Promoting their new zany disaster film that spoofs all the classic disaster films, in a recent press conference call, executive producer Lisa Hansen and stars Greg Grunberg, Neil Grayston and Brad Dourif shared what brought them and this outrageous film all together, and all the fun they had working on it.
Was it sort of an inevitable idea after all of the many Syfy disaster-of-the-week movies s to do something that’s sort of a “Galaxy Quest” than a disaster movie?
LISA: Absolutely. It was totally intentional to do something that was this much fun. It’s not something you see all the time. These guys are not always seen as your average heroes. You think them more the archetype heroes. Like who has ever seen two nobodys from a little video store in the middle of nowhere kidnap or break-out of a scientist savant, who has been labeled as insane out of a mental institution, and try to save the world. It’s just a crazy fun premise and these guys are like, literally the world is falling apart outside and they’re like flipping through movies going, ‘Well what about this one? Could it be this? No, it’s not that.’ I mean it’s just crazy fun and there’s so many references to great Syfy movies. It’s a total hoot, and just an opportunity that comes along once.
Can you talk a little bit about how this project originally came about and how everyone got involved with it?
LISA: Well, we pitched Syfy. We are a regular supplier to Syfy for these TV movies and we pitched them this idea. We looked at something that was different and out-of-the-box and fun. Because a lot of times Syfy disaster movies are very serious in talent and we wanted to go completely against type — and Syfy loved it and embraced it and all the development execs at Syfy are also huge sci-fi fans of course. So it was really a perfect project. The script came together really quickly and it just all fell into place. We actually offered Greg Grunberg the movie before we even had a finished script and he loved it off the pitch and said yes. So we were like thinking very early on and working with the Syfy development execs very early on about this project and it came together really fast.
NEIL: I got offered the part and then I they told me what the script was like and it sounded really cool and they sent me one. I think I said yes before they sent me the script because it already sounded cool and, being a big fan of Greg’s growing up and he’s always been on my TV, I was like, “Yes, I want to work with him, of course.” So I sort of jumped at the chance.
LISA: For Brad it was easy. I mean we needed somebody really unique in that role and there is there’s not that many actors that have his ability and his screen presence and the touch of crazy that we were looking for.
What can you share about your respective roles in the film?
NEIL: I play Steve Palmer, a video store clerk who along with Greg Grunberg, who plays Alan Stokes, the owner of the video store. We are sort of cast with saving the world from plasma rain using our vast knowledge of disaster movies.
BRAD: And I play a scientist who has figured out a way, in this scenario, to save the world and I lead them to a place where they could begin their quest to do that and then something happens and then more things happen and more things happen and then the movie’s over.
What was everybody’s favorite part of filming END OF THE WORLD?
BRAD: (Laughs) Well, it’s not getting up early in the morning in the rain. That was not it.
NEIL: There’s a certain point where I don’t drive manual in real life like I have before, but it always seems to be in the weirdest vehicles. Either it’s a crazy super powered sort of expensive vehicle like a Subaru WRX or it’s this van that we had that at a certain point was only running because one of the teamsters went underneath it with a bungee cord and did something, I don’t know. But somehow the engine was being held together with a bungee cord and there’s a certain point where I have to drive the van and I think that was maybe our first scene together Brad and there’s no seatbelts—there’s nothing—and I just sort of accelerated and kept on going because I was like, “I don’t want to stall this van on this take. We don’t have much time left in the day.” And I think I might have given Brad a heart attack.
BRAD: It was a lot of fun. I mean basically it’s just hanging out with people and getting to know new people and you go out dinner and you get to know people. And then these things had quite an improvisional thing going with it. So a lot of the stuff was kind of made up on the spot, which I’m not usually great at, but they all work and it made it a lot of fun for me to watch what people were doing.
NEIL: Yes, I would agree. It’s sort of my favorite part was the whole filming process because it was a really sort of open and free and it almost felt a little bit like gorilla film making at certain times because we were fighting for the light all day. But we also just got to play around especially a lot of the scenes involved just me and Greg just sort of bantering back and forth and we got to kind of explore that a lot and very quickly. So it was a really fun shoot just in general it kind of all blurs together now that I think of it because it was so open and free, but it was definitely one of my favorite experiences filming something.
LISA: Yes. It’s like the movies kind of like ‘”Bill and Ted’s Excellent Disaster.” You’ve got these two really interesting guys that are running this video store and they’re coming up with crazy solutions to how to save the world and they’re spot on right.
BRAD: And the crazier, the more right it is.
LISA: Exactly. And like they go and they have to rescue Brad but to do that they actually break him out of a mental institution. I mean it just gets crazier and crazier and it works and it’s just a great fun ride.
How did you prepare for this role? Did you just marathon disaster-movies?
NEIL: Actually, I did. I watched a lot of movies. I watched a lot of disaster movies; in fact it references a lot of Syfy movies as well. It’s just about preventing the disaster more than anything. I mean there’s a lot of a lot of things do happen that are disastrous. But in the end there is a pretty big focus on science. With that being said, I’ve watched a lot of movies that I realized I hadn’t seen. I remember watching the “Last Starfighter.’” I can’t even remember everything that I watched. But just watching the movie again, there is a boatload of pop culture references, like references to sci-fi movies and disaster movies. Some of them overt, some of them just like a simple little line. So I think genre fans will have a lot of fun watching it and trying to find all the little references and pick them out and everything. I was watching it back for some of them that I was like, “I don’t even remember what that reference is, but I know it is a reference and I know I watched that movie specifically.” But there’s just a ton of them.
LISA: And I can say that development-wise we knew it was a whole lot of fun because you don’t get to reference other movies and take lines from them and figure out creatively do that very often. So it was hugely fun, from the writer to myself to the actors. A lot of the lines everybody already knew. I mean you’re talking about a whole group of people that are huge sci-fi fans and this is like a gift from the heavens to get to develop this kind of movie and come up with great lines and situations for from other disaster films and have them actually work in saving the world. It was just a hoot. And a lot of people like Greg is a total sci-fi nerd and he knew he would just spit out lines on the spot. how about this from this film. It was really a lot of fun.
BRAD: Yes, I’m pretty sure some of it end up on the cutting room floor for certain things ‘cause we’ll had five different references for the same sort of line. It’s sort of like, “Which one do we pick?” I don’t know, I’m guessing from your side that would kind of be like that because I remember doing that.
LISA: Absolutely. Well and also the way the clearance procedure works you can because we’re referencing other films so heavily and taking lines from the films we could only have so many references per film. So you literally count the references and go, “Okay that’s enough for that film. Now we got to find something else.” I mean it was really a lot of fun.
Was there anything that wasn’t scripted for you that you added to your role?
NEIL: Well, a lot of the movie actually. I think once you see it you’ll see that especially in scenes where there’s multiple people in the same shot. There’s just a lot of sort of banter and back and forth and sort of free-form speaking. Just like a lot of it was improvised.
BRAD: To tell you the truth it’s hard to know what was what’s going to be in the movie and what happened. All I can tell you is it was I would try to get in what I was supposed to. I kind of like knew that certain things had to be said that were important and that were plot points and so forth and you kind of struggled to get those through. But the rest of it was pretty made up a lot of the time and very different from take-to-take. So your guess is as good as mine. I mean especially stuff I did -0 I had some scenes with a doctor and we stayed pretty much on script during that time. But when the boys came direct to me, forget it. It was as though all of the script was over it. Other stuff was going on and it was a lot of fun.
Was there instant chemistry when you all began working together or did it take a bit of time for you all to sort of gel?
BRAD: The chemistry for me happened the second I walked into the to the makeup and hair and said, “Why the fuck are we in this business?” And everybody was kind of went off on that and you could see immediately it was going to be great. So it was right there for the first second.
NEIL: Yes, the same thing for me. It was just sort of instant. I knew a lot of the crew from just previously working generally in Vancouver and just like everyone on the set, the actors, everyone was great. So it was just sort of an easy like, “Oh yes. All right, we’re having a bunch of fun doing stuff. Let’s go for it.”
Neil with your history with EUREKA, WAREHOUSE 13, do you ever want to do a movie that or a TV show that isn’t disaster related?
NEIL: Yes, that would totally be fun actually. Coming up, I don’t know when it airs but I had a big part on an episode of PSYCH coming up this season and that was sort of like a nice bridge between the two because it’s the same company that does EUREKA and everything but totally grounded in a semi-real world. So that was super fun. But I would love to do that.
You are all used to working with special effects, any new wrinkles this time around?
NEIL: This one was pretty easy effect-wise to work with, at least for me. There wasn’t a lot of sort of super interactive things as opposed to say EUREKA and WAREHOUSE 13 where I’m using a light saber to fight robot fighters or there’s some other weird thing like shooting and actually hitting me. This one was pretty simple for me at least in terms of the special effects. But it was also just a super fun ride.
BRAD: Most of the effects, we didn’t even see them. I didn’t see them. It was just explosions or this and that that didn’t happen that we had to react to. They were big enough that we had to react to. So we were reacting to things that weren’t there, but that’s kind of like I’ve been doing that my whole life. Even in the theater you have to do that.
