for the film and was watching it with my fanboy eyes and my jaw was just on the floor. The visual spectrum is amazing. It looks like it cost $19 million to make. We shot all of it in New Orleans and there’s a wider spectrum for the camera. In the other films, they had to keep things tight. But this looks fantastic and just opens the world up. I haven’t seen the whole film yet, but this is more of an action movie with horror in it. BJ, the director, wanted to do big action moves. I was so on board.
Shock: And you recently just wrapped another film, yes?
Mears: Yes, called Lost Time with Luke Goss. And it’s a stretch, Ryan, but I play the big heavy. I had to be creepy. I don’t know if I did it or not. [laughs] I’ve got Compound Fracture coming out with Tyler Mane. He produced his own film, so I got to appear in that movie with him. We knew each other before the whole Jason and Michael [Myers] thing and we live like a block away from one another so I’d go to his house. He was like, ‘Hey, buddy, do you want to fight me?’ I was like, ‘Yep!’ Then he said, ‘In a movie?’ Oh, man, deal! You know what? I should interview you and you can tell me what I’d say…
Shock: Well, I suspect if I ask you about any chance of a new Friday the 13th film you’d say, ‘Man, I’d love to come back and I’m board and I really hope Platinum Dunes figures it out, but I haven’t heard anything yet.’
Mears: [laughs] Exactly.