EXCLUSIVE: Derek Mears Talks Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Actor Derek Mears discusses his role in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, in theaters January 25
Those who have met Derek Mears in person, as I have both on and off the set, know him to be an incredibly exuberant, energetic, and downright funny man who spends many weekends performing with improv groups in L.A. Those who have only seen his work on the screen may not even know what he looks like after his masked turns as Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th remake and the "Classic Predator" in Predators.
This year, the former stuntman-turned-actor will be "unmasked," slightly, with prosthetic-enhanced roles in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, opening in theaters January 25, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, debuting August 16. Fans will get to see him fully unmasked in Hatchet III, where he squares off with another Jason Voorhes alum, Kane Hodder. I recently had the privilege of speaking with Derek Mears over the phone to discuss the busy year he has ahead of him. Take a look at what he had to say.
First off, I want to start with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. I don't believe we've seen your character in any of the trailers or TV spots. Can you talk a bit about who Edward really is?
Derek Mears: Edward is kind of the right-hand man to the main bad person in the film. You won't be able to see my own face with the character, but people seem to dig him. I'm crazy excited about the film, in the sense that I'm a huge fanboy. They pitched the movie to me, and I'm like, 'What? I'm not really a big fan of that.' They said, 'No, no, wait! We have Tommy Wirkola from Dead Snow, the Nazi zombie film. It's a full character arc, not just a guy wearing a mask. He's one of the main characters.' Really? So, I read the script and it was like, 'Oh my God. I am the demographic for this.' Over the top, violent, bloody, horror. In my opinion, what The Evil Dead is to horror, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is to action-fantasy, with these horror elements and a steampunk-y twist. It's so incredibly violent that it becomes slapstick-y and funny. There are a lot of comedic moments in the film.
That's what kind of surprised me. After the Snow White movies (Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman) and many others, it almost seems that I've been conditioned to believe this will be a PG-13 movie. When I saw the red band trailer, I really saw this movie in a whole new light.
Derek Mears: Yeah, there's over-the-top violence, and I know for a fact that there is even more violence that they had to cut down. I can't wait for the DVD to come out, because some of this stuff is just horrible and awesome. I saw it over at Paramount, and I'm actually really excited for it. I hope people dig it. I am the demographic for it.
You said before that your face isn't really shown, so is it just makeup then? Is there anything you can say about the look of Edward?
Derek Mears: One of the things I'm crazy excited about is all the practical effects. They hired Spectral Motion, who did all the X-Men movies and Hellboy movies, to do the practical effects in the film. The character that I play, they were talking about CG-ing the character, but they said they could do it practical. It's a throwback, in my opinion, to a Star Wars or a Labyrinth, where you have this really unique, one-of-a-kind character, but it's in makeup and animatronics mixed together. I'm really, really stoked with the feedback people have been giving me so far, that they really like it. It really has that balance between CG and practical effects. If Hollywood follows trends, and this does well, they might go, 'Wait a second. People like the old-school practical effects? Let's do more movies like that.' That's what I want to see. I want to see the Chewbacca's and the Greedo's and the really cool makeup effects.
Can you talk a bit about working with Tommy? His movies are really out there. What would you say sets him apart from anyone else you've worked with?
Derek Mears: Man, we became really good friends. I like him a lot. He's so kicked-back and mellow. I remember at one point, we were on the set and we were rushing to get a shot done, with people racing back and forth. It looked like a zombie invasion. I'm holding still, waiting to shoot, looking over at Tommy. He's just sitting still as people rush by. He's like, 'So, Derek, do you like jokes?' He starts telling these jokes, and I'm laughing like a complete idiot. It just really impressed me, because this is his first big, you know, $60 million Hollywood movie. He's totally calm at the helm, he knows exactly what he wanted, and has such a good sense of humor. He's just a good human being. He's one of those guys where he says what he means, there's no game-playing. I get it. What can I do? What can I do to make this shot work for you? As a person, I want him to succeed, so I hope people like his film.
You also play Cyclops in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. Can you describe the look of this character, and if that was practical or CGI?
