Overlord is a critically praised (and sadly under-seen) World War II set horror movie that hit theatres last November. The cast includes Wyatt Russell, Jovan Adepo, Mathilde Olliver, John Magaro, Pilou Asbæk, and Iain De Caestecker. Julius Avery (Son of a Gun) directed and J.J. Abrams produced. The film is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with 81%.
Though the film is fascinating throughout, Iain De Caestecker stars in easily the most thrilling scene. Wicked Horror had the pleasure of talking to Iain about how the WWII setting helped up the horror, how the director got the cast in the zone, what it took to make the aforementioned scene come to fruition, and what is his favorite horror film of all time is! A heavy spoiler warning is in effect as Iain dives deep into his character and what it took to become the monster!
Overlord is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, Digital, and VOD.
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Wicked Horror: First off, wanted to say I absolutely loved the film. It just missed out on my top ten of the year, but I saw around 80 movies in 2018, so you guys were pretty high up there. Part of my love for it was the realism and the bond between yourself and the main soldiers. How did that start? Was the bond there from the beginning? Was it Julius Avery, the director, helping you guys out?
Iain De Caestecker: Yeah, you know what one of the biggest things was that we met, we came into the studio one day and quickly said hi to each other and we just clicked. He wanted to get us to boot camp and he put us in our World War II costumes to get ready. We had a military advisor on the film, Freddie Joe Farnworth, he’s an ex-Navy Seal and he came in then they just shoved us in the back of a van and then they took us out to the forest for four days. We did the boot camp, and they did the boot camp just as it would have been for young soldiers in WWII. We’d get up early, we’d be doing press-ups and chucking logs over our head. We’d do drills where we’d go off and fire off replicas, as well as some of the real weapons from WWII. One of the big things was that we were there for four days and we’d make a fire and then just sit by it and really get to know each other.
WH: Was it the whole cast? Like the actors who played Wafner (Pilou Asbæk) and Chloe (Mathilde Olliver), or was it just the main five or six US soldiers?
Iain De Caestecker: Yeah, it was myself, Jovan (Jovan Adepo), Wyatt (Wyatt Russel), John (John Magaro), and Dom (Domonic Applewhite). There was no better bonding experience than that, you know? You learn very quickly that you’ll watch out for each other and take care of each other. You know, suddenly you get your phone taken away from you for four weeks. There was just this history that we built that you really couldn’t manufacture. It was really valuable, of course for this movie being set in WWII, but it should really be a rite of passage for every movie since it’s such a great bonding experience.
WH: The WWII bit actually leads me to my next question. So obviously mutants and bringing people back from the dead; it’s pretty horrifying in itself, but how much of the uneasiness in the film came from the fact that it was set in WWII. What these kids went through back then, do you think that was more terrifying than the monster element?
Iain De Caestecker: Yeah, that’s a really good point. You know, I remember WWII from history classes in school and those sorts of things. Before, it didn’t affect me, just sort of a story. Then you read up on it and you just learn how much you don’t know about it really, how many individual stories there are. You know, one thing from that boot camp, we would go out on these night patrols. We would get taken out and you’d have to do hand signals to be as quiet as you can but still communicate with each other. It really gave you a glimpse into it, because it was pitch black and you couldn’t see 20 yards in front of you. These kids were dropped into another country, another continent, and you had no idea where the next enemy was coming from.
WH: When Julius (Avery) and J.J. (Abrams) would talk to you guys about the film, did it seem more like they were making a horror movie set during WWII or a WWII movie with a little bit of horror in it? Or 50% either way?
Iain De Caestecker: That’s a good question. I think the movie starts off more like a war movie.
WH: Especially with that opening scene!
Iain De Caestecker: Exactly. And ultimately as well, the movie is a little bit heightened. It’s a supernatural movie, it’s fictional. Since it’s heightened, that’s the difficult subject to include which is to remain respectful. We always thought that we were which is why we had our military advisor on set. We were diligent to make sure that we always had that level of responsibility in the backs of our minds, but at the same time, there is that supernatural element too. There’s also this thing of, if you’re going to have a villain in that type a movie, there’s no one really better than a N*zi.
WH: There’s not much scarier than a N*zi.
Iain De Caestecker: Yeah, true.
