J.J Abrams has always had a knack for injecting his films with a jarring dose of body horror. Cloverfield (2008) had the infamous exploding woman, 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) had a melting John Goodman after he got soaked in acid, and The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) had, well, a truly horrifying script. Whilst Overlord (2018) is a firmly stand-apart feature from the Cloverfield franchise (despite the rumours), there’s definitely enough body shock and gore to feel like an Abrams production.
There are so many descriptors one could attribute to Overlord; delightfully nasty, bloody and nauseatingly tense are but a few. This film is a grungy B-movie horror disguised as a slick WW2 drama and boy, is it fun.
Russian-born German actor Erich Redman is no stranger to drama. His career spans over 30 years including performances in some of the highest-grossing movies of all time; Saving Private Ryan, The Danish Girl and Captain America: The First Avenger.
In Overlord, Redman plays Dr Schmidt; the evil genius at the helm of a sinister Nazi experiment hidden away in a French fortified church.
Movie Metropolis spoke to Redman to find out what it’s really like to make a Marvel movie and why cute kitten videos are vital on set.
Tell us a little about your character in Overlord?
I wasn’t given a back story as such, so I constructed one myself, as every diligent actors does. I imagined he came from an old, possibly aristocratic German Prussian family, went to one of those classic universities in Goettingen or Tuebingen, got a PhD in medical science and showed glimpses of brilliance throughout his professional life. Later on, old family or university connections probably brought him to the attention of the Nazi regime, and he was offered his own lab to develop a German zombie super soldier.
As for his motivations: He is a highly ambitious scientist who wants to push boundaries and make his mark on the world. Like any genius, he has a strong desire to stand out from the crowd, which often also means not wanting to be held back by mainstream moral ‘shackles’. He feels he is above the small-minded Joe Bloggs, the pen pushers, the technocrats; he has a grand vision to fulfill, and if a few ‘worker-ants’ die along the way, he is not troubled by that. After all, great scientific breakthroughs have always come at a price, haven’t they?
How did you get involved with the project?
Through the usual channels. The production company hired a casting director, who asked agents for suggestions, I was put forward, auditioned and luckily got the part!
What was it about the role that excited you?
The role was interesting in that the character could be played as really high status; after all, he was in charge of an experimental lab and had a huge ego to boot. I could also sense that he was a major character, a substantial, plot-driving ‘baddie’ in the film, which would mean a lot of exposure.
The chance to work on a J.J. Abrams picture for a major Hollywood Studio was also very appealing. I had an inkling the film would turn out to be great and do very well at the box office.
Can you tell us a little more about the production of the film?
I was one day whisked off into a mobile studio, where I was simultaneously photographed from all angles by the 100 SLR cameras covering all the walls and the ceiling; luckily, they didn’t use the flash! But I think in my case, that was just a precaution, as in the final film it all looked like ‘me’, not CGI. But they used a lot physical props like human limbs and heads on set, instead of creating them on the computer, which made for an unnerving working environment, but it looked very authentic on screen!
What was it like working with the rest of the cast and crew?
The director, Julius Avery, was very down to earth, but very focused in his vision and really adhered to it. He knew exactly what effect he was after, and he would not stop filming a scene until he got it.
The rest of the cast were brilliant. Jovan (Adepo) was lovely to work with, very considerate, polite and such a pleasure to be with. Pilou Asbæk was great too, and quite a character in real life! I had not expected that, having seen him in ‘Borgen’ years earlier, where he played a much more internalised character.
The majority of the film is quite emotionally intense, how did you and the crew relieve some of that tension on set?
Through lots of cups of tea, whilst watching cute kitten videos on our mobiles! But there was also a fair bit of banter; when two actors meet on set for the first time, they are usually very eager to get to know each other; to break the ice, to ensure co-operation later in the scene together and because actors are generally very curious about other people, at least I am!
Of course, if the other actor is a major star, you tend to back off a bit to give them privacy, you don’t want to bother them. They usually have a lot more to do on set – more lines to remember, more stunts to rehearse, more agents, PR people and press to deal with – so you don’t want to burden them.
I know that you were also in Captain America: The First Avenger. Can you tell me a little about what it was like to be part of such a huge production?
Captain America was a great experience! You should have seen the set! If I’d had the money, I would have bought it afterwards and turned into a bachelor pad in a penthouse suite! The set was amazing. Everything looked like it was made out of chrome and refined metals and expensive minerals, everything looked heavy and solid and beautifully designed and crafted, it was a work of art.
I’d never seen so many different types of fish and melon on offer in the canteen in my life! I think I counted six different melon varieties on display (I didn’t even know there were so many!) and about a dozen or so types of fish – and that was just for breakfast. Marvel films have huge budgets, nobody goes hungry on those.
What’s the next big project?
I am currently working on a new drama series about the world of finance but unfortunately, I am not allowed to talk about it! I hope you understand. But I’m not playing a baddie this time so hooray! He’s a nice guy, which makes a nice change.
Two questions we ask everyone: What’s your favourite film?
One of the films that never fail to get my attention when it’s on TV is ‘Three Fugitives’. Nick Nolte plays a baddie-cum-softie who ends up helping loser-but-good-dad Martin Short rescue his little daughter from an orphanage. The interplay between Nolte’s gruff and macho, but actually caring bank robber and Short’s hilariously clumsy, but loving father is something to be cherished and cracks me up big time every time.
And what’s your favourite cinema snack?
To be honest when it comes to movies, I am the ‘snack-police’! I do not like noisy snacks – or people eating them – in cinemas. Partly, because not being a native English speaker, it is often quite hard for me to follow the dialogue on screen especially if the soundscape is very loud. Then if people are munching popcorn next to me at 120 decibels, I am not a happy bunny.
But also for me a film is also a piece of art, like a painting or an opera, and I feel you should show your respect by abstaining from any other activities or creating unnecessary noise and really focus on that piece of art. Try eating popcorn, when Christian Bale does a play at the Old Vic – should he ever decide to do that – and see what happens! You’ll never eat popcorn again!
We’d like to thank Erich for taking the time out of his busy schedule to be interviewed by Movie Metropolis and you can read our full spoiler-free review of Overlord at the link.