Q&A: “BIG ASS SPIDER” stars Greg Grunberg and Lombardo Boyar
Amidst all the eight-legged destruction in BIG ASS SPIDER!, what truly sets the movie apart from the usual nature-run-amok flick is the often hilarious buddy act of Greg Grunberg and Lombardo Boyar as the story’s unlikely heroes. And sitting down for an interview with the two actors is just as much fun.
Promoting BIG ASS SPIDER! (out today in theaters across the U.S. and on VOD; go to the official website for venues/showtimes) at last weekend’s New York Comic-Con, Grunberg and Boyar have the same infectious comic energy they do on screen. Directed by Mike Mendez, the movie casts Grunberg—a familiar face from TV’s HEROES, ALIAS and others—as exterminator Alex and Boyar as security guard Jose, who just happen to be at the right place at the right time to save LA from a rampageous, ever-growing arachnid (see our review of the movie here). And the duo completely won over this interviewer as well…
FANGORIA: Were you cast in BIG ASS SPIDER at the same time, or did one of you bring the other on board?
GREG GRUNBERG: I got on board first. I was really interested in doing a film like this. This is my genre, this is what I love to do—I’m such a fan of sci-fi movies—and I didn’t want to do anything typical. I always want to do something I can steal, that I can make my own, and it always ends up on the editing-room floor. We’re both the same way, and Bardo’s one of my closest friends; we’ve known each other and worked together for a long time.
So I met with Mike, and he showed me some of the effects, and I was like, “This is so cool, this could be great.” Hearing his vision of it and knowing that he really knows how to craft a film, I felt this could be a lot of fun. He said there was room for improv; the script was solid in story, but it needed more character, and I said right away, “I’ve got the guy. I’ve got Jose, we don’t need to look any further.” They knew who Lombardo was, but he’s not known for comedy, in the same way that I’m not known for comedy. We’ve both come up in the drama world. But I was like, ”Trust me, please,” and they didn’t know me well enough to trust me, but thankfully they did. They contacted Lombardo, and…what was the first thing they said?
LOMBARDO BOYAR: Mike just wanted to know if I had a mustache. [Both laugh] Luckily, I did have a cool mustache going at the time. I was having a day that wasn’t going too good; I was bummed out. I pulled into my driveway and got this frantic call from Greg, saying, “I’m sitting here with this director, Mike Mendez, and we’re gonna do this big spider movie!” I was like, “Whoa, slow down!”
GRUNBERG: I was like, “You’re doing it! Trust me, you’ve gotta do it!” I did a movie called GROUP SEX that I wrote and starred in, with Tom Arnold, Henry Winkler and all these great people, and Bardo was in it. There was no casting, we’re just friends. So I was like, “Dude, do this movie. Just say yes, and we’re gonna make it the best we can make it.” This was like nothing we’ve ever done. It was so f**king cool.
BOYAR: It was so awesome, and we changed probably every one of my lines. I don’t think I said anything that was scripted.
GRUNBERG: You created!
BOYAR: Yeah, it was great. We went through the scenes and wanted to make this movie better, and hopefully we did. We had a blast.
GRUNBERG: Everybody from the top down, from Mike to Patrick [Ewald] and Shaked [Berenson] at Epic Pictures, was great. On a movie like this, there’s low-budget and then there’s no-budget, where we’re all just in it to make it a good product, you know? Prior to doing a scene, usually you have to hunt the other actor down and say, “Hey, you want to read it together just for memorization?” We were like, “No, how do we make this better?” Like the scene in the back of the truck where he’s encouraging me and saying, “Hey, like Robin, or Robín”…
BOYAR: It was all stuff we improvised. Mike told me to come up with a list of teams. And he still gets mad that nobody laughs at the Hall and Oates thing.
GRUNBERG: It’s funny!
BOYAR: It’s a little outdated.
GRUNBERG: No, it’s awesome! And especially, we got to drive around in the truck, and at one point we pulled in somewhere and bought hot dogs.
BOYAR: Yeah, in downtown LA—and it’s funny, because everyone just assumes we had a permit. Everybody shoots in downtown…
GRUNBERG: Yeah, but south of Alameda, you do what you want, man. Live ammo, no problem. It’s just like, who cares? And there are 700-plus effects shots, so there were times, especially at the end of the movie, when Bardo and I were just looking up at nothing, pretending stuff was there.
FANG: Given all the improv you did, how much did you also have to conform to the shots they needed in order to put the FX in?
GRUNBERG: Oh, 100 percent.
BOYAR: We always had to know what was going on, so the effects would go right. And because it was low-budget, a lot of times we had just one or two takes. We had to be ready to bring it.
GRUNBERG: There were only a couple times I would turn to Bardo. That’s another thing—you have a barometer as an actor. The one person you want to satisfy is the director. On this one, we had two—I mean, he was mine and hopefully I was his. There were moments when I said, “Dude, you’ve got to tell me when I’m over the top. You’ve got to tell me if I’m playing this real.” Because without the stakes staying the stakes… I mean, it’s BIG ASS SPIDER! The title tells you we aren’t taking this too seriously. But at the same time, it’s a real movie.
FANG: You have to play the menace of the spider straight, or the comedy doesn’t have anything to play off of.
