If I were casting something, the first person I’d want to call would be Alan Tudyk. I wouldn’t care what the genre or setting of the script is, if it was an alien, animal or human, it wouldn’t matter. The guy can play anything.
Tudyk is one of the most versatile actors working today. Check out his work as Hoban “Wash” Washburne in Firefly and Serenity and Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Once you’ve finished with that, watch him in 3:10 to Yuma or 28 Days. The list of great performances go on and on.
He also did motion capture work as the robot, Sonny, opposite Will Smith in I, Robot, voice work in animated features like Ice Age and Rango, starred on Broadway in Spamalot and was the best part of Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
His newest role is Tucker in the hilarious horror comedy Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Directed by Eli Craig, the movie is about two rednecks, Tucker and Dale (Tyler Labine), who are mistaken for backwoods killers by a group of vacationing college kids. The film is out now on VOD or coming soon to a theater near you.
He is by far one of the most interesting people I’ve ever interviewed and I could have talked to to him for hours. After you read (or listen) to the interview, you’ll see why. He talks about Tucker and Dale, how he got his start acting and how he thinks his character Gerhardt in 28 Days is the same character in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
For the full interview, click onto the audio link above or download from iTunes.
I’m glad this film is finally getting out there. I saw it back in April and I loved it.
Alan Tudyk: Cool. Thank you man.
One of the biggest laughs in the film was when the guy jumps into a wood chipper and you look at him and say, “Are you alright?”
Alan Tudyk: [laughs]Yeah.
The script, did you guys do any improv or was it just that funny?
Alan Tudyk: Yeah, there were some improv. I think “Are you alright?” was not in the script originally. We did that a couple different ways.
We didn’t have a lot of time to film. It was a quick shoot so, like any film you get onto a set or onto location and stuff starts to shift a little bit and change a little bit, you know. Sometimes, you’re in a different location then you imagined in your head and what the script specifically calls for and so things start to change and everybody is coming up with little things here and there to make it all fit. So, that was the spirit of the shoot. With Eli as the director, he’s coming up with different things we can do to make everything work and he gave us full reign to throw our ideas out there and let us have a take or two just playing around, which was great and he put a lot of it in there which was generous.
How long was the prep time on the film?
Alan Tudyk: I don’t know how long his prep time was. For me, it was very short. There was some other actor playing my role, damn it. He fell out though like two weeks before the principal photography, which I think the director had more than dammit to say about him. But luckily for me, he did, and I got the script, talked to Eli on the phone and I was there in like a week. It took about a week and then I was in Calgary and meeting Tyler and going, “alright, we’re best friends. Let’s work that out” and luckily, we got along really well.
How long did it take for the character to start gelling for you?
Alan Tudyk: I don’t know. It was working with Tyler. Tyler and I got along right away. He’s a very… he’s an actor. He is somebody who wants to work on the script. He is there to work and is up for making it the best it can be. And really, the first day we met, we all met for lunch at a bar. It was very strange, like brunch in this nasty bar, but he and I got together that night and just went through the script together page by page and highlighted shit that we liked and worked scenes together with nobody telling us we had to. I’ve never done that before or since, I have to say. And that was just something that he and I both were like, “Why don’t we just do this? Are you… yeah let’s do it.” We were both on the same page as far as that goes.
So much of Tucker depends on Dale and vice versa so it came pretty quick because it was about finding Dale as much as it was finding Tucker, and we didn’t have much time so we jumped right in.
So, it happened pretty quick and I come from Texas and you know, they call them hillbillies in the movie but they’re just good ol’ boys. And I know a lot of good ol’ boys, it’s just, you know, if they had their way, they would just go fishin’. It wasn’t a foreign world to the to me, the idea of being somebody who could just really enjoying hanging out with his buddy going fishing.
Another thing I loved about the movie is that everything is played for real.
Alan Tudyk: Yeah, yeah. The one phone call I had with Eli before I went up there, that was my question, was how did he want to play it? Did he want to do… there’s a scene in the movie where I’m injured. It looks like I’m going to die. You kind of don’t know what happened to me the way that it is there was sort of a scene cut out but I basically get my guts cut open and I’m lying by a tree and I have that heartfelt scene with Tyler. And I asked, “Eli, is this real? Do I play this as sincerely, like, you know, you’re a good man and basically, it’s a goodbye to my best friend.” And he said, “Yeah and everything has to be like that. Somebody jumps into a wood chipper; you have to react like they jumped into a wood chipper.”
And that’s where the humor was. It was the more you reacted… the more honest you were in your reactions, the funnier it was because the situations were already ridiculous. So, if you just reflected an honest response to the situation, then the humor would be there.