Derek Mears: Yeah, ADI, who did Alien Vs. Predator and The Thing remake, they did a practical effect for the Cyclops character. It's not a huge part. I actually read for a different part, and they said, 'We actually need someone who is bigger than you are.' Wow, really? I'm 6'5" 235. That's awesome. They were so nice, and the casting director said, 'You wouldn't want to go to Canada to shoot a little spot for a week?' So, I shot the part, and they did practical effects. I can't go into detail about things, because I'm not supposed to talk about it until the film comes out. It's kind of like a Christmas present, like I know what I got the audience for Christmas. 'I want to tell you so bad! You're gonna like it! I can't say, but just wait. I'll tell you about the wrapping, and the bow.' I'd love to say more, but I can't.
I know it comes out this summer, but have you seen anything from it yet?
Derek Mears: No, I haven't seen anything yet. I've been so lucky. I've been working on a lot of other projects non-stop. The phone keeps ringing. A lot of times, if you get known for doing makeups, they go, 'Oh, you're a big guy.' No, I'm actually an all-around actor. I'm happy that I get to do that even more. I'm so, so stoked.
Derek Mears: Yeah, we shot it last year. We went to Louisiana and shot it there. I was friends with Adam Green ahead of time, but I did his Holliston sitcom show. I have a recurring character as a douchebag cop, which is hilarious because for Hatchet III, he said, 'Hey, do you want to be in Hatchet III?' I said, 'Yeah, sure. Who do I play?' He said, 'A douchebag SWAT commander.' But I'm excited about it, because Kane Hodder, who plays the main bad guy, Victor Crowley, he had played Jason Voorhes for the longest time, and I am the latest to have donned the Jason mask. There is a fight in this movie, and Adam and I are friends, and Kane and I are friends, so we pulled the trigger on Hatchet III, and I hope people like the fight between Hodder and I.
Nice. That will get the horror fans talking, for sure.
Can you say anything more about Compound Fracture, and who you play in that?
Derek Mears: Yeah, Tyler Mane is the main protagonist. The story is about these three different generations of fathers. Tyler goes off to see his father and have closure with his father, who has dementia, and his father has turned this place where he lives, this compound, into this highly-secure area, to protect it from something. I play the main bad guy, who is the something. It all kind of weaves in together, thriller/horror. Some people say they're going to make their own film, and they never do it. Tyler and his wife, Renae (Geerlings), wrote the script, and they did it. I'm happy how it turned out. They just had a distribution screening for it, and had a lot of offers. It turned out pretty good and we're excited. I'm waiting to see what he does with it.
Are you looking to get into more comedy? I know you're on Holliston, but are you actively trying to do more comedy aside from that? I've met you a few times, and you're a very funny guy.
Derek Mears: I would love to, man. My background is all comedy. I've been doing improv since I was 17. It's funny, because when I meet people, I'm known as this guy who will punch you in the face or throw you out a window, when I also have a background in comedy. Yeah, I would love to do more comedy. That's where I feel most comfortable. It's just playtime. I grew up as a fanboy and a giant nerd, and I mean that in the most loving sense. I loved playing Dungeons and Dragons. I would talk to my mom and say, 'How can I do this for the rest of my life? I want a career playing with my friends.' This is the closest thing. In my free time in L.A., I do a show called ComedySportz, an improvised sports show. There's no script, and I do that if I'm not doing a film or TV job, go play with my friends.
Do you have any aspirations to write or direct down the line?
Derek Mears: Honestly, that's my New Year's resolution. I have a ton of ideas, I want to finish some scripts and create my own content. I've been so fortunate, over the years, working, and my career has been so good to me, but I have a lot of friends who I think are extremely talented, and I would love to give them an opportunity and cast them more, put them in the right positions to let their talent be acknowledged. I don't want anything from them. I really want to do that this year.
I know it's probably dead, but have you heard anything about a Friday the 13th sequel?
Derek Mears: Yeah, it keeps bouncing around. I had lunch with (producer) Bradley Fuller about a month or two ago, and we were talking about it. It's all up to the studios. The studios own the rights right now, and it's up to them. The trend right now is to make a really low-budget, like under $1 million. That's they're focus, but if the studio wants to do it, we'll drop whatever it is we're doing and make the sequel. We're ready to rock. Even if I'm not the character, I'll always want to see more. We'll see. I know eventually it will come back around, because it's a character like Dracula or Frankenstein. There will be more movies.
That's about all I have. Thanks so much, Derek. It was fantastic talking to you again.
Derek Mears: All right, man. Thank you. I'll talk to you soon.