The video game to movie adaptation of Dead Rising: Watchtower, recently debuted on Crackle about a week ago. The film follows Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) and Crystal O’Rourke (Meghan Ory), as they try to survive a violent zombie outbreak, where anything goes. We caught up with some of the cast and crew of the film this past weekend in Wondercon in Anaheim Ca. In this roundtable interview, we spoke with director Zach Lipovsky and actor Dennis Haysbert who plays General Lyons in the film. The two spoke about bringing the video game to life and what’s left to explore in the Dead Rising franchise.
Q: I do want to say that it was very close to the video games, it was such a fun movie. As far as research goes, how fun was it? Did you have to play all of the games?
Zach Lipovsky: Yeah, we played all of the games. The producers and writers are huge fans of the games. Tomas [Harlan] can probably beat most people at a speed run of D.R. 2 [Dead Rising 2]. We had Xbox in the production office so all of the crew could come in and just play the game. We had a big whiteboard so everyone could write down their favorite parts of the game as they were playing, mostly from D.R. 3, that they wanted to put in. And we just plastered everything in the office with all of the cool stuff from the game and Capcom, in Vancouver where we shot the film, their studios there and creators were involved in it as well. We just tried to make it as fateful as we could. We are fans of it too so that was easy.
Q: How did the casting go about? How did the cast get attracted to this project?
Zach Lipovsky: You can ask him [Dennis Haysbert], he got attracted to it.
Dennis Haysbert: Well they said ‘hey, do you want to do this?’ I said ‘Are you…kidding?’ Expletive deleted. I said ‘yeah sure! Let’s go!’
Zach Lipovsky: I think that a lot of people like Dennis and Virginia Madsen, don’t necessarily get to be in zombie apocalypse action films (laughs) and like get the chance to have that kind of fun like Virginia Madsen with the broom-chete, cutting zombies down. So I think a lot of people just got excited about things like that and being involved with Legendary.
Dennis Haysbert: Absolutely.
Q: Dennis, if you had the chance, what weapon would you use to kill a zombie? Would you put weapons together?
Dennis Haysbert: I would put weapons together but my style, I’ve always said that I would kneecap them first, with the gun and then double tap.
Zach Lipovsky: The problem is, is then you need ammunition. You’re going to run out (laughs).
Dennis Haysbert: Yeah but then I would probably go for the samurai sword. Stay sharp (laughs).
Q: As a director, what benefits did you see by having this movie released on a streaming service, rather than in theaters or straight to DVD?
Zach Lipovsky: I think there were two main ones. The first one was because it’s online, there was no real restrictions. There was no ratings board, there was no running time, there was no bad words that we couldn’t say. It was like everyone just kept going ‘Well, it’s ‘Dead Rising,’ so you’re going to have to do that, so just do it.’ And the other thing is is that that’s where the fan base is and it’s free. So anyone who loves the game could instantly go check it out and that’s right where everyone who loves the game is anyways. You’re on your Xbox, you love playing ‘Dead Rising’, there’s the movie. It just made sense that way.
Q: Which elements were the most exciting to bring to life?
Zach Lipovsky: If you like playing the game, like a lot of video games, it’s that power fantasy of grabbing a badass weapon and running into the street and then getting way over your head and everything falling apart and then just having to just run for your life. That was a big inspiration to that sequence in the middle of the film, the oner action scene, which is basically the arch of like every action scene in the game. It’s like ‘check out this badass weapon!’ and then kicking ass, and then it breaks in half, you drop it, you take out your backup one, then that’s gone and then it’s just a mad scramble. Bringing that to life was a big inspiration.
Dennis Haysbert: Well with me, it’s being able to restart (laughs) because I’m notoriously bad at these games but I love them. It’s like you got to follow the little diamond around and trying to figure out how to get out of here. I generally don’t go for those games that are about killing people, even though those games are fun and yeah, I know that they are just a game but zombies aren’t people, they are already dead. I like killing stuff that can kill you. It’s guilt free.
Q: Was there anything from the game that you wanted to add into the movie but you just didn’t get to include it?
Zach Lipovsky: There’s tons of awesome combo weapons but we could only do so many because we have to build them and do crazy things with them. There’s obviously still a lot more to be done. I was just thinking this morning how cool a paddle saw jujitsu sequence would be (laughs).
Q: So if Rob Riggle is in the movie playing Frank West, did you ever think about having Chuck Greene in the film?
Zach Lipovsky: Totally. There’s actually a Chuck Greene jacket cameo in the film that some people spotted, which was kind of our tip of the hat to him. And a lot of his weapons where kind of the double chainsaw type weapons and we gave Meghan Ory two chainsaws but there’s different room to explore his character in the future. If you’re going to pick one, it’s gotta be Frank West.
Q: What was going through your head while casting this? Meghan Ory usually places the most sweetest nicest characters.
Zach Lipovsky: She’s done some harder ones but I always think that when you’re casting women characters, that it’s always about finding the strong female because if you have a weak female, all the chicks are going to hate it and the guys just won’t care. If you have a really strong female, all the chicks and guys are going to love it. So it’s a win win. And just having Jesse’s [Metcalfe] character just sort of following Meghan around and follow her through her journey. She really sold the badassness, we always called her Crazy Eyes. She always had this hard stare that you can’t back down from.
Q: What about with someone like Dennis [Haysbert]?
Zach Lipvosky: Well the best thing about Dennis, he comes with a lot of credibility. People automatically want to trust him. When he shows up, everyone’s just like ‘oh, here’s the trustworthy guy. He’s going to come in and everything is going to be okay.’ That’s what we needed in that character because as the film goes on, you might kind of not want to trust everything he has to say (laughs).
Dennis Haysbert: It’s for the good of all concern. I do.
Q: Dennis, there’s been a lot of reboots and remakes of old films lately, would you ever want to do another ‘Major League’ film?
Dennis Haysbert: It depends on the script. All of us are getting up there in age, so what would we do? (laughs). I mean I would play but…
Chris Salce: You could maybe be a coach?
Dennis Haysbert: Yeah, a coach maybe but it has to be realistic…but yeah, I would love to do it.
Dead Rising: Watchtower is now available on Crackle for free and I have to say, it’s the best video game to movie adaptation I have seen. It’s a really fun movie.
Stay tuned to NTF for more from Dead Rising: Watchtower’s writer Tim Carter and producer Tomas Harlan. If you haven’t already checked out our interview with Dead Rising star Jesse Metcalfe, just click here.