The gory new collaboration between director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and screenwriter James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) follows a twisted social experiment in which 80 American employees are sealed in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia, and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.
Sean Gunn, brother of James and an excellent actor in his own right, plays the role of Marty Espenscheid, a paranoid stoner who has a completely different take than everyone else on what the horrific experiment is really about.
Dread Central: Marty was a real crowd fave at the press screening I attended. Was he written specifically for you?
Sean Gunn: It was just a role in the script, actually. When I read it we had not really decided what role I would play yet and he was kind of like, just read it with an open mind, he thought there were two or three roles I might be right for and to see what I kind of responded to the best. I read it and I really loved Marty from the start, I was pretty sure Marty was the character I wanted to play.
DC: When you put the words “stoner” and “movie” together, people automatically think of the classics, like Spicoli (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and Floyd (True Romance). How, as an actor, do you not think of those? Or do you?
SG: Well if you think of it in terms of stepping into the shadows of those great performances, both of those you just mentioned are amazing, you know I just try and figure out what makes Marty tick. It’s true that Marty is a stoner but I don’t approach him as oh, I’m going to play this stoner. I think getting high is something he does mostly out of boredom at work and I think getting into his mindset, where he’s coming from yeah, it leads me down a different path in terms of preparing for the role.
DC: On a scale of one to Willie Nelson’s tour bus, how high is Marty?
SG: I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think Marty is that high for all of the movie. I think he’s stoned at the beginning, he’s smoking a lot, when we first meet him he’s smoking a joint and he’s obviously getting high on top of the roof but as he said, the weed is not very strong, it’s weak Panama Red, and after everything starts to go down and the voice comes on, I don’t think Marty smokes up any more after that. I prefer to think of it as, I don’t think Marty is losing his mind because he’s stoned, I think Marty is a stoner because he’s the kind of guy who already had a precarious relationship with sanity/reality. I think he has a tendency to freak out and to be fair, anybody might freak out under that circumstance. I don’t think Marty is too terribly stoned after, you know, once the head explodes right next to him. I think that maybe jolts him into some level of sobriety and from that point on it’s more just the tension and intensity of the situation, not so much the weed.
DC: How’d you find your “in” to Marty?
SG: What I really like most about Marty is he’s a really good-hearted guy. I think that when the decision has to be made whether or not the people are going to engage in the violence and killing one another Marty makes the decision, I don’t even think it is a decision, actually. I don’t even think it would occur to him to pick up a weapon and start killing people, he tries to think outside of the box and find another way of solving the problem they’re in and I think that’s what I like about him. I think that’s what I would probably do if I was in that situation, it’s like, hey guys, we can’t kill one another, we have to find another way out of this, and Marty does that in his own way, and through the obstacle of freaking out, losing his mind a little bit.
DC: Greg is known for being the baron of blood in his Wolf Creek movies. I think this one might even be gorier. Give us some insight as to what it was like working with him and all that blood.
SG: I love working with Greg and think he was certainly comfortable around a lot of the blood. I felt like I was in good hands, as you said he’s been around in the horror world. In the movie itself, I don’t think of Belko as being much of a comedy but there are a lot of laughs in it, here and there. I really appreciated Greg being able to wade through all that blood every day on set.
DC: How would you break this flick down to horror fans?
SG: I think what I’m most intrigued by in the movie and what I think audiences will like the most is the moral dilemma it presents for you. I think anybody can watch this movie and say what would I do in this situation, what would a scenario this intense bring out in me if I were there. I don’t think the movie makes any conclusions for you, I don’t think it says hey, these are the good guys and these are the bad guys, it sort of just lets you see what everyone goes through and make your own conclusion. I really want audiences to know it’s a phenomenal cast top to bottom, there are people who have one or two lines in this movie that are some of the best actors I’ve known throughout my career who are just absolutely excellent and we had a lot of fun working together.
The film stars John Gallagher, Jr. (“The Newsroom,” 10 Cloverfield Lane), Adria Arjona (“True Detective”), Tony Goldwyn (“Scandal”), John C. McGinley (Stan Against Evil, “Scrubs”), Josh Brener (“Silicon Valley”), Michael Rooker (“The Walking Dead,” Guardians of the Galaxy), Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station).
The Belko Experiment explores a twisted social experiment, in which a group of 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogata, Colombia, and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.