Let’s face it: zombie movies are just plain fun. This is especially true of Dead Rising: Watchtower, the recently released film based on the Dead Rising video games, which brings action, adventure, comedy, and combo weapons to the genre. We had the chance to sit down and talk with two of the film’s stars, Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives, Dallas) and Dennis Haysbert (24; Men, Women & Children), at WonderCon about zombies, sledgesaws, stunts, and so much more.
Before we get started, in case you aren’t familiar with the film yet, here’s what Dead Rising: Watchtower is all about:
The story follows Chase (Jesse Metcalfe), an online reporter trying to make it big – but the pursuit of his career-defining story leads him into the heart of a zombie-infested warzone. The quarantined city quickly erupts into carnage and anarchy, becoming a deathtrap he’ll be lucky to escape. With an all-star cast including Jesse Metcalfe, Dennis Haysbert, Virginia Madsen, Meghan Ory, and Rob Riggle and with an exceptional creative team including director Zach Lipovsky and writer and producer Tim Carter, “DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER” has captured the hearts of fans everywhere. Executive produced by Haruhiro Tsujimoto, Kiichiro Urata, Tomas Harlan and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. A Crackle Original Movie, Legendary Presents a Legendary Digital/Contradiction Films/di Bonaventura Digital Production.
Jesse Metcalfe is the ambitious, resourceful reporter (and eventual zombie survivor) Chase Carter–a role that really allowed him to test his mettle as an action star. As a self-professed fitness junkie and mixed martial artist, Jesse was excited by the prospect of this action-packed film. He did almost all of his own stunts for Dead Rising: Watchtower–and with a wide array of weapons, daring escapes, and, of course, plenty of zombie bashing, that’s an impressive feat. Jesse told us about his favorite stunt, which takes place in the middle of the movie in one continuous, over five minute long take without any cuts or edits:
It had very detailed choreography [and] a lot of special effects. I was completely rigged up. I had a golf bag on my back with a golf club and a bat in it. I had the sledgesaw that had triggers on it, because it shot out blood, and I had tubes up my sleeve that connected into the golf bag that had the blood in it. I also had a motor, so when I squeezed the sledgesaw, blood came out of it. So basically, I had to wield this sledgesaw–which the sledgehammer was made out of styrofoam and the saw half of the weapon was an actual skill saw. So, as you can imagine, the balance of that was terrible. It was impossible to wield–a heck of a lot easier to wield in the game than in real life. So then I had to–all this in one take–I had to disconnect these hoses and drop the saw; when that stops working, I had to reach back and pull the bat out; I had to ditch the bag; I pulled the severed zombie arm… I mean, there was a lot going on. And we did that over five minute long take 17 times, and at the end of every take, I was literally gasping for breath and dumping sweat. So the cool thing about it was it brought a lot of intensity and a lot of authenticity to the film, and I really felt like it brought the game to life. It really felt like what the game would feel like if it was real, you know? It’s about survival.
As awesome as all the action scenes are, Watchtower also features great character moments, particularly between Chase and Crystal (Once Upon a Time‘s Meghan Ory), another survivor trapped in the quarantine zone. When we first meet Crystal, it’s unclear whether she and Chase will develop any sort of romantic relationship. Jesse loved working with Meghan, but said he thought “it was important to really establish the characters and to make the movie about survival for the first installment.” Though he wouldn’t be opposed to the introduction of a love story down the line, he wanted to maintain the realistic approach to the situation at hand. “When it’s life and death and you’re under the gun, so to speak, you’re running out of time and the government’s about to bomb the quarantine zone, you’ve gotta get out of there… I don’t know if you’re necessarily thinking about hooking up,” he said.
Dennis Haysbert plays the intimidating, badass General Lyons–and there’s definitely more to his character than meets the eye. So what attracted him to Dead Rising: Watchtower–his first horror project? “I was excited about it. You know, it’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m an actor that if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it. I try to find the joy in everything I do, and this one was just kind of guilt-free fun–blowing up zombies. I mean, they’re going hand-to-hand, and I’m just like, ‘Yeah, firebomb ’em.'” As fun as it was to take on a zombie outbreak, Dennis also praised the depth of the movie. “What I love about this particular story is that it has heart,” he said. “All the characters have heart, you know? It’s an action thing, and it could very easily become frivolous and jokey and everything else. But it has humor, [and] it’s got serious points.” He only wishes that he had gotten to interact with the zombies themselves a little more… “with a gun that never empties. Self-loading,” he said.
Dennis also enjoyed the chance to play (spoiler alert!) a sinister character. “You don’t find out until the end of the movie that I’ve got a sinister purpose. For me, I just think I’m doing the right thing.” That said, is he ready to take on a real life zombie apocalypse? “I hope that never happens,” he shared, laughing. “If it should, you know, I think we’ll handle it.”
Jesse also feels that his role has prepared him for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. “I have a wealth of knowledge to draw from. I feel like I could handle it now,” he said.
Of course, in the event of a zombie attack, it’s important to choose the right weapon. Combo weapons are a fan favorite element of the Dead Rising series (and play a key role in the movie). So which combo weapon would Jesse and Dennis choose to wield against the undead? Jesse loves the iconic sledgesaw featured in Watchtower, but is also a big fan of the many “hilarious, awesome, badass weapons in the game.” “The knife gloves–the knife boxing gloves–are pretty fun to play with in the game, pretty effective, and they score you a lot of points,” he said. Dennis, on the other hand, would opt for a sort of double-sided lance–like a double-sided lightsaber, but with more blood. “Yeah, we don’t need anything to cauterize it. What’s the fun in that?” he laughed.
Check out Dead Rising: Watchtower on Crackle, and stay tuned for our WonderCon interview with the filmmakers!