Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead – Tommy Wirkola & Martin Starr
This weekend, the sequel to the Nazi zombie movie Dead Snow opened in theaters and VOD. While they were in Los Angeles for the opening weekend, we got to speak with director Tommy Wirkola and actor Martin Starr, who joins the cast as the leader of the Zombie Squad, a trio of Americans who fly to Norway to hunt Nazi zombies. Having survived the first film, Marin (Vega Hoel) ends up with a Nazi zombie arm attached to his right stump in a hospital mishap, and enlists the Squad to help him continue the fight.
CraveOnline: Did doing Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters give you a lot of new tools to come back and do Dead Snow 2?
Tommy Wirkola: Certainly it helped us getting a slightly bigger budget, which again gave me bigger tools I guess. It also gave me a lot of experience and it also, I’m very proud of the film. It was a very special experience just to be working in the studio system and trying to make a film in that kind of environment. I’d just been making films in Norway before Hansel and Gretel. The script I wrote for Hansel and Gretel is different from the film that was released. I ended up feeling it’s a slightly milder version of what I wanted to do. So Dead Snow 2 was my chance again to go crazy and be unleashed again. It was just fun going back and having fun.
Was it important that the sequel be bilingual?
Tommy Wirkola: Yes. We wanted more money for the sequel and we knew that one way of doing that was to add the Yanks.
Martin Starr: And here we are.
Tommy Wirkola: Here you are. So you just get a better release and distribution with American, English language. I also wanted to broaden the work.
Martin, did Dead Snow 2 fulfill a fantasy of being the action hero?
Martin Starr: No. I didn’t quite do that but I did get to try some new things out that I hadn’t done before, so that was definitely exciting.
Tommy Wirkola: Yeah, you did some hammer work.
Martin Starr: I did a little bit of hammer work.
Tommy Wirkola: On the set.
Martin Starr: I was helping to construct the set so I put my hammer down so to speak.
Tommy Wirkola: No, but it is a lot of action. You even ran up on a moving tank. That’s pretty badass.
Martin Starr: That was fun. They didn’t let me do the full jump up onto it because I definitely would have died.
Was action not something you always wanted to do as an actor before this came along?
Martin Starr: Oh, totally but this is like the tip of that iceberg. I had two kind of stunt scenes but I could have done 300.
Tommy Wirkola: Next time we’ll put you through the ringer. What about a fight where you jump off a plane with no parachute and you have to fight to get the parachute back?
Martin Starr: Classic. Classic zombie movie stuff here. Or I knit the zombies together to create a parachute of dead people.
Tommy Wirkola: You can actually rip out their intestines and use the stomach.
Martin Starr: You get it.
Tommy Wirkola: That’s a fun scene actually.
Dead Snow 3!
Tommy Wirkola: The meat parachute.
Martin Starr: All meat parachute. That does not sound good.
When you give a character a zombie arm, you must know that people are going to think of Evil Dead 2. What gave you the confidence to use that device and distinguish your zombie arm?
Tommy Wirkola: Of course, it happens in a way in Evil Dead 2. We just had so many ideas regarding that. It just came out of we wanted to do something new with the sequel and we wanted to go to new paces. Because we had cut his arm off already in the first one and we discussed the possibility of him having a zombie arm. We thought giving him great zombie powers is somewhere that Evil Dead didn’t necessarily go, especially with the magic and waking Russians up. Hopefully what people think is it’s a nice tribute, at the same time as it’s doing something a little different.
Is “Total Eclipse of the Heart” an easy song to license and clear?
Tommy Wirkola: No, no. I mean, it’s easy if you have money but we didn’t have a lot of money when it came to the music budget. I really fought hard to get it. When we wrote it, I put it in straightaway in the script, but it was a tight budget so we barely could afford it. I think it’s worth it.
You did Dead Snow before the zombie boom really hit. It was certainly before “The Walking Dead.” Was it even before Shaun of the Dead?
Tommy Wirkola: It was before “The Walking Dead.” It was after Shaun of the Dead. But yeah, it now has become a much bigger thing in the last few years for sure.
Did you call it? Did you foresee it coming back?
Tommy Wirkola: Not really. I wouldn’t say that. I always loved zombie films growing back and when we did Dead Snow, we just wanted to do something new. Of course, Nazi zombies had been done before with Shock Waves especially, but a modern young audience would never know about Shock Waves. So we thought this is a cool way in and we could use the history of where we came from in the north of Norway. Especially in the sequel, really use the Nazi element and try to make our zombies unique that way.
