In addition to owning one of the most popular TV series, zombies have, in just the past calendar year, done big-screen battle with Cockneys (“Cockneys vs. Zombies”), served as the backdrop to a funky tale of adolescent self-doubt and blossoming young love (“Warm Bodies”), been given the John Hughes treatment (“Detention of the Dead”), and chased Brad Pitt to the biggest gross of his career (“World War Z”). So it’s only fitting that they also inspire a tale of obsessive love taken too far.
That’s part of the core premise of director Joe Dante’s “Burying the Ex,” in which Evelyn (Ashley Greene) doesn’t let the fact that she’s a newly minted member of the walking dead stop her from stalking her way back into the life of her (normal, living) ex-boyfriend Max (Anton Yelchin), who’s trying to move on with a new relationship, with Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). Recently, Brent Simon had a chance to visit the film’s Los Angeles set for ShockYa, in the days prior to the production wrapping principal photography just before Christmas. There, he watched shooting and had a chance to chat with members of the cast and crew. A conversation with Daddario is excerpted below:
ShockYa: Zombies are hot, but “Burying the Ex” seems really invested in the relationships, and this unusual love triangle between its characters. What’s your perspective on the burgeoning relationship between Olivia and Max?
Alexandra Daddario: I think they definitely have an instant connection as far as their interests, and their personalities really mesh. I really wanted to approach Olivia as being extremely likeable — I think you have to get why he’s really into her. I think she’s an awkward, sweet and offbeat girl. But (the movie) has really well-formed characters that will make the audience that much more involved in what’s happening. I think they’ll even be invested in Evelyn, when she’s a zombie.
ShockYa: It’s kind of funny, the idea that she shruggingly accepts her zombiedom — she takes it as, “Sure, I’m dead now, but that doesn’t mean my relationship wasn’t meant to last. In fact, my love really is forever!”
AD: Yeah, it’s extremely interesting. You can also empathize with her, even though she’s the antagonist of the story, I guess. You can sympathize with her on a certain level.
ShockYa: The film seems to plug into the idea of those relationships in which we completely surrender ourselves.
AD: Yeah, if you read deeply into it, it’s easy to (see it as a film about getting) really dependent on somebody. And we’ve all been in those relationships where it’s not right but you just can’t get out of it. It could definitely be a metaphor for that.
ShockYa: What were your impressions of Joe Dante, both before the film and after working with him? Everyone knows “Gremlins,” of course, but he has so many other interesting movies to his credit.
AD: I did see “The Burbs,” but I saw it so, so long ago. I was excited when I heard he was doing the movie, and I was excited about doing the movie with him. When I finally met him, I was struck by how — in general, he’s just extremely intelligent and witty and so nice and calm. And yet at the same time he has the ability to be tough. He knows exactly what he wants, and how to get it. We were always on schedule and he made me feel comfortable no matter what we were shooting. I’ve had one of the best times on a film I’ve had working with him, and I think he’s a really remarkable person and director. It’s very exciting to be part of it.
ShockYa: With so many of Joe’s films, I feel like it’s easy to envision a version that’s slightly less quirky and less invested in characters, and maybe cost $25 million more, just with bigger, blown-out set pieces.
AD: I believe in that (type of) filmmaking. One of the reasons I think I love acting is that I’ve always been a huge reader, and fascinated by stories. I’m fascinated by people and why we do what we do. I think that’s what makes a great story and gets people drawn in — if you’re invested in the characters and the relationships. Sure, it’s always fun to go see a movie where it’s just things exploding and it’s entertaining, but having that investment in what’s going on — a connection to the characters — is very important, and that was definitely found in this. It doesn’t spare the special effects or any of the cool zombie make-up and stuff — it looks insane — but it’s really about the characters.
ShockYa: Ashley looks quite… striking. Do you have any big action scenes or gnarly make-up or anything?
AD: I don’t have any prosthetics or special effects make-up, but there is a bit of fighting. And that was so much fun, I love doing that kind of stuff.
ShockYa: What’s next for you?
AD: I have “True Detective,” a HBO show with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, that comes out in January. And it looks like I may be working (on something else), but it’s not done yet so I can’t talk about it. We’ll see what happens. I’m happy that I was able to get in another job before the end of the year. It was an amazing time to work, especially on such a cool project.
Written by: Brent Simon
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International and Magill's Cinema Annual, and film editor of H Magazine. He cannot abide a world without U2 and pizza.