In 2009 I had the pleasure of checking out The Revenant during the Screamfest Film Festival. Directed by Kerry Prior, the film stars David Anders, Chris Wylde, Jacy Gross, and Louise Griffiths and is centered around Bart (Anders), a soldier who is killed overseas in Iraq. On the night of his funeral back in the States, Bart awakens in his grave as a revenant (think zombie with vampire tendencies so he sleeps all day) and seeks out assistance from his best friend, Joey, as he adapts to his strange new life.
With hints of Shaun of the Dead and The Signal, I was immediately impressed with Prior’s gritty but often humorous take on the zombie subgenre with The Revenant (review here). Since I hadn’t heard any updates on the project in a few months, I thought it was time we caught up with some of the film’s key players in honor of Indie Horror Month.
First up is our interview with comedian Chris Wylde, who has been making audiences laugh for over ten years now, making him a natural choice to play the humorous yin to Anders’ straight-laced yang in The Revenant. And even though he fell in love with the premise and the script from the start, he talked about how he wasn’t feeling like he had much of a chance at getting the part during the audition process.
“I’m embarrassed to say it but I was actually not prepared at all for The Revenant audition,” explained Wylde. “I didn’t have the pages memorized so I didn’t think that would end up sitting well, but it turned out that Kerry actually liked that. I remember standing in this small theater on a raised stage (kind of like I was Tootsie or something) and he told me after the first reading to just throw away the script and try it again. So I did that, and then he told me to read it again but like I just took five bong hits. So I did it again, and then Kerry tells me to read for the role like I just took five hits of speed. That’s when I knew I’d like this guy and I really wanted to be a part of this project.”
Wylde went on to discuss just what surprised him most about the up-and-coming director’s approach to The Revenant. “I definitely had a great relationship with Kerry from the very start, but he was also a total surprise to me – he was so balls out about this movie. One day he asked me if I had ever fired a gun and I said that I hadn’t so he decided to take me to a shooting range. I think it was that day I discovered I am definitely a pacifist and there’s no doubt in my mind that I am not much of a marksman either. The other insane thing Kerry wanted me to do was get into a bar fight because he saw Joey as the kind of guy who would do that. And keep in mind, this is all before day one of shooting.”
“Now, here’s my thinking about Joey: He’s the kind of guy that would do anything he could to avoid a bar fight and would be someone who’d smooth talk his way out with humor, which is a lot like myself. So the last thing I wanted to do was to throw down in a bar with some strange guy so I had to talk my way out of getting into a bar fight which is definitely a first for a role. But I knew even before we shot one frame of The Revenant that Kerry was my kind of crazy director,” Wylde added.
Despite all the pre-production insanity, the comedian said that as soon as he started working on the set of The Revenant, it was very apparent to him that the film was very much a labor of love for everyone working on it.
Wylde said, “Everyone who worked on The Revenant was definitely there for the right reasons so I think that’s why we all immediately felt like family. It was important to all of us that we make the right movie, and we all did it for Kerry. His story deserved at least 110% from all of us.”
The actor spoke about the friendship he forged with onscreen BFF Anders and how their real-life bonding translated onto the big screen. “All of our trailers on The Revenant had these accordion-style doors which made it really easy for myself and David to hang out and develop that bond that you see between Bart and Joey on screen. We also did a weekend rehearsal before shooting all the car scenes with Bart and Joey, and I think those experiences in the car started a true friendship between us where we still talk to each other on a regular basis and we made this movie like three years ago.”
“What’s funny to me is that everyone sees him as this suave British-y type guy, but he’s just as big of a goofball as I am. I think I helped bring him out of his shell a bit even, and I think that helped kindle the ‘bromance’ that we had on camera because there was some serious man love going on with Bart and Joey,” added Wylde.
Even though Wylde was ready for any challenges that would come his way on The Revenant, he had no idea it would be the shooting schedule and a pair of contact lenses that would almost push him too far.
“David would always complain about the contacts he had to wear as zombie Bart so I’d make fun of him for it,” said Wylde. “But as soon as I had to wear them, I knew exactly how he’d been feeling – it was the worst thing ever. You couldn’t see, everything looked like milk was poured over it. I called it ‘creamsicle vision.’ It definitely messes with your senses when you’re wearing stuff like that and almost pushed me over the line a few times.”
“The other thing that was really disorienting for me was keeping vampire hours on set. We shot for three weeks from 10 pm to 10 am every day and that completely threw me off. But I think it also helped me a lot to be that disoriented because that’s kind of what Joey is going through in The Revenant. He’s completely out of his element, too, when he has to deal with his best friend’s death at first and then the fact that his best friend Bart is now a zombie,” Wylde added.
Even though the journey for The Revenant has been a long one, Wylde spoke about how his belief in Prior’s vision has never wavered over the last few years as the project has been seeking a home for its distribution.
“I have always believed in this project from the very start of my involvement,” said Wylde. “Kerry is such a great director, and I think The Revenant is more than just a zombie movie – it’s an interesting look at what’s been going on in America these days, and I’ve always respected his vision and dedication to his story. I think the lasting relationships everyone forged from the project are a testament to Kerry’s drive to get this movie out in front of audiences. We’re all still championing the project just as hard as we were a few years back.”
“The Revenant was definitely one of the most demanding and challenging projects I’ve ever worked on, but I knew it was worth it all along. The performances between David and myself and the rest of the cast were something I am so incredibly proud of so I definitely didn’t mind having to push myself a little harder on this film. I think when The Revenant finally gets released (at any level), people will really respond to what we created,” added Wylde.
For more check out the official The Revenant website!
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