GRUNBERG: Exactly, and take your job seriously. I mean, Jose is serious about being a security guard. His boss told him to help me, and he’s gonna help me until we die. And I take my job seriously. I’ve like got my own formula for the spray. I’m a good exterminator, and I’m gonna see this through if I can.
FANG: You mentioned that you’re fans of this kind of movie in general…
GRUNBERG: Yeah, I’ve always been a sci-fi fan. It’s funny, right before I left, my kids were like, “Can we see JAWS?” My son’s doing this huge thing on sharks at school, and he was like, “Is that kind of like BIG ASS SPIDER!?” And I said, “You know what? Kind of.” [Laughs] I mean, although it’s not bigger than life—it’s the true size of the shark—the shark certainly is bigger than life in their minds, and how scary it is.
BOYAR: I’m just gonna say this because it’s on my mind right now: Everybody’s raving about GRAVITY and how it’s only 90 minutes? 87 minutes! [Hits the table]
GRUNBERG: 87 minutes! That’s true.
GRUNBERG: You know, usually I can tell you exactly which lines I came up with, because I wasn’t really allowed to come up with that much. Especially on ALIAS and HEROES, where it was so story-driven that you had to hit those points for the audience. Most of the time, it was clarification on my part. [HEROES co-executive producers] Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander would always joke about it; they were like “Oh, there he is, Jimmy Two Times.” You remember that [GOODFELLAS] character Jimmy Two Times, who would repeat everything? I would repeat stuff just for clarification.
BOYAR: In case someone went to the bathroom and missed it.
GRUNBERG: Yeah! I would be like, “You’re telling me that Sylar can actually kill the whole world? Sylar can kill the whole world?” I would say that twice, so that people would really understand it. But I remember those moments. On this movie, so much of what we did, which was a lot, stayed in the movie, and I can’t even tell you what they didn’t use.
BOYAR: I don’t know how many deleted scenes there are, actually. Because we got almost everything in there. We shot what we needed, pretty much.
GRUNBERG: It was interesting, having that much flexibility. We learned a lot about working together, even though we were so comfortable already.
BOYAR: Even though I was in GROUP SEX, we never had any scenes together. He was always acting with other people, so this was awesome.
GRUNBERG: Also, when you’re improv-ing, obviously you don’t work on it. The whole idea of improv-ing is that you’re coming up with stuff, and you have to work with somebody you trust, ’cause it’s like you’re jumping out of a plane and saying, “Bardo, you better f**king catch me, man.” And he was always there, always listening, the same way I would do for him.
BOYAR: You remember the scene where he’s in the shaft, with the walkie? That scene turned out so amazing! I went with what you were saying, and it just worked.
GRUNBERG: Yeah like that “izquierda” thing, where it was like, “Izquierda.” “You’re scared of what?” [Both laugh] And how about “What’s a junction?” It was just so funny. Actually, what didn’t make it in was a lot of the “I know Spanish.” “You don’t know Spanish.” “I know Spanish!” Remember that, in the truck? We were driving and I was like, “I know this word, I know that word.”
BOYAR: Yeah, a lot of times in the truck, they couldn’t really stay behind us, so they just let us go. They didn’t even know what we were doing.
FANG: Mike Mendez said you guys would just drive off with the camera mounted on the truck, and nobody knew where you were going?
GRUNBERG: Yeah, it was like, “All right, we’re just going to let you go,” with the cameras rolling. I was like, “Oh my God, are you kidding me? Here we go!” [Laughs] And we just had fun with it.
FANG: Did you run into any trouble or have any funny incidents, driving off on your own like that?
GRUNBERG: You in your security outfit, didn’t you? Walking down the street?
BOYAR: Yeah, and the great thing was that I knew I looked real, because other Mexican security guards who were really working in the area would come up to me, like, “What company do you work for?” “No, man, I’m just playing a security guard.” “Oh, you look good, man! You look real.” [Both laugh]
GRUNBERG: “I work for Big Ass Security.”
BOYAR: It was hilarious. The walkie I had…I mean, there was no budget. The walkie was like a phone charger, with a cord they rigged up and Velcro on it. There were so many scenes where it would be falling off.
GRUNBERG: The one thing about a movie with this budget is—and knowing that hopefully it will be a cult classic, and we’ll get to do a series of them? The last day, dude, I stole everything.
BOYAR: You did?
GRUNBERG: Oh, f**k yeah! I took my jumpsuit, because I want my kids to have it. I took the sprayer…
BOYAR: Don’t steal, kids!
GRUNBERG: No, steal anything you can, because I don’t want stuff to end up in an auction where I have to buy it. I want my children to have it. It means something; it’s priceless to them. To somebody else it’s like, “Oh, $300,” and they’ll sell it for $400 or whatever.
BOYAR: Yeah, my security guard outfit, I’ll never find again. That’s gone. The funny thing is, we were joking on the set, like, “Wouldn’t it be great if somebody dressed up like us for Halloween?
GRUNBERG: That’s our dream.
BOYAR: This Halloween, I want to see Jose and Alex! Send us your pics!
GRUNBERG: Yeah, I want a little kid to come to the door and be, like, “Trick or treat!” and then squirt the people in the face!