The star of Death at a Funeral talks about getting naked for Frank Oz and his upcoming role in 3:10 to Yuma.
In this weekend's Death at a Funeral, actor Alan Tudyk (Knocked Up, Firefly) steals almost every scene he's in. You see, he's naked and high for a good chunk of the movie.
Death at a Funeral is a comedy about the funeral of a family patriarch. And in typical English farce form, everything that can possibly go wrong does. Tudyk, who specializes in meaty, funny supporting roles (witness: Dodgeball, 28 Days), wasn't the only American in the cast--Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Nip/Tuck) is in it, too--but he is the only American cast as a Brit.
"I always liked accents and I think because I had done it before, I had been English in something before, I guess I was in the casting peoples' minds," Tudyk explains. When I tell him that I saw him in Arrested Development as the American Pastor Veal the day after I saw Death at a Funeral and then didn't know if he was actually English or American, Tudyk tells me I'm not the only one who has been thus confused. "I did an English accent in A Knight's Tale in 2000, and there are actually casting directors when I come that saw that and think I am English. I've had auditions where I just spoke like myself and they said, 'Well are your papers in order?' 'Papers? Are we shooting in Canada? What are we doing?' 'Where are you from?' 'Texas.'"
Although Death at a Funeral is an ensemble piece, Tudyk was specifically sent the script to read for the part of the buttoned up Simon, who winds up inadvertently on a hallucinogenic trip during the funeral. "I think I have a history of playing crazy people," he says. "I guess. I'm not afraid to embrace extreme intensity in a foolish way. You can be intense like Ryan Gosling, but that's a quiet brilliance. It's not comedic."
But when I probe him, it is clear that a lot of work goes into 'embracing' that 'extreme intensity.' Not such a method actor that he was about to start dropping acid for the part, Tudyk talked to friends who'd gone to Woodstock as part of his research. "Basically I learned that anything is possible, really. Different drugs have different dynamics, but especially with hallucinogens, acid, the mind is playing tricks on you. You can see things, you can feel things. Inanimate objects have moods," he explains. "And all of your feelings are very actionable. It's a very immediate thing. I’m happy, I need to express that and show that in some way. I'm scared. The stakes are so very high. You're very much living in the now."
In addition to calling for him to spend the bulk of his screen time high as a kite, as mentioned before, the script for Death at a Funeral also demanded that he run around naked. "No, that was my idea. That was an improv," he jokes. I ask him if they gave him a robe in between takes, like on a porn set. "It was very similar to a porn set in a lot of ways, actually. There was a fluffer."
Actually, Tudyk says, he wore the robe sometimes--when there was a big gap between takes, "but a lot of when we're filming, especially since we were filming fast, we didn't have much time, we had to just get it. So it made more sense to just kind of stand around naked."
And that did get tiring. "After the fourth day I just remember coming home and writing these long emails back to the states about, 'I'm so tired of being naked. I'm so tired of being naked. I'm so tired of being naked,'" he recounts. "That's all I wrote."
But the biggest challenge was actually managing to position himself for the shots--to get across the notion that he was naked without capturing anything too..revealing. "The most difficult thing to maneuver was me going from the balcony to another piece of the roof before I start climbing the roof," Tudyk explains. "There was probably about a 3-foot span. I've got long legs--I can put one leg there and get three feet pretty easily. But when you're spreading your legs, it's hard for the camera operator not to get what's between.
"And then [the camera operator is] talking about, 'Well, if we get it, we'll just CGI it out.' I'm like, 'Don't CGI it out! If my legs are spread and there should be something there, I'd rather there be something there than nothing be there. Because I think that's concerning!" he exlaims.
After he was done clambering around nude on English rooftops, Tudyk went to New Mexico to film 3:10 to Yuma, the Christian Bale-Russell Crowe Western that comes out next month. "It's a psychological Western, just like most modern Westerns are," Tudyk says. "My character is a veterinarian, Doc Potter. He's kind of the comic relief. Russell Crowe is this bad guy, Ben Wade, who gets separated from his gang in this small town. A posse gets put together to bring him to put him on this 3:10 train to Yuma so he can be tried and hung. So, a group of people have to take him on this trip while his gang is trying to free him.
"My character does not want to go from the very beginning. 'Wait, what? This is a bad idea. This is a terrible idea," he continues. "They're very tough. And I'm not very tough. I'm openly not tough."
Nearly all of Alan Tudyk can be seen in Death at a Funeral, which opens in limited release today.
Click on reelz.com's Death at a Funeral page to see clips from the movie, reviews, and more!