Martin, do you know people like the Zombie Squad?
Martin Starr: No. I know zero of these people but apparently I’m a member now so technically I know one really well.
Tommy Wirkola: Yeah, we both got lifelong memberships now which means we can kill zombies now.
Martin Starr: Now we can officially kill zombies.
Tommy Wirkola: I wonder if I kill somebody I think is a zombie and I show my badge, will I get arrested?”
Martin Starr: “But I swear to God, he looked like a zombie, officer.”
Tommy Wirkola: This is my badge.
How did you imagine this zombie geek character? What was the line you didn’t want to cross?
Martin Starr: I didn’t have any drawn lines I don’t think and it had been so long for me since I had done something like this, in the same kind of genre of geekdom. I was excited. I think I was as surprised as Tommy was that I was excited about it, just because people always ask, which I can’t really relate to, but people ask if I feel like I’m being typecast in some particular capacity? Because I guess I do play a lot of “geeks,” under the umbrella of geeks and now again with “Silicon Valley,” but they’re all such different characters and human beings that I don’t think of them that way, and I don’t categorize them all in the same way even in that regard because they all have very different interests and they’re all very different human beings.
So it was fun for me to exercise this tool. I play someone who’s really excitable and that first moment where I kill the first zombie, there’s that fun moment of pure joy at this really ridiculous thing that’s just occurred that’s very serious in some real way. For that to still play as a real beat that’s excitement is fun. It’s a success. We hit the tone.
Tommy Wirkola: I just think his character in the beginning, you might think he’s like a geek who doesn’t know anything, but he actually knows about zombies and knows about killing, and he’s good. He’s badass in a way. We had a lot of fun with that character.
How long did you shoot at the hardware store to get that montage?
Martin Starr: 15 minutes.
Tommy Wirkola: No, it was a half a day shoot. The original receipt shot is 10 minutes long. No, it wasn’t.
Martin Starr: We did it for a long time though.
Tommy Wirkola: You’ve seen so many of those scenes arming up, but these kind of guys would keep the receipt. It’s an expense. There’s probably a company, the Zombie Squad. They can get money back.
Martin Starr: From their parents.
Tommy Wirkola: Well, remember in the script, we actually had a running gag of you constantly borrowing the credit card of Monica’s dad.
Martin Starr: That got cut out, but I put in that “our parents” bit.
What were some fun or difficult scenes to film in Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead?
Martin Starr: They were all fun, even when it was difficult. The weather was definitely a bitch sometimes, real difficult to work with, especially those night scenes where the wind was coming at you. There was one day where I saw an umbrella or a tent, something flew.
Tommy Wirkola: It was a piece of a box the grip had. It blew over the mountain and hit the tent.
Martin Starr: It looked like it could’ve cut someone’s head off. It was just this big metal thing and it flew maybe 120 feet, just over the side of this mountain and then landed on a tent where there were people. Luckily nothing happened, but there were some other crazy things that happened that same day, like an extra fell into a hole.
Tommy Wirkola: He broke his ankle. But every time we had the tank on set it was just dangerous. It was a pain in the ass. I love the tank, but the Icelandic community are very protective of their moss. It’s like holy ground for them. We had a scene where we were just riding the tank and he took a wrong turn. It’s like no, you can’t be on the moss, you have to go back. So instead of just driving on the tracks he came out of, he actually spins the tank around and just rips out the whole field of moss and then drives back.
They also don’t have trees in Iceland. They have very few trees and we had to pay for every single tree you break. There was a negotiation of reshoot the tank coming through the trees. I was like, “All right, we’ll pay you.” Like buying Christimas trees. You can get this tree, this tree and this tree but you can’t go over there with that tree. It’s like sacred ground again for them. It’s just dangerous too. It weights 50 tons and very hard to control, but it was worth it.
Are you going to do a Hansel & Gretel sequel?
Tommy Wirkola: I wrote it but I’m not going to direct it. It’s going to happen next year I think but I’ve got other stuff I want to do.
But writing it, with your experience on the first movie, did you have a better sense of what you could write that they would actually make?
