Derek Mears: “HANSEL,” “HATCHET” and More
by: on: 2013-01-29 16:55:12
By the end of 2013, Derek Mears will longer be known principally
as the guy who took on the legendary mask of Jason Voorhees in the FRIDAY THE
13TH reboot. His turn inside a remarkable creature suit as Edward the Troll is
being cited as one of the best things in the just-released HANSEL & GRETEL:
WITCH HUNTERS, and later this year he tussles with fellow Jason Kane Hodder in
HATCHET III. He discusses those roles and more in this exclusive Fango interview.
FANGORIA: Edward the Troll has impressed not just audiences,
but your HANSEL & GRETEL co-stars whom we’ve spoken to.
DEREK MEARS: Oh man, Spectral Motion and Mike Elizalde, who
created the troll, knocked it out of the ballpark. They did an amazing job. I’m
such a fan of old-school practical effects, and I’m thrilled they decided to do
Edward practically effects rather than go with CGI.
FANG: How did you go about creating the character with your
full face and body covered?
MEARS: I would say my career amounts to half appearing with
my own face and half wearing masks, and I always say that if people can’t see
your face, you approach it the same way you would a regular acting role. The
fantastic part about this was that it was a team effort creating Edward, coming
up with the character and talking about the subtext with the guys who ran the
animatronics. I always compare it to being a giant Voltron robot: One person
controls one part, one person controls another part, and you all communicate
and work together. Those guys did a fantastic job, with the witches and the
other characters too—the detail in the makeup, giving each part such a
personality. It’s funny; taking myself out of the film, I’m the target
demographic. I’m such a fanboy for a project like this, and thrilled with how
it turned out.
FANG: How much of Edward’s personality did you bring
yourself, and how much of it was in the script and guided by writer/director
MEARS: I had a couple of different ideas to bring him to
life that I bounced off of Tommy, and I added a little of my own stuff, and it
all came together.
FANG: Were these the most elaborate animatronics you’ve
worked with on a film?
MEARS: For sure. Edward was the most difficult yet most
rewarding suit I’ve ever worn. In my whole career, I’ve never seen anything so
articulate in the face and movements. I’m excited to see how it’s being
received by the viewing audience. What I’m hoping for…what I’ve seen in the
past is that Hollywood likes to follow trends, and if something becomes
successful, they go, “Oh, we wanna do more of that.” So if going back and doing
a retro practical-effects character like this could start a trend, and there
are fewer CG characters, I’d love that. They have a soul to them. So I’m
crossing my fingers that that will happen, because as a fan, that’s what I want
to see more of. I mean, don’t get me wrong—I like CGI as well, but there’s a
point where the two can be married together, and they can complement each other
rather than going with completely CG characters. You can tell there’s an actual
character there, and that energy can come through even through the face is
FANG: How was it executing the action choreography while
wearing the suit?
MEARS: That was really difficult. They always say that pain is
temporary and film lasts forever, and that was my mindset, because I was locked
inside, and it was very difficult to see. Picture being on a treadmill and
running sprints with a plastic bag tied over your head, trying to breathe clean
air instead of your own carbon dioxide. And the weight was tremendous; I was
trying to be in the moment as an actor while also keeping the suit alive,
making it as believable and lifelike as possible.
FANG: What about performing opposite Gemma Arterton as
MEARS: Oh man, she was a sweetheart. Gemma is such a class
act and a talented person, not to mention a solid human being. There’s a trend
that happens sometimes if you do a lot of roles like this; people are like,
“Oh, you’re just the guy in the mask.” And I’m lucky that in my career, that’s
not happening anymore; people say, “You’re a professional actor.” And when I
started working on HANSEL & GRETEL, they were like, “We know you’re a
professional actor, but we also need someone who can survive in a suit.” And
when I was talking to Gemma about our scenes, we were on the same page. I
needed a mic system inside the helmet so we could communicate and have the
scene happen organically, so if we wound up doing improv or something, we could
flow with it and have that raw, creative moment, rather than someone offscreen
reading the dialogue and adding it as ADR later on.
FANG: Were you familiar with DEAD SNOW before you worked
with Wirkola on this film?
MEARS: [Laughs] For sure; I’m such a horror nerd myself.
It’s such a great story: I think about three months before I shot HANSEL AND
GRETEL, I watched DEAD SNOW for the first time at my house, and I was like, “Oh
my God! This is hilarious.” I love how it’s an incredibly violent horror film
and there’s comedy, but it’s not sold as a comedy. I thought, “Man, I’d really
like to work with this Tommy guy someday; he seems really, really cool.” And
not three months later, I was in Berlin with him. A lot of the actors were
Tommy’s friends who were in DEAD SNOW; he hired them to play characters in
HANSEL AND GRETEL, and we all hung out at pubs in Berlin, and they were the
coolest guys in the world! I was like, “This is so surreal.” Picture watching a
movie on Netflix and going, “I’m gonna enter this world and these people are
gonna be my friends, and we’re gonna hang out together.” It was very, very
FANG: Arterton mentioned during our interview that you went back and did a little extra shooting during the delay in release.
