Joe Anderson talks about teaming up with Timothy Olyphant for Breck Eisner's hellatious new remake
The Crazies are unleashing their manmade virus on the small town of Ogden Marsh this Friday, and there is little we can do to stop them. This terrifying tale, first told by George A. Romero, is getting a horrifying facelift from director Breck Eisner. He promises to scary you with his own nightmarish take on this story of biochemical weapons and the affects unleashing them has on a group of unsuspecting American citizens. The film stars Timothy Olyphant and Joe Anderson as the sheriff and deputy duo responsible for cleaning up this god-awful mess. Will they be able to save their own loved ones and survive the night? Things certainly don't look promising for our heroes. While visiting Ogden Marsh, we caught up with Anderson to get his take on the catastrophe that swept through this once postcard perfect burg. Here's what he had to say:
Can you tell us about the character you play in the film?
Joe Anderson: Yes. I am Russell Clank. I used to be Russell Nicks. But it's all in the way I walk. He's the sheriff's loyal companion. He is trying to prove himself. Unlike my character in The Ruins, Clank doesn't suffer any horrifying leg issues. Though I did pull two hamstrings running through a field. That happened on the second night of filming. It was a bit worrisome. It was freezing, and we had been standing around for hours. I just took off running, and I thought, "Dang, I am getting too old." I can't bounce around anymore. I pulled both hamstrings. I thought, "Oh my goodness! Russell Clank is going to be hobbling around." The hamstrings are better now.
How trying has this film been for you? Your characters are on the run for most of the time.
Joe Anderson: Absolutely. It's difficult to maintain the energy. Once this movie takes off, it really goes. Technically, it's quite hard. There are exploding cars, action is going on in the foreground and in the background. Helicopters are constantly flying overhead. It can be quite raw. It doesn't seem tough when you are reading it on the page. But when you are actually doing it? You discover that there are so many more pieces to orchestrate this thing than just what we're doing as actors. The set is all around you. Everything is visible at 360 degrees. There are Apaches landing in the field. And Humvies. This is a huge orchestration, and it is tricky. We have a long sequence in a carwash. It's tough working with water and shattering glass. Then you have to nail rhythms and beats.
You guys wind up in a car wash?
Joe Anderson: Yes. After the Crazies first attack. They are like people. They move. They're quick. They plunge. They think. They aren't like those zombie dudes. Which is nice. It makes the story take off. Because there is a much quicker pace to them. It's a trickier situation. The situation we are faced with in this film is handled in the most logical way. There is a method to see who is infected, and who isn't. It's deployed at the snap of the fingers. It's that quick. Thus, if you are a Crazy, you are sectioned off. It's the haves and the have-nots. The film makes this all feel very real. And very contemporary. Especially after seeing footage of what happens in war situations. And when looking at real holding camps during wartime. Walking around the set, you instantly get a vibe for it. There are no questions asked. Either the numbers say yes, or they say no. Trying to contain whatever you are trying to contain is the best way to do it. This is how I would do things if this happened to me.
Is Clank a little bit smarter than the Sheriff? Is he a little quicker on the uptake?
Joe Anderson: No. When you read the script, you don't know what is going on. For the sheriff and his deputy not to be able to put together the pieces is not a reflection upon their intelligence. That's the way the story is built. So that it has surprise and suspense. We, as protagonists, slowly discover what is going on. Russell is not a particularly bright guy. He is a young man in a small town, and this is it for him. You are either going out hunting and drinking beers with the guys. Or you make something of yourself. The amount of respect the Sheriff gets in these small towns gives you a sense of community.
How soon does the military show up? And how strong do they make their presence known at first?
Joe Anderson: It starts from the sky down. They are checking out the area to see what happened. There are some wonderful moments where Olyphant starts putting this stuff together. There are some really wonderful moments with cars that may not look out of place in Los Angeles, but they certainly look out of place in Ogden Marsh. We use that and play with that. We put the pieces together.
How well developed was your character when you got the script?
Joe Anderson: To be honest, I think Russell was one of the most developed characters in the script. He is just a young kid that starts off very cocky. This whole ordeal changes him to some degree. That's what was appealing to me from the start. I loved the arch of this character. He had room to go in two quite different extremes. There were black and white sides to Russell. One of the first rehearsals I did, I came in with a mustache and a twang. There was a redneck vibe to him. If he weren't a deputy, he'd be out drinking beer and shooting deer. Like good ol' Southern boys do. But we brought in a twist. We twisted this notion a bit.
Is Clank a funny character?
Joe Anderson: No. There are some funny elements in the script. But the humor is brought out of the insanity of the situation. Clank is a little more gung-ho and a little more hotheaded than the Sheriff. The Sheriff is the audience's way into the story. Or he should be. Though he also goes through a few doubting moments. Clank needs to be told what to do. Otherwise, he will go off and do his own thing. He is a bit of a loose one.
Heading into a film called The Crazies, audiences expect to see something crazy and unique. Reading the script, which scenes grabbed your attention?
Joe Anderson: It's interesting. It's the way the government handles the situation. That's the most prevalent thing about the story. I remember being in New York during 9/11. I'm English, so I was there when those bombs went off. And how quickly the emergency response was there. With those tents. They showed up within ten minutes. It was fast. Especially now, with what is going on in the world. It's scary. That element grabbed me. We are in a time period where what we create is out of our hands. People are messing with things that can get out of control. It's realistically scary. Yeah.
What has your experience been with the make-up we see in the film?
Joe Anderson: It literally makes you sick. They've gone about it in a really clever way. You don't look at these people and groan that you've seen this before. They don't look like a stereotypical anything. The make-up is very real. I had a friend that had meningitis. Looking at her, and looking at these Crazies, it is very similar. This has definite roots in reality. What happens to a persons eyes. What happens to their skin. It is very real, and pretty understated. There are different levels of contamination. There are four levels. To be perfectly honest, I haven't looked at every single stage. But you can definitely tell the far-gone ones from the not so far gone ones.
If someone contracts this virus, can they come back?
Joe Anderson: (Groans). I can't answer that one. To be honest with you, it kills a bit of the hoo-ha. There's a lot to do with one of the characters being a doctor. I'll say that we don't know. God, I will get lumbered for that one.
Have you seen the original?
Joe Anderson: Yes. I did. Its one of those things where you recognize that it's a great frame. And absolutely relevant. I steal little pieces here and there from the original character. It's not something you want to watch over and over again. You don't want to copy or mimic it. You taste it, then you put it away. The film speaks for itself. Because it's being remade. There is definitely something there. The premise speaks for itself. It was relevant then and its relevant now. This is it's own thing. We get just a taste of the original. It all has to do with taste. The way our team is doing it has a very cool, modern edge to it. That's why it's appealing. But it stays true to the premise of the original. It is very cool.
To what extent was George A. Romero involved in this new version of the film?
Joe Anderson: I haven't seen him on set. Not yet. I know that he read the script. And he is executive producer on it. He is a part of this new film. But I don't know how hands on he's been.
The Crazies is set to terrorize audiences this Firday, February 26th, 2010.