Originally published on The National Student on 03/11/15.
Having already won over audiences in the now-iconic comedy Anchorman and its sequel, David Koechner has played a massive part in the development of the genre in recent years.
With the man himself lending his talents to a supporting role in Christopher Landon’s coming-of-age zom-com Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse this month, we caught up with David to chat about his career and the new movie.
There are so many zombie movies doing the rounds at the moment, what makes Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse unique?
Because it’s ridiculous. I mean it’s insane. But at the same time it has comedy and scares, and it has a really unique ability to manage all these things. The story has a little bit of heart; the characters care about each other, there’s the crazy zombie stuff, and there’s comedy. It’s a tough chemistry set, and I think Chris [Landon – the director] did a great job. It’s purposefully ridiculous, and it works.
The characters we’re used to seeing you as, in Anchorman and The Office are usually a lot more animated. Was it tough playing against that type and being a lot more light-hearted in this role?
Oh no, it’s so much fun. You’re always looking for a different challenge and opportunity, so when one comes round like this you embrace it.
It’s no spoiler that you’re zombified for the large majority of the movie: did you go through any training to learn how to act like a zombie?
Yes, we had a gentleman on set, Mark, who was a performance artist. He was on set to help us get into our physical… zombeing, which was a great help.
Were there any particular inspirations you looked towards when you were acting – any particular zombie movies that influenced you?
No, because they were trying to develop their own choreography and this was a bit of a different movie. Chris had a specific idea of how he wanted these zombies to move. To me, that’s a realm that’s not my thing; they definitely had a very specific way they wanted to do it, and so that’s how that came about.
In terms of make-up, how long was it in the make-up chair every morning being made to look like a zombie?
It was a night movie, so every night it was about four hours. Four hours on and one hour off. We would just sort of sit around and watch movies, listen to podcasts, stuff like that. It was kind of delightful, you’re being paid to watch a movie or a television show, or listen to a podcast and everybody in the room had great, varied interests so we all got to choose on different nights who got to listen to what, so it was fun.
Is playing a character that involves that much make-up the sort of thing you can picture yourself doing again?
Oh sure. I mean I’ve done it before. On Final Destination 5 I got killed twice and both involved quite a bit of make-up, so I’ve been through that process before.
Speaking of deaths, it’s usually difficult to talk about death scenes because it constitutes spoilers, but here with you being a zombie it obviously isn’t. How was it filming a death scene? Is it choreographed in a specific way?
It’s all going to change on the day, so in the moment you try to rehearse what’s going to happen. But then the physicality of it usually changes. It’s got to be dictated by whatever’s happening on set, so you just have to be available to whatever’s happening in front of the camera at that time. I’ve been lucky enough to die a number of times [laughs] – let’s see: I died in Snakes On A Plane, I died in Extract, I died twice in Final Destination, I guess I’m undead in this, so that’s fun. So on several occasions I’ve met my end. One of my old teachers always said that if you ever get the chance to die, it’s one of the greatest things you can accomplish on film. You get to act out your own death, I mean come on [laughs]. That’s fantastic!
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in comedy like Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell, and there’s always been stories of you guys improvising off of each other on set. Did you find a similar thing here on this movie, even working with a younger and less-experienced cast?
Oh yeah, they had such a great spirit. Working with this cast was so much fun; they were so enthusiastic and having such a blast. It’s fun to get caught up in it.
Do you think comedy is a genre you’re always going to stay in as an actor; is it something you feel at home in?
Certainly I’ve had great success there. I’m going to go do a drama in two weeks. I was in Cheap Thrills which was more on the dramatic side, I’ve done a couple of things like that that were a lot of fun. I like to mix it up every now and again.
Lastly, do you have any tips for any upcoming actors who might want to break into the industry?
Yeah, get on stage. Read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Strive to be the best, to be good at what you do, not just to be popular, or famous. That’s not the end. The beginning is to be good, and then that’ll show up in the end.
David Koechner can be seen in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse which is released in the UK on 6th November by Paramount Pictures. Certificate 15. You can catch our review here.