Michael Rooker on The Belko Experiment
It’s “casualty Friday” when an ordinary day at the office becomes a horrific quest for survival. Hapless employees at the Belko Corp. find themselves trapped inside their building, taunted by an ominous voice over the intercom which tells the scared-stiff staffers that two workers must be killed within 30 minutes.
This gruesome game must continue until there’s only one survivor standing. Friends become foes and new alliances form, as only the strongest will live to tell. Michael Rooker plays Bud Melks, Belko’s no-nonsense maintenance man, who is trying to find a way out of the hermetically sealed building when he comes face to face with a choice he never anticipated. We got the chance to catch up with him recently, and here’s what he had to say. (Note: spoilers.)
Dread Central: The Belko Experiment is a great “what if?” movie. As you were reading it, what did you think of the premise?
Michael Rooker: It’s explosive. You know what, it’s like wow, what would I do in that situation, and I think the audience walks away, and even during the filming, watching this movie they’re going to come away, already have that concept thinking what would I do? For example, The Walking Dead does the same thing, even if it’s more of a TV, soap opera thing, but you still come away with, what would I do in that situation? In The Belko Experiment, what the hell would you do? I mean what a dilemma.
DC: You and James Gunn, who wrote the script, go way back. Was there anything about this new story that surprised you?
MR: I was surprised that he was such a sick human being. I was, it was a page turner, it was fun read and I found it to be quite humorous. I like sardonic humor anyway and you’re stuck in this situation, what the hell, man? There’s nothing you can do, you’ve got to fight for your life, if you’re placed in that situation you have to fight for your life. You don’t have to necessarily go out looking to kill someone, which is what the voice wants you to do, you can choose not to do that but you can choose to defend yourself and that’s what you would have to do eventually.
DC: I guess it’s not a huge spoiler since pretty much everyone dies in this bloodbath… what did you think of your death scene when you first read it?
MR: You know, we talked a lot about how this would occur and there’s just so much blood in the piece, I sometimes tend to go opposite so my notes were, how about we do it in a way, because I had lines that I still had to say, so how about we do it in a really realistic, horrific way but not in blood so I really enjoyed that we were able to keep the blood out of my death scene. It was really quite rewarding and shocking, and I think a lot of people who have seen it now and when they ask the questions, they find it to be one of those pieces that surprise the hell out of them, basically.
DC: As the maintenance guy, you’re in the basement a lot and other small spaces. What was it like working in that environment? This is a pretty big cast. Well, at first anyway!
MR: You sort of start getting into the script and before you know it. The director (Greg McLean) and the AD, they had a big net for us, so if somebody went crazy, starting getting into it we’d have to net them and drag them off stage. Do you believe it?
DC: I believe every word you say! So, Greg was in charge of the net?
MR: That’s right, he was in charge of the net, he was in charge of netting individuals. It’s a fun movie though, right? I had a blast doing it and to be involved with a project that you know people are going to in, that’s just awesome.
DC: You must get offered tons of roles. What’s the tipping point or criteria that gets the yes from you?
MR: The money, it’s the money, baby. Not entirely, I’m just joking, it just depends, as an artist, an actor, you read the material and you know what? It grabs you in some way and you just want to do it, that’s all. That’s sort of the way I’ve done it my whole career because I mean, not every script you read you’re going to like and some of the ones you read are like so badly written that you say to yourself well I’ll do this, but you’re going to have to pay me this much extra because I’m going to have to re-write every page. I’ve done that before, re-written it and I don’t even want credit, I’ll pay you back money if you don’t credit me. This was not the case with The Belko Experiment. Belko was well written, by my celebrity friend James Gunn. I love working with him, we have good laughs.
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.