WH: So I wanted to talk about one of the scariest moments in the movie, which I’m sure you talk about all the time: the resurrection scene with your character, Chase. Can you just walk me through it? I was reading that it was actually much more practical then people would think it to be. Also, what kind of direction was Julius giving you, because I’m sure it was very different than what most actors go through.
Iain De Caestecker: Yeah, you know what it was? Originally we were supposed to shoot it in just a couple of days, but it just kept up and there was just so much to do; it took about five days to shoot. You look in the mirror with all these prosthetics on an you’re just like, “This is crazy.” You know, in fact originally when I did my meeting for it, I had to do a Skype with Julius because he was in London and I was in America at the time. At the end of it he goes, “Hey, can you do this scene for me?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure.” So he goes, “Can you just turn into a monster for me?” So it’s just this weird thing where I’m in this room, pretending to turn into a monster, but you don’t really know what it is. Once we get to set, it’s nice because you have almost half the battle done for you. We had this really amazing team who had molded my body before it started and created this amazing concept art. They’d put it on me every morning and that really informed a lot of my decisions on how’d I move on set. But, yeah, a lot of it was practical really. I think there may be a couple of bits of CGI in there just to kind of heighten things, but really a lot of what we did on those days is in there!
WH: That’s awesome. I feel like that’s just not something you see much in horror movies anymore and in your performance, you could tell you were actually going through it, and not just pretending.
Iain De Caestecker: Thanks, man! And yeah, there is that. Whilst those things are always fun to do, they’re fun in hindsight as well. While you’re doing those things, they’re pretty grueling, but Julius is great to have around! He’s got such a high intensity; he knows what he wants, but he’s also got this great balance of things especially from my perspective. Since he knows what he wants, he knows how to get you to that place, but he’s also very accepting of everybody’s ideas. You’ll come up with an idea and he’ll just go, “Yeah, let’s try it. Let’s do it.” If it doesn’t work, he tried it, but if it does, he’ll go with it. Having him on set is great because doing something such as turning into a monster is something else; like how do you prepare for that, really?
WH: I was also thinking about how your character, Chase, is so passive and unready for the war that watching that scene isn’t just terrifying, but also quite heartbreaking.
Iain De Caestecker: I’m glad you said that. That was something we talked about before a lot. Knowing that the transformation scene was to come up I think that was the point they were trying to make. Here’s this guy who out of the group is the most of a pacifist, which is why I think he and the main character, Jovan’s (Jovan Adepo) Boyce, had that kind of a relationship. Chase was the most idealistic of them; he wasn’t really prepared.
WH: Being a war correspondent, it seemed he wasn’t in it as much for the violence as he was just to capture it.
Iain De Caestecker: Exactly; you’re exactly right. He sees the camera as his weapon and he really hasn’t prepared himself for the horrors of war. So when this switch happens and you see him turn into this other thing, that’s what we were looking for, you know? That switch to be that much more dramatic.
WH: Well we’re running out of time, so I always like to ask one last question. Being a site that focuses so heavily on horror, I like to ask all the actors, directors, writers, editors, and everyone we interview to give me one horror movie that is either your favorite or one that you think got criminally overlooked.
Iain De Caestecker: One new horror movie that I watched this year, well everyone saw it, so it wasn’t quite overlooked, was A Quiet Place. I thought it was just a really well-done movie; just so well executed. Also, I watched The Shining again, it had just come on some streaming service, I put it on just to watch a little and I got just so hypnotized by it. It’s just a – well, it’s just a perfect movie, isn’t it? I was reading up on it and learned that there are all these kind of conspiracy theories that people have made up over the years.
WH: If you haven’t yet, there’s this documentary called Room 237, it’s about all the conspiracies in The Shining and it is just a crazy movie.
Iain De Caestecker: Yes! I need to watch that one. It’s just so mysterious; I could easily watch it again tonight and it’s one of those movies where I’d find something new every time. You see, what A Quiet Place does so well – I’m just going to correlate the two since I just brought that up – it does those kind of horror basics really well. Whereas The Shining has that chilling and scary atmosphere.
WH: It’s not so much shocking as it is upsetting.
Iain De Caestecker: Exactly; it’s truly disturbing.
WH: Well Iain, it’s time to let you go, but I really appreciate you chatting.
Iain De Caestecker: Thanks! It was great talking to you, Mark. Cheers.