If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
Horror and comedy are always a tricky mix, but TUCKER AND
DALE VS. EVIL makes it look easy. The hilariously grisly saga of two likable
hillbillies (Alan Tudyk as Tucker and Tyler Labine as Dale) encountering a
group of naive vacationing college kids who mistake them for backwoods maniacs
is the wildly entertaining feature directorial debut of Eli Craig, who
discussed its creation in depth with Fango.
The son of Oscar-winning actress Sally Field, Craig began as
an onscreen performer himself (with credits including THE RAGE: CARRIE 2)
before embarking on TUCKER AND DALE. The movie won rabid approval when it began
playing festivals a couple of years back (see our review here),
but unfortunate circumstances led to its being held up on the way to commercial
distribution. Finally, Magnolia Pictures acquired the movie and gave it limited
theatrical release earlier this year under its Magnet Releasing banner, with
the DVD and Blu-ray arriving November 29.
FANGORIA: After starting as an actor, what led you to
venture behind the camera?
ELI CRAIG: It was really my desire to write and direct that
led me to step in front of the camera in the first place. I was never very
interested in being an actor, but as a 25-year-old who still looked like a
teenager, I had a hard time being taken seriously as a director. I knew how
hard it was to get to the point where a studio or indie financiers would put
millions of dollars behind you on faith that you could make a profitable film,
and so I thought acting would be a good education for a wannabe director.
I read a ton of scripts and learned a lot about acting in
those few years while I studied with an amazing coach named Larry Moss. He was
honest about how hard it was to become a working actor, and encouraged everyone
to be involved in all areas of the creative process: writing, directing,
shooting, doing craft services, whatever it took. I starting directing plays in
class, and found myself going on stage less and less. It was thrilling for me
to watch other actors come alive by aiding them with details that they’d left out
of their backstory, or just giving them the confidence to let go—to feel like
they were in safe hands. It was a way for me to put my B.A. in psychology to
use, and I found I was more passionate about working with actors to improve
their performances than I was in performing myself.
I enjoyed it so much that I had the hairbrained idea of
going back to school and studying directing—I applied and was accepted to USC’s
graduate film school in 2001. That’s when my acting career—whatever I had of
one—officially ended and I focused all my attention on directing and writing. I
didn’t realize how many years would be swept up in school, but it was one of
the great times in my life, and I never would have been able to pull off TUCKER
AND DALE as my first feature without those years there.
FANG: Did the inspiration to do TUCKER AND DALE come from
being a fan of horror films, or were you and co-writer Morgan Jurgenson just
looking for a good comedy concept?
CRAIG: I didn’t want to make this film so much because I
loved horror as I just thought the idea was hilarious. We weren’t just poking
fun at horror movies, but we were making fun of racism in a way, and wrapping
the whole thing up in a demented love story—that was just too fun to resist. I
joked before we started that we were making a hillbilly-horror/comedy version
FANG: Even with all the craziness going on, Dale’s feelings
for and courtship of college girl Allison (Katrina Bowden) are played straight,
and the comedy doesn’t go over the top into spoofery.
CRAIG: I don’t think you can have a spoof with heart; those
two terms are contradictory, so I called the film a satire and a farce and
worked hard to ground the characters in some sense of reality. I wanted the
film to feel like a fish-out-of-water movie where these two guys, Tucker and
Dale, really belong in a comedy but have somehow found themselves in a horror
film, and can’t figure out why. It’s like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern stuck in
a horror film. I definitely drew a lot from early absurdist plays I loved:
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, WAITING FOR GODOT, THE ZOO STORY. It’s a
weird thing to draw on, but I kept thinking that these guys have been sucked
into a world they can’t possibly make sense of, and no matter how hard they
try, they can’t get off the train; they can’t escape the plot. All they can do
is respond to it in equally nonsensical ways, trying to rationalize everything
from their limited point of view.
FANG: Horror/comedies can be tough sells in today’s
marketplace. How did you find the backing for this one?
CRAIG: Yeah, it’s impossible. I didn’t realize how hard it
would be, but I loved this film with all my heart and just believed we had
something special. I still do. I was introduced through another producer to
producers Thomas Augsberger and Deepak Nayar, who told me they liked the script
and would help find the financing. I don’t think they realized how hard it
would be either, and in retrospect, I think both of them wish they’d never
heard the term “horror/comedy.” Regardless of how hard it was to get made and
to get a distributor on board, the film really means something to me, and
that’s far more important than making a ton of money—at least, that’s how I
rationalize it from my limited point of view.
FANG: How did you work with Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine to
bring Tucker and Dale to life on screen?
CRAIG: We spoke a lot about that tone I mentioned: real
characters stuck within an unreal world. If a comedic moment didn’t work from
the characters’ point of view, we tossed it out. Though we were looking for the
jokes, we were really looking for the truth—even though it was absurd. We came
up with their backstory—where they were from, how long they’d known each
other—and everything else we could to ground them as actors in their roles.
FANG: How did you achieve the delicate balance of making
Tucker and Dale funny without poking fun at them?
CRAIG: That was all about giving them more depth than they
even know they have, trying to make them “real” people. We tried to give each
character a fault, and also a skill. For instance, Dale is highly insecure, but
he’s actually kind of a savant. He says in the film, “I got this weird brain;
I’m dumb as a stump, but I remember everything I ever heard.” That’s a key
point for the character. He has never had the opportunity to realize his own
abilities because he was raised in severe poverty, and because of that he
doesn’t think very highly of himself. Still, if you gave him a Rubik’s Cube, he
might figure it out in 30 seconds. So there’s this combination—they’re both
uneducated but they’re not really stupid, while the college kids are educated
but they are really stupid. Other than that, it was just important that Alan
and Tyler never judged their own characters, and that the emotions they felt
FANG: How were the other characters conceived and cast?
CRAIG: When we were writing [alpha-male collegian] Chad, I
was thinking of a preppy, frat-boy version of Burt Reynolds in DELIVERANCE.
Chad’s actually thrilled that they’re stuck out there in the woods with what he
thinks are psychopathic killers. It kind of fulfills that archetype of the city
dweller who craves the challenges of the wild to prove that he’s worthy:
survival of the fittest. Of course, he gets stuck within his own narrow-minded perception
of good vs. evil, and never realizes that he’s on the wrong side of that
Not to get too off-topic, but everyone always asks me about
the title, and that’s what it’s really about. Morgan wisely prodded me to leave
politics out of the script, but I kept thinking of George Bush’s “Axis of
Evil,” and about terrorism and how we call people we are fighting against
“terrorists” and those we’re fighting with “freedom fighters.” People never
consider that they might be the ones doing evil; they’re fighting for justice,
or freedom, or self-defense. This film was written during that era of extreme
hypocrisy—as if it ever ends—and though I never tried to hammer this home, I
felt the film in some ways deals with the dynamics of war and how both sides feel
from their perspective that they are the victims.
Oops…you were asking about the characters… Allison was
conceived as a farm girl who could split the difference between both worlds and
see the truth—even though no one will listen to her. I thought it would be
funny if she was one of those young, idealistic students who thinks the whole
world could get along if only they were able to express themselves fully. She
obviously fails utterly in being the peace broker, and blames it on herself.
But she never really has a chance. The fog of war has already set in, and
there’s little hope of peace.
The rest of the college kids are a bit clichéd, because we
were poking fun at the clichéd college kids in horror films. I especially like
the first kid to die, as he’s the only one smart enough to doubt what’s going
on and the only one who could stop all the nonsense. Of course he gets killed
first, and so the bloodshed to come is fait accompli.
FANG: Was the relationship between Dale and Allison as
important while shooting the film as the comedy and gore?
CRAIG: I’m glad you asked that. I always felt the comedy and
gore were going to work, but it was the relationship with Dale and Ally that
would make or break the film. [SPOILER ALERT] Tyler came up to me a week into
shooting and said, “I’m afraid the whole audience is just going to laugh and
boo when I kiss her at the end.” I was worried too, because we weren’t going
for a joke there; I really wanted it to be heartfelt. I knew the two actors
could pull it off, but there was very little time to see their relationship
build, and after all this bloodshed, wasn’t it just too ridiculous to make that
leap of faith? It is too much. It’s impossible. It’s silly. But we never let
that get in our way. That was my biggest fear during all of production, and I
still don’t know how we pulled it off, or if we did. It was just a daring leap
of faith that if we played it honestly and made the characters real and
genuine, that people embrace the ending. Of course, the film is my own twisted
version of a romantic comedy, so there’s really no other way for it to end
except with the guy getting the girl of his dreams. Besides, it’s just fun to
watch a lovable, dimwitted hillbilly make out with Esquire’s sexiest woman
FANG: Who did your special makeup FX, and what were the
trickiest such scenes to shoot?
CRAIG: Dave Trainor did the prosthetics and Sharron Toohey
did the special makeup. They’re both from Alberta, Canada, as was the whole
crew. Fortunately, they were both used to working on low-budget horror films,
and when this came along, I think they were both really excited. But Sharron
had to deal with the most complicated part of the shoot: Alan’s bee stings.
When we wrote it into the script, it seemed simple enough to put in, “He gets stung
by bees,” but then we had to deal with them throughout the rest of the film. We
came up with five different stages of stings, and sometimes they’d think we
were shooting a scene where he was in stage five and it was really stage two.
Alan took this very seriously and almost melted down. It might have driven some
directors nuts, but I loved that about him; “If the goddamn bee stings don’t
look right, we might as well just burn down the set, call the insurance company
and quit! This shit matters!”
That was the toughest, because we had to deal with it every
day, and then the shots that look like they might be the most difficult turned
out to be the easiest. We spent hours dealing with the bee stings, then we
turned the camera around and our stuntman, Jodi Stecyk, just ran and dove right
into a woodchipper. I thought I might have to comp something together and have
him dive into a green beanbag or something, but nope—Jodi said, “How about I
just jump into a padded woodchipper and have blood spray out?” “Can you do that
without killing yourself??” “Sure!” Done and done. I love shooting like that.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment