JoBlo.com/AITH interviews John Leguizamo
Fine actor John Leguizamo has dabbled in the genre before (Night Owl and Assault on Precinct 13 remake), but this is his first "to the core" horror role and I'm excited to see him tackle the undead with his own brand of charm/screen presence. Here's what Mr Leguizamo had to say about his foray in "Land of the Dead". Thanks to Alan "the man" Jones for the hook up!
WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS
On Dawn of the Dead Remake:
Zombies move fast, it went all against his rules, no research. Our movie has serious rules, which makes it amazing to work with him. In our Zombieworld they have to move slowly because they are decomposing, George hasnít told any of our dead extras how to walk because he wants them all to be individual. That if he gives instructions everyone will look the same. This way everyone comes up with their own personality. I become a zombie in the movie, I donít know if that ruins things butÖIíve probably fucked it up
On his character of Cholo:
I play a zombie killer, and then I have a slip up. You canít turn into a zombie unless you are bit, right, a vampire kind of thing. I do towards the end and I become a zombie. I play Cholo the zombie killer, a Chicano-ism meaning cool guy. Thereís a group of us in this Mad Max apocalyptic world, mostly populated by zombies apart from a few enclaves of humans. Dennis Hopper runs one of them. Zombie killers keep them away until we can get supplies from town, little fortresses of rich neo-conservatives.
Cheyneyís world. Simon Baker is a z killer too and the both of us were friends, but Iím feeling more competitive towards him because I feel he always gets more recognitions. Heís like the captain while Iím the co-pilot. He has large aspirations. Zombie killing is an actual profession and we get hired in this future to keep them away, to stop them over-taking and keeping numbers down.
Correlation between the movie and America being so isolationist?
Thatís why I love it. Why did I want to make a zombie movie? Because I love Romero, heís one of the greatly respected genre directors. Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King etc all love him. He put politics into the genre and mixed it with social commentary and a sense of humor. NIGHT had those political overtones, this does too. It has an operatic thing going on because he is parodying the situation of the haves and have mores in America. Having what they have and protecting themselves against the zombie killersÖ I donít know if itís Georgeís take but mine is the zombies are the poor working classes.The minimum wage folk. In my opinion Kaufman is the George Bush figure but I ím not sure if thatís Georgeís again. Thatís what helped me get through the movie.
I grew up watching the trilogy and I was always a fan of NIGHT. It freaked me out, was so cool, best movie ever. Thatís the first time you learn about zombies. Thatís how I did, like a documentary. I aggressively went after this part because I wanted to work with George. I even cut my salary in half, true. The script had these great political aspirations in it. The characters were really complex, the story was about the characters and none of them were sill people screaming and all that. There was this political overtone. Competition between me and my best friend Riley, put a bit of racism in there, and self hate. I loved all the complexity.
Are people going to pick that up while watching the film?
Depends on who you are. You get out of a movie what you put in and bring to it. How smart are you? How clever? A lot of people are going to see the movie as a parable I think, a satire comparison. It covers all the right areas without getting on a soap box.
Gore and action?
Itís the most action-orientated of the series! I like that a lot. And its crazy gory, an autopsy show! Thereís specificness in terms of the intestines coming out and the organs exploding. Want one good version without a better DVD cut? Itís with Rogue Universal and that allows a lot more edge than the regular Universal, not dissing Uni at all you understand but they have to be more commercial. Rogue is allowed to have more individuality. Ours will have everything in one version.
Is the film unremittingly bleak like the past 3 movies?
Still has that which is great but still has humor and comic streak. Such an ageist industry and hereís Romero at the prime of his life, in his mid Sixties. Weíve done all nights, in Canada, in the winter. And heís out there chain-smoking, drinking coffee, with these giant owl glasses. He hears everything.
Any connection to the other movies?
Now itís a Ďquadrilogyí, if that word exists, itís supposed to be the end of all the Night, Dawn, Day, might be beginning a new cycle, who knows? The zombies are organized here, thinking, using weapons, like the evolution of man. They are putting things together and working stuff out. They smell worse, sniff a bit before I kill them.
How was his experience on set?
Iíve enjoyed the whole thing. Have great acting moments in this with Baker and Hopper, juicy and dramatic. Amazing action stuff where I had this shark harpoon, a C02 gun, and shot it into the air. I was kitted out with four squibs for my deathÖooops I did it again! (We were told not to reveal this obviously). Harpooning brains out on my motorcycle. Did all my own stunts apart from one wheelie motorcycle one in the rain that would have been too dangerous. All night shoots and you become a zombie yourself doing that.
You started shooting in October?
Movie finishes this weekend. Itís tough being an actor on this type of film. You have to run home before the sunlight appears or else youíll never sleep. The moment the sun hits your eyes itís hard to sleep. Close those curtains like a vampire, with ear-plugs. Always exhausted because you never catch up. Got to bed at 7 am, could only sleep until 1, 2 at latest.
How was it working with George?
He works the best way, he trusts you and has hired you for what you bring to the role, and then he shapes it. Impressed by how savvy he is. Always gives me a little thing that gives me a new perspective on my performance. Added sense of humor, or darkness, plants seeds that make a big difference. For example: The big scene with Hopper when Iím trying to become Republican, I mean rich! The living has this lifestyle that I want to be part of. I look around Hopperís apartment, heís telling me he has no room for me, and itís enormous, so I added a sense of irony on Georgeís suggestion. I think itís lightening the darkness or darkening the lightheartedness.
How crucial is Dead Reckoning to the plot, it was the title at one point?
Itís a huge vehicle. Itís a tank, submarine, awe-inspiring and welded out of different organic pieces. You feel powerful in it and it helps you believe in the movie. We have to fight a major force of zombies, so have to have a powerful vehicle that can go in there and cause damage, like they had in Iraq perhaps. When we were inside, so tough and cramped. Have a huge scene in there with Simon and it was hard to move around. Very claustrophobic. It almost tipped over one day when we were doing this crazy stunt. Knocked trees and lampposts over
Is there a lot of CGI in the film?
Trying to do it all organically Ė until they come to the final edit and see whatís missing. Itís a new world for film, man; itís not old school anymore. I assume there will be tweaks but as of now itís all organically done. The guts, gore and blood. Why not enhance it if you have that ability.
Are we in for a new type of Zombies?
Its classical zombies with the new evolution of thinking, regrouping and organizing - a union of zombies. Thatís new, the movement is old. It depends on how decomposed they are. The great thing about the story is that itís not clear who the heroes and villains are. Hopper is obviously the villain if you are a staunch democrat like me. We are zombie killers, but does that make it right? Just because they are dead, you do get a feeling of change at the end though.
Did you get to work with Asia Argento?
I have one scene with Asia. Sheís a loose woman in the apocalyptic world. She gets saved by Riley, sheís a feral creature. Such a feisty chick I love it.
His opinion on Romero:
My opinion of Romero now is he was the godfather of horror movies. Thereís so much tribute to him. This movie is a masterful piece, it could be closure but I donít want to say that. Heís aged but kept his love of the zombie and taken it to a whole new operatic, complex level. A great tribute to him at this point in his life. Heíll get great recognition from it and a throne in the corridors of cinema.
Opinion on recent zombie pictures?
I love horror movies. A good one is exciting. We all live with fears and its good to get them out of our system. Have to have a place to let that out. Iím from NY and 9/11 caused us to think about moving, you live with that threat all the time. When you see horror movies, and especially apocalyptic ones, you can work things out of your system. Lets out the tension. Hate cheap horror, the ones for teenagers. But hopefully LAND will appeal to adults who love a message and the teens who love the action.
I'd like to thank John for sharing the joy with all of us fanboys. Can't wait to see ya kick that ass in the film!