Was it fun going back and putting the costume on again?
MEARS: It was great reconnecting with everybody, and seeing
Gemma and Tommy and everyone from Spectral Motion. I really enjoyed that. But
the tough thing was, the suit was so incredibly hot; we shot [the rest of the
movie] in Berlin during wintertime, but for the reshoots we were out in the
desert somewhere near Ridgecrest, CA, and the heat was unbearable. I was
getting delirious. It felt like I was in a cage fight—a championship match, the
fifth round—and in the last minutes I was gasping for air, thinking, “No, no,
no, it’s gonna be amazing. Do you want this? It’s what you’ve been training
for! Keep going,” and just trying to keep my brain on straight.
FANG: What can you tell me about your part in HATCHET III?
MEARS: I play a SWAT team commander by the name of Hawes,
who is a hardheaded, pompous, kind of douchey guy. He leads a team of officers
into the swamps to track down Victor Crowley and put an end to him once and for
FANG: Was it a relief to be on a horror film where you
weren’t burdened down with prosthetics?
MEARS: [Laughs] It was fun. I really don’t mind because I
feel my job is to tell stories. I don’t want you to remember me, I want you to
remember the character I play. That’s more important.
FANG: And we’ll get to see a battle of the Jasons in this
MEARS: That is true, that is true! I’ve been asked over and
over again on different films, “Hey, do you wanna come do this? You and Kane
will fight for the first time!” Kane and I have been friends for a long time,
and BJ McDonnell, who directed HATCHET III, is a buddy of mine, and Adam Green
is a super-good buddy of mine, and it seemed like the right time and the right
project to actually pull the trigger on that. I try to interact with the fans
as much as I can on Facebook and Twitter and at conventions, and so many of
them have expressed that they would like to see that, so I was like, “You know
what? Let’s do it.” And I hope they dig what they see.
FANG: This is truly a clash of the titans—was there a feeling
of responsibility or pressure about making this fight particularly special?
MEARS: Yeah, definitely. I don’t want to give anything away,
but we tried to do something different. Kane’s such a big guy, I’m a big guy
and people wanna see us throw down.
FANG: How was McDonnell as a first-time director?
MEARS: He was really, really good. He knew exactly what he
wanted and was clear with the actors about what he was thinking, but he was
also open to collaboration. If someone had an idea, he would listen to them and
work with us as artists coming together. It was his transition from being a
camera operator to being a director, and on some of the shots he’d say, “Give
me the rig!” Seeing him get down and dirty, throw the rig on and grab the
camera and dive into scenes because there was something he wanted to cover or
thought would look cool—it was inspiring. It was kind of like being a soldier
and going to war, in the trenches, and the general being there going, “Give me
the weapon! I’m gonna go!” and having him firing alongside you, covered in mud
and mosquito bites. I was like, “This is a guy I can believe in. I’ll follow
this guy, I’ll give him blood, I’ll follow him till the end of the war.”
FANG: You also appear opposite two-time Michael Myers actor
Tyler Mane in the upcoming COMPOUND FRACTURE (review).
MEARS: I’m very excited about that. Tyler has been a buddy
of mine for years, since before we did the Jason and Michael thing. I was
really proud of him, because he said, “You know, I want to do my own film production
and make movies that I want to see.” So many people talk about it but never do
it, but he told me about me it, and months later he was like, “We’re doing
this.” I said, “Are you kidding me?” He asked, “Will you be the main bad guy to
my good guy in COMPOUND FRACTURE?” He had some friends come play; [DRIVE ANGRY
scripter] Todd Farmer has a cameo, Renae Geerlings, his wife, wrote it with
Tyler and played a part in it, Daniel Roebuck and Leslie Easterbrook are in it.
I’m super-proud of him, because they just did a distribution screening and got
a ton of offers. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
FANG: So we get to see Jason vs. Michael in this one?
MEARS: You do. That seems to be my m.o. now; I go, “Anybody who’s ever played
an iconic villain, I wanna fight you! Let’s throw down, let’s do this.”
FANG: How did that compare with your fight scene with Hodder
in HATCHET III?
MEARS: I don’t know how to compare; they’re such different
guys. Tyler would say, “Oh, you’re a big guy, Derek,” but I’m, like, 6-foot-5,
235, and Tyler’s 6-foot-8, 260, something like that. He’s a big dude! But he
has so much experience physically that when we did that scene together, we were
throwing down, breaking things around us, but he was so good on timing and very
agile for his size. When you do fights, it’s almost like an aggressive combat
dance; you have to be locked in with your partner and figure out the timing and
rhythm, so it looks sloppy and violent but is measured out so no one gets hurt.
I thought, “Man, that guy is beyond strong!” I would not wanna be on the wrong
side of him in an bar brawl!