Lisa, from the planning standpoint how was coordinating the stunts and effect on your end?
LISA: Well it’s always tricky to have people be in situations where truly you’re seeing some kind of major disaster flying at you and there’s nothing they’re looking at. They’re looking at a blank field and that’s what good actors do is they sell those moments. And the strength of this movie is on all these gentlemen’s performance. You totally buy that they’re looking at this stuff and it’s fantastic. I mean it’s a combination of the director talking to them about what it’s going to look like. We do conceptual art in advance. But really the schedules are so, short the time is so limited, the daylight is so limited that it’s really falls on the actors to sell it in the moment and these guys did a fantastic job.
NEIL: I’ve got to say also seeing the movie and this doesn’t spoil anything, but the helicopter looked really cool. I kind of forgot that there was when we were filming it and I was like, “Oh wow, alright, work with the helicopter.”
Did you guys do any stunts at all in the movie?
NEIL: I rode a bike.
LISA: And we’re not talking about a motorcycle. We’re talking about like a girl’s bike with little fringe on the handlebars and a great big basket. It’s pretty funny.
NEIL: I can’t remember honestly if I did any stunt like things. I might have jumped around a bit and fallen on stuff. I know who’s also in it. He originally was supposed to be riding a motorbike but I don’t think he was that great at it and then it turned into him riding a quad. So that’s kind of stunty, I don’t know.
BRAD: I didn’t. Definitely not.
Greg, what you did to prepare for the part and how much of the stuff was ad-libbed?
GREG: I just saw the film for the first time and I’m so proud of it. I got to be honest with you. I really liked it and I watched it with my family. My boys loved it and I’m not just saying that. It’s one of those movies that you kind of go, “Okay it’s going to be a Syfy movie, the effects are going to be cool.” Obviously, this is a company that does great movies, but then you realize it’s very human like it’s really funny and I had such a blast working with everybody. Like there were great lines and I found my kids laughing at and stuff and then I thought, “Oh okay, that’s improv.” That was Neil and it just brought back so many happy memories and how we came up with stuff and working on it. Steven is such an amazing director and he just rolls with it. He was like, “Yes, I love that. Let’s do it.” And most of the time that stuff I had found throughout the shows that I have done it ends up edit room floor because there’s so much story to tell and you don’t have time. But in a movie like this, moving it from one point to the other, the whole nature of it is in reference to great sci-fi movies, great movies from the past. So we were constantly thinking of taken what was written and then expanding on it. And going, “Oh this would be great. What about this?” And Neil you were great at that about coming up with stuff. I didn’t do much preparing because I’m fan of the genre anyway and I kind of knew the references. I wanted to be up on the references. There were a couple that I didn’t know as sharp as I should have, but it was just such a blast. It’s very entertaining this movie and so I just had fun from Day One.
Since you all did so much ad-libbing with this movie, was there any scenes were it went too far?
BRAD: It all went too far and everything I was in went too far. I mean that was the whole point. You just let it go. It just was a movie of going too far.
LISA: Yes, we’ve got a short film of blooper reels. Blooper material that’s pretty funny but it’s so long. There’s a lot of it.
GREG: So you kind of go, “Oh the next take I want to make it funnier and funnier and I’m going to go bigger and louder.” And it just got so ridiculous. It was a little bit of it in there though I got to say like I was happy. I thought, “Oh god, these guys, sci-fi fans that run a an apocalyptic video store. The last guys who know how to fight or how to really protect themselves.” So it was such a sloppy, fun moment. That was one that I remember.
NEIL: Yes, that was a good one. I mean I’m glad how it turned out in the cut of the movie because especially what happens after the fight a little like, “Whoa, is it serious?” Yes, we did get pretty ridiculous at a certain paint and it was fun.
GREG: That was an interesting thing I found balance in and I think it plays really well in the movie because it is funny and they’re not trying to be funny. We were referencing and playing out other scenes from other movies in our head and using that knowledge obviously to save the world. But it can get carried away at times and it just didn’t. You also have to balance the seriousness of like you’re saying. I mean something huge happens right after that moment — huge especially for Neil — for all of us, but Neil especially. Neil played it great. I mean there’s a lot of times the levity can take the weight off of the seriousness of the situation and it didn’t. It worked.
NEIL: Yes and it’s almost we’re like a spoof.
To see the wacky adventures that ensue in the Syfy movie END OF THE WORLD, be sure to tune in for its premiere on Saturday, February 23 at 9:00 pm on Syfy.
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