I had a lot of fun with Big Ass Spider!, directed by Real Killers and The Gravedancers‘s Mike Mendez, at SXSW. If you doubt that, I invite you to read my review. In the film, “When a giant alien spider escapes from a military lab and rampages across the city of Los Angeles, it is up to one clever exterminator and his security guard sidekick to kill the creature before the entire city is destroyed.”
Battling the disgusting creature are Greg Grunberg (“Heroes”, “Alias”) and Lombardo Boyar (“The Bernie Mac Show”), who star as Alex, an exterminator, and Jose, his security guard sidekick, respectively. The heroes team up with an elite military unit that includes genre vets Clare Kramer (The Gravedancers) and Ray Wise (X-Men: First Class, “Twin Peaks”).
The day after Spider‘s premiere screening at the Alamo Ritz I sat down with Mendez and Boyar along with producers Patrick Ewald and Shaked Berenson for a quick chat. We talked about Mendez’s initial reaction to the script, Boyar’s chemistry with Grunberg – and the potential CIA shakedown that weighed on the producers’ minds.
Director Mike Mendez on tackling a big monster movie, “My first reaction when I received the script in my inbox, which was originally called ‘Dino Spider’ was like ‘oh no!’ But [producers] Patrick Ewing and Shaked Berenson assured me they wanted to do something different. They wanted me to play with it and have fun with it and ultimately make a better monster movie than what we’ve been seeing recently.” One of the film’s biggest successes comes from its’ buddy comedy vibe. Mendez explains, “I think that’s largely a testament to Greg [Grunberg] and Lombardo [Boyar]. It’s just so enjoyable to hang out with our protagonists and that’s a credit to our screenwriter Greg Gieras, he wrote great monster movie through the point of view of a bumbling exterminator and his security guard sidekick.”
Boyar elaborates on his rapport with Grunberg, “There was a lot of improvisation. It was fun! Mike really let us play, if I had ideas we could try them out. And Greg was great too, he’s sort of my unofficial manager getting me into everything he does. We just let it rip. It was a blast!”
Per Ewald, the CG effects arrangement was unlike anything he’d experienced. “Ice Animations is the digital effects company that did all this and they’re the real unsung heroes here. But it was interesting because they are based in Pakistan! And the whole thing was done remotely. We had a huge shot list for the budget so they were sending us shots via an FTP and we were having conversations by Skype. And we were very paranoid because we’re having conversations about destroying buildings in downtown LA and using their blueprints – and these conversations were with people in Pakistan! We were sure the CIA was listening!”
Shaked Berenson adds, “The biggest challenge was finding the right tone. It was low budget but we didn’t want to make it a piece of shit. We really wanted to focus on the characters and we upped the presence of Lombardo’s character.”