And then there will be situations like the one where I started talking about the heartfelt moment with Tyler. If you have something, you can actually have a genuine moment where you say, “I love you. I really do,” then when he accidentally squeezes my hand that’s missing two fingers and I was like “Jesus Christ!” You can go from a place of sincere love and you know, revealing your true feelings for the first time of like, “Man, I don’t say this often but I love you and you’re a great man and I want you to be all you can be. Put ‘er here.” And then, it makes it funnier when you scream like a girl and say, “That hurts very much. You get the fuck out of here.”
It gives you more room, the opposite for humor. You have to be grounded, I think. That’s the only time I laugh is when it’s grounded in reality.
A lot of actors play small variations of the same character but you, you seem like you’re never playing the same guy twice. You’re just one of the most versatile actors out there.
Alan Tudyk: Thank you, man.
Where does that come from? Is it from your training?
Alan Tudyk: Yeah, I guess so. You know, I was in an improv group in Dallas, Texas, called Rubber Chickens. It was like when I was early like 19 or 20 and it was always about doing different characters and you know, changing characters.
I moved to New York and went to Julliard and got a very formal training there, which was a little too classical and formal at times for me. I really didn’t get to do much comedy. But my first job right out of school was a play where I played 25 different characters. I had to do like little bitty things. It was three-person play, two people played the same characters throughout a 30-year relationship and I played everybody around them. So, I’d be a woman. I’d me a man. I’d be a waiter. It was about Gilda Radner, it was called Bunny Bunny. Bruno Kirby played Alan Zweibel, Paula Cale played Gilda Radner and I’d be like a French waiter in the first scene who has a couple of bullshit lines to say, you know, make punch line jokes and then I’m Gilda’s friend who’s so upset because her boyfriend has just left her.
It was kind of appropriate, my first role off Broadway and my first professional role in New York was 25 roles. So I guess I kind of had always been the guy who did that, I guess? I never really thought about it.
But I certainly haven’t been somebody that people go, “We need an Alan Tudyk type.” I think if you do the same thing over and over again or you’re a very specific type, I think it’s easier for you as an actor as long as that specific type is something people want. There’s rarely a moment where people go, “Oh, put an offer out to Alan Tudyk for this role.” There’s rarely a role that I can point to that I’ll be like, “yeah, I can do that role for you. Look at my role as the crazy pirate.” So, I should be able to play a high-powered Wall Street guy who is agoraphobic. That just came to me. That carrot came out my ass. I would like to play that role one day.
Anyway, you end up having to audition a lot and proving yourself over and over again. I’m not complaining. Am I complaining?
Alan Tudyk: Ok, good.
It seems like you’re the best kind of utility player on a baseball team. Somebody who doesn’t know what to do for a character, they will just hire you, you know?
Alan Tudyk: Yeah, at one point, I thought, “People hire me if they have like a mental…” “Alright, I don’t know what to do with this. Call Alan Tudyk.”
When I was doing I, Robot and was doing the robot and I was learning a whole way of acting with the green suit on and it was really awesome. It was great as far as getting to decide how the robot moved and spoke and then, yeah, it was really, it felt like a theater piece right in the very beginning. There were a lot of studio work but the movement teacher and stuff, but I was doing that, which was very strange, and then right from that into Dodgeball playing a pirate and then I got a cast in this independent movie playing a gay drug dealer in Mexico named Pepe, which you know, the redheaded, pale-skinned, it’s like, I keep getting the weirdest roles. But it has been fun.
I really, really liked playing the roles I played.
Just really quickly, I did a movie called 28 Days where I played a gay German named Gerhardt who was in rehab with Sandra Bullock. And then, the movie I just did Transformers where I played a gay German who went by the name of Dutch who was assistant to John Turturro’s character, Agent Simmons. I decided that’s actually is the same character because they both were German and gay, and basically, Gerhardt from 28 days got out of rehab, went into the services, became an agent, got burned out, and ended up working with Agent Simmons. So, it was actually the same guy. It was just a 10-year absence from movies and I’m hoping to play him at least once more.
What’s your advice to actors?
Alan Tudyk: Wow, my advice to actors. I just heard Jeff Bridges say “don’t take it too seriously.” I was listening and like, that’s a really good thing to say. Have fun, you know. If this is what you feel like you have to do, then absolutely do it and have fun doing it.
It’s so hard to do it professionally and to actually make it. There are so many frustrating challenges all along, you know, no matter how far along you are. What you will call success today, you won’t call in two years. Success is now just out of reach and it looks like something else.
So, have a blast while you’re doing it. I get frustrated with shit. You know, I worked a 14-hour a day yesterday, now I’m being called in early tomorrow, I’ve got a four-hour makeup thing I have to do. I stink like makeup that they’re putting on me, you’ve got all these complaints and then I will remind myself, “shush.” I remind myself, “Oh right, I’m living my dream. Oh, well, then that’s all okay.”
That line, you’re living the dream, like, it really cuts through a lot of the bullshit complaining that can go on. So it’s easy to get trapped in the complaining, it’s easy to take it too seriously, but remember, you’re actually following your dream and living it out.
That is pretty bad ass.