Tommy Wirkola: Yes, much bigger sense. The script is much more studio-friendly. That’s the wrong word. I learned a lot of lessons on the first one, and even for an R-rated film there are things you can’t put in a film that costs $65 million or whatever it was. And I understand that. There’s a lot of money involved, but it was just a very frustrating experience at the time because I hadn’t been through it before. So this time I wrote a script that embraces the R but the first Hansel & Gretel script was as crazy as the Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead script originally. It was just a snip, a tear in a lot of places. So the script for number two is a little more round around the edges maybe.
What is Hansel and Gretel’s next adventure?
Tommy Wirkola: I can only say there’s voodoo involved.
What’s coming up for “Silicon Valley” season two?
Martin Starr: All I can say is voodoo is involved. We get to have some fun. We pick up where we left off with the company.
Is Mike Judge still hands on, writing and directing?
Martin Starr: He left. His daughter took over. She just started college and quit college to come and take over the show. No, of course he’s still involved. It’s his baby. Him and Alec Berg are very hands on. I’m pretty sure this season the two of them are splitting all the episodes as far as directing. They’re very involved in breaking the stories. They’re leading the charge.
In just the year between seasons, is there already a whole slew of new technological things they can riff on and make fun of?
Martin Starr: It’s an ever evolving marketplace so it’s fun for us. It’s also we get to meet all those cool, interesting people.
Tommy Wirkola: I saw a thing from Japan where you can put it in your Playstation and you insert it on your [dick].
Martin Starr: Stop it.
Tommy Wirkola: And you can watch porn, and this simulates what’s happening in the porn.
Martin Starr: That’s not real.
Tommy Wirkola: Yeah.
Martin Starr: You plug it into your Playstation 4?
Tommy Wirkola: Yeah, it’s a big thing, it’s a program but you basically plug it in and you put it there.
Martin Starr: I’m not putting a robot on my dick. That’s out of control, man. The next thing, blood just starts pouring out of it.
Tommy Wirkola: It is dangerous.
Martin Starr: I’m not touching that thing, because how do they have it fit to the right size?
Tommy Wirkola: Well, I guess there’s a sensor.
How do you clean it?
Martin Starr: Oh, that’s the weirdest part of it. Like, whenever you see an ad for Fleshlight, and don’t make me out to be some sort of pervert. I’m the only one that’s seen the Fleshlight before. My first thought is how disgusting. What do you do, put it in the dishwasher? So all your plates have semen on them now? Yeah, you have dinner parties, I am definitely not coming over for a dinner party at your place.
But what Tommy’s talking about is electronic. You can’t wash electronics.
Tommy Wirkola: No, this one, you probably couldn’t put in the dishwasher. You probably have to just put some booze, some spirits in there and get in there. Maybe you could put a cloth on your penis.
Martin Starr: Yeah, like a sock. That’s it. I’ve figured it out. So we don’t need the robot at all.
Tommy Wirkola: No, I’m talking about cleaning.
So that’s for PS4. What about Xbox?
Martin Starr: It still hasn’t come out for Xbox One.
Tommy Wirkola: I honestly don’t know.
So which other films are you developing?
Tommy Wirkola: I’m writing a thing now that I hopefully can talk about in a few weeks. I’m attached to a sci-fi that I think will be the next thing. It’s called What Happened to Monday? Noomi Rapace is starring. That’s, I think, what’s going to be my next film. Hopefully we’ll start shooting after Christmas.
What’s the sci-fi hook?
Tommy Wirkola: It’s in the vein of Children of Men. In short, she plays seven different characters, septuplets in a world where you’re only allowed to have one child and they’re hiding. They all have a name, each day of the week, Monday, Tuesday and so forth. They share one life. They create one character and they all go out and share this one life one day of the week, and the rest of them are sitting inside waiting for their time. One day Monday disappears and the rest of them have to figure out what happened to Monday.
Martin, did you do any movies between seasons of “Silicon Valley?”
Martin Starr: A movie called Amira & Sam that comes out early next year, January, that I’m really proud of. I got to flex my rom-com muscle.
Well, I saw you in Save the Date so it’s not your first time.
Martin Starr: I play the lead in this. It’s really about those two characters falling in love. It’s from an army vet and really comes from an interesting new perspective. It’s showing that life not as PTSD related but as just a human being who’s come out of some traumatic experiences, but just wants to be seen as a normal human being and not treated with some stigma, which you’re seen as broken almost if you come back from war or come back from being in the army. It’s just an attempt at neutralizing that perspective and helping to create a new viewpoint for these people.