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Interview: Joe Lynch on Knights of Badassdom

We sneak a peek at the adventure/horror/comedy

“You have the ordinary guy thrown into an absolutely extraordinary situation and then an even more extraordinary situation comes into play when monsters have to be dealt with. The fake heroes are forced to become real heroes,” says director Joe Lynch, sitting at a table littered with harmless, soft medieval weaponry and a nefarious, meticulously crafted, prop spell book. These are all items from his latest film Knights of Badassdom and he has met Shock, along with some other journalists, in Hollywood to offer us a preview of what’s to come.

The film, written by Matt Wall and Kevin Dreyfuss, concerns a recently dumped 30-something named Joe (True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten) who tags along with his pal for a weekend of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) to get his mind off of his newly single status. But a sinister book unleashes real life evil on the LARPers and a demon is unleashed. Awesome van art, monsters, Peter Dinklage and comedy ensues.

Since his 2007 feature debut Wrong Turn 2: Dead End – which proved not all direct-too-DVD sequels had to “suck” – Lynch has become one of horror’s rising talents, leading the charge on the independent genre film front. He knows how to work a film festival crowd, usually with his amiable, crass honesty, and he directed a segment in the upcoming anthology Chillerama. Yet four years have passed since his sequel’s debut and, with Badassdom, he’s got a lot to prove.

Luckily, things are looking good. The several minutes of footage we witness – involving Badassdom stars Kwanten, Steve Zahn and Summer Glau – a succubus feasting on a poor sap then getting skewered to a tree. Zahn reads from the aforementioned spell book and the succubus transforms. Co-star Jimmi Simpson arrives just in time to tell our budding heroes shit is about to go down because they read from the book (whoops). The FX were still raw, but comic timing of the scene is pitch perfect and Simpson even works in a jab at the Wicker Man remake.

Joe wraps the footage and launches into discussing the production…

Lynch: The amount of detail and of love we have gotten from all of the departments – when we were Spokane, Washington we used North by Northwest, the same production company that John Carpenter used for The Ward – was awesome. They and Spokane completely embraced us – as well as the LARPing community. One of the things that we strove for from the beginning was – when I read the script – this is an adventure movie and we want to embrace the LARPing culture. It wasn’t poking too much fun at the culture. Look, you are putting modern guys in medieval clothing – it’s like you can’t not have a little fun with it. But at the same time, completely embrace it by shooting it in a way that evokes a true adventure film. Or, very much like Shaun of the Dead or An American Werewolf in London, you are taking a serious approach to something that has humor in it, but it’s organic. It’s coming from the characters. Like one of the examples I used for the actors was, if you watch American Werewolf with the volume off, it’s a gothic horror movie, you turn it back on and it’s two guys having a blast talking about ex-girlfriends on the moors. That’s the approach we wanted to take with the visuals.

Shock: How many monsters do you have?

Lynch: I’m not giving that away!

Shock: Give us a number…

Lynch: Under ten. One of the things that was really exciting for me was reading the script, was that there were monsters in it! The movie starts out very realistic, really grounded. It’s about guys at a crossroad in their lives. But you’re getting into page 30 or 40, it’s like, “Monsters! Sweet!” Then it becomes, “Monsters! Shit!” Because you can go either way. You can go practical – because we all grew up in the Rick Baker era of if it’s in-camera, it’s awesome and if it’s in CG, it’s “how much render time did you have”? We wanted to go old-school with this. Luckily, I shockingly had Guillermo Del Toro call Spectral Motion on our behalf. They read the script and they were so in. We wanted them to embrace the artistry of making a monster. Having them work in the monster realm and the gore effects was awesome.

Shock: How much blood was there?

Lynch: 425 gallons or something like that. There was one night where we had an absolute massacre on the playing field. Then again, going back to my old horror roots, where I had a bucket of blood next to my director’s chair, I’d be just throwing blood onto the field. More blood! It was a nice pastiche of blood and body parts.

Shock: But how wild were you allowed to go with the gore, because you’re trying to reach a wider audience this time.

Lynch: We approached this not as a horror movie, this, to me, is an adventure film. The true epitome of what I remember an adventure movie being like. Romancing the Stone. Excalibur. You have thrills and chills and laughs and drama. Adventure films, to me, are the ultimate mash-up: you can have bloody battle scenes, scary wizard scenes, comedy scenes. Goonies is another good example. You can have fun, but there are stakes involved. When shit gets real, it gets real. People die. We want to make you feel. We have fully fleshed-out characters that have their moments.

Shock: Well, chat a bit about the cast you have.

Lynch: We stole them. We literally went to whatever set they were on and grabbed them. This is a testament to the producers and our approach, we could have cast this with 20-year-olds, CW fresh faces, shit like that. We are all in the same age range, and we all saw the script as more about what happens when the 20s are over and you are thinking “Where am I in my life?” This is, in a way, an origin story for a lot of these guys. It’s more than just going out there with swords and hitting shit. You see these guys evolve.

The script got out to the right people. Dinklage was one of the first guys attached. Originally, his role was written for a very tall Asian guy. Somewhat large Asian guy. His character’s name is Hung. And now the connotation with is completely different. It just immediately clicked when Dinklage’s name came up though. He just brings such a gravitas to everything he does, it was a no-brainer. When he read the script, he was in. It was a snowball effect after. One actor came aboard and the others followed, they all got the tone. We met with Steve Zahn and he was like, “I’m in, let’s do this. I get to be a wizard!”

Shock: How many of the effects were practical, and how many were CG?

Lynch: We tried to do everything practically – everything with actor as much as possible. The most CG that you will see in the film is actually erasing stuff. One of the hardest things that we tried to do practically that just didn’t work was making the gem on the book glow. So that one, it was nice to have total control in post. The beauty of modern technology is that, if you can erase something, it still comes across as sleight-of-hand, you can be more of a magician that way. The more monsters we could have on set, the happier the actors were because they aren’t just looking at a tennis ball.

Knights of Badassdom, we’re told, has distribution and you can expect to see it in early 2012. Stay tuned for the trailer!

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor