Although my three days as a glorified extra on the set of Big Ass Spider! were indeed grueling and it turns out I’m onscreen for just a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it blip, it was fun. I just love being on set. Not only that, on Big Ass Spider! I was among friends.
My roommates were also extras (Andrew Kasch is Cocoon Victim #1 – below is a picture of us, snapped by Buz Wallick… not to mention Andrew’s cat, Frodo, getting more screen time than either of us).
I’d met the hero of whole shebang, Greg Grunberg, a number of times from the interview circuit when I worked for the Syfy Channel and covered “Heroes” endlessly. I made a new BFF in Lombardo Boyar, who is, in the film, my savior. So, in spite of driving the dreaded 405 freeway home each evening in peak traffic, covered in syrup and caked with dirt, every day was pure fun. And so is the movie!
Here’s the setup: A giant alien spider, some 50 feet tall, escapes from a military lab and rampages through the City of Angels. It settles in a skyscraper to lay its eggs and spawn as many eight-legged freaks as it takes to enslave all of humanity. To kill the creature before the city is destroyed, the U.S. force sends their best (Clare Kramer), who then teams up with an exterminator extraordinaire (Grunberg) and the building’s security guard (Boyar). Most of the climatic action takes place in and around the office where the mama spider has chosen to nest.
On Day One, Andrew, Joe, and me — plus a couple of others whose names I didn’t catch… hey, it’s not easy to make friends when you’re mummy-wrapped in venomous vines and lying on the floor under hot lights — were festooned with fake wounds, wound up in off-white webs, and drenched in what’s supposed to be spider-placenta. Brought before director Mike Mendez for inspection, he takes one look at us and says (rather unsympathetically I think), “More goo!” And so it went for the next couple of days I was on set.
Staci and Andrew on set
It’s been a real thrill to not only see the movie come out but see how it’s been embraced by the genre community. It really is “the little flick that could” – and it does! Delivering in every way: suspense, scares, comedy, and awesome arachnid action, Big Ass Spider is really terrific.
It came out on DVD and Blu-ray this week, and this weekend you can meet Mendez and some of the cast at the Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank, CA (or order a signed copy of the disc).
We had a chance to catch up with the men behind the spider, and here’s what they had to say:
DC: Mike, there are lots of movies about mutant creatures – why’d you chose the spider?
Mike Mendez: I didn’t choose it… it chose me. It was a script that was sent to me and I really enjoyed it. Plus I think spiders are rad!
DC: Taking me, Andrew and Frodo out of the equation – because it just wouldn’t be fair to the others – talk about how awesome your cast is!
MM: The cast is so awesome! It’s such a joy to work with a group of actors that are so giving and inventive. We got to play every day, and what greater joy is there than that? And Ray Wise is a badass.
DC: Everything looks so top-notch, maybe surprisingly so… How’d you avoid getting that “low budget look”?
MM: A lot of it is luck. It really comes down to the people you hire. You have to find that right combination of talent and hunger because there are some very talented people out there that have yet to be discovered. The key is finding them and hoping they work for cheap.
DC: What do you hope will be the take-away for viewers of BAS?
MM: I hope they have a great time. I hope they laugh, maybe jump once or twice, but the overall idea is to have a good time. It’s lots of fun to watch in big groups and a lot of beer.
DC: What’s next up for you, Mike?
MM: We’ll see. There is a movie that I hope to start in March that is a dark action movie. I’ll let you know very soon if it all goes through.
DC: Lombardo, you are so funny in the film! How much of that was on the page, and how much of that is Bardo?
Lombardo Boyar: Thanks so much! Greg and I had a blast playing with each scene. We shared a honey wagon room so we often played with ideas for each scenario. Then when we rolled we had fun! You need a blueprint for sure though!
DC: You have the extreme privilege of rescuing me and my friends towards the end of the film: If you could describe me as a cocoon victim in just 140 characters or fewer, what would you say?
LB: I SAVED YOU!!!! I’m so cool. [laughs] Two words describe you as a prisoner of spiders: “Hot Mess!” [laughs] We were all hot and sticky that day. Mike Mendez and the effects guys made it work!
DC: What’s the difference between BAS and Sharknado? Who would win in a fight to the death?
LB: Sharknado is so bad it’s good, intentionally I think. BAS is something that could have been bad, that we all (even you!) made great! Very proud of it! I love boxing and usually pick the right guy so I think a tornado with sharks would take it. Shout out to my wife, who suffered through my Jose accent at home. [laughter]
DC: Greg, how did you come to this role? Did you already know Mike or any of the other cast members?
Greg Grunberg: I got a call from Mike Mendez asking if I would have lunch and if I would be interested in doing a movie about a giant spider. By the end of lunch I was sold, both on his creative vision and how much fun we could have with this movie making it something unexpected and taking this genre to a new place and not taking it too seriously. I immediately told Mike that I needed to have my old buddy and co-star of my romantic comedy Group Sex, Lombardo Boyar, play Jose in the movie. I asked him to trust me and he did. And the rest is movie history, bitches!
DC: What’s it like fighting a “big ass spider” you never actually see while shooting?
GG: I had previous experience when I worked on a movie called Hollow Man. I had to work with an invisible actor named Kevin Bacon. Ha! Kevin was, of course, there the entire time covered in green makeup. On this film like on that, we had to trust our director as much as possible to understand exactly what you’re up against even though you can’t see it. It’s a little strange but…
DC: No offense to Clare, but you and Bardo have the best chemistry! Talk about what he’s like, both on and off set, and what it is about him you like best.
GG: Again, it comes down to trust. He and I have known each other a long time so we have a shorthand and never stop laughing when we work together. Bart was one of the most unselfish and brilliant improvisational actors I’ve ever worked with. He is just as happy letting another actor shine in the scene as he is stealing the scene, which he is capable of doing any moment. I love working with him, and I hope we get to do a lot more together. A big dumb guy and a smart-ass Mexican, DREAM TEAM!
On January 11th at 2 p.m. PT, director Mike Mendez and star Greg Grunberg will be signing Big Ass Spider! (DVD/Blu-ray) at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA.
Check out the official Big Ass Spider! website here! Visit it now, or we will personally come to wherever you are just to shoe you swiftly in your genitalia.
Surviving extermination by nuclear eradication, a horrible alien mutation in arachnid form is now growing at an exponential rate and making its way toward downtown Los Angeles. Hot on its spindly heels is a crack military unit with absolute authority, led by an obsessively driven commander and his beautiful but lethal sidekick. Unfortunately for them, this mutant spider has an array of deadly defenses including the ability to virtually disappear through camouflage. But the creature’s real adversary quickly turns out to be a hot-shot local exterminator armed only with cocky attitude, some fast one-liners and his homemade gadgets. Joining forces with the military team, this blue-collar hero sets out to exterminate what has now become a monstrous 10-story tall MEGA SPIDER.
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