The new disaster movie Into the Storm tells the story of a massive EF5 tornado, with winds of more than 200 miles an hour, which strikes the city of Silverton. The drama is unfolds through the eyes and lenses of a professional storm chasing team, including Pete (Matt Walsh, Veep), Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead), Daryl (Arlen Escarpeta, Final Destination 5) and Jacob (Jeremy Sumptner, Friday Night Lights), and a father, Gary (Richard Armitage, The Hobbit) his two sons, Donnie (Max Deacon, Hatfields & McCoys) and Trey (Nathan Kress, iCarly) and their school friend, Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey, Where the Devil Hides).
I spoke with them at the press day for the movie, which opens on August 8th, 2014.
What was it that interested you in doing a disaster movie?
Matt: I always wanted to do an action movie, so I was excited to get into a Titus-type [storm chasing] vehicle and drive it around and run around with explosions, because I’m a boy at heart.
I liked the arc of Pete’s story, because he seems like such a cruel bastard in the beginning of the movie and, by the end, there’s a bit of redemption, so that was a neat thing for an actor to play.
Alycia: As a kid I was obsessed with natural disasters. Twister was such an incredible film and it really set the bar for special effects for its time.
It’s not often that you get to work on such a big budget spectacle where you’re involved with special effects, green screen and working with the elements that they provided us with.
We had 100 mile-an-hour wind fans, rain and debris thrown at us. It was an experience like nothing else I’ve ever had.
Max: I think when you’re young [you] are obsessed with unstoppable forces in nature. When you see a tornado as a kid, and you’re not really aware of the destruction that goes around it, the image itself is quite beautiful of the storm funnels.
But what I really liked about the script was it was a proper old-fashioned thrill ride of a film, but it was anchored by a very human story of survival in a small town.
Sarah, you’ve done horror in The Walking Dead. How does a disaster film mimic horror in terms of suspense? Is it the same acting experience?
Sarah: I think there is definitely a sense of the threat that comes from a weather movie like this. You can kill a zombie, you can defeat Freddy Krueger. I think in a lot of horror movies there’s antagonist that theoretically, with the proper tool, you could overcome.
You can’t stop a tornado, you can’t beat it, you can’t predict it, and so there’s an inexorable quality about that kind of fear.
But an audience only cares about the danger that the protagonists are in if they care about who those protagonists are. And they’re really only as afraid as we are, so if we invest this tornado with something real, and if we build these people into people with lives that make sense, then an audience will care.
But all the special effects in the world aren’t going to do you any good unless they’re anchored with characters that matter to people and actors who are willing to get really wet.
Max, what was it like working with Richard Armitage? You are both British, but you play Americans in this.
Max: He literally came right off The Hobbit, but he still arrived knowing everything about Gary. I knew Richard because he’s been in so much back home, and is so well thought of. He’s a big presence, he’s certainly not a dwarf, he’s 6’2″.
He comes to the set and has this deep voice, he’s an authoritative figure, but he’s this sweet man, a very kind actor, very willing to share and talk about what was working and what wasn’t. I definitely learned a lot from [working] with him.
The actors playing the storm chasers are filming everything too. Does that make the feel of acting in a movie like this different?
Sarah: What’s exciting about it is it’s almost like doing theatre, because you never know when a camera is going to pick you up, and you never know what your angle is so you’ve got to act from your head down all the way to your toes, because somebody could catch it.
The things I love about this movie is the way that it’s shot and edited, it’s very raw and so there are some very emotional scenes that play quite wide, whereas a traditional movie would punch in on close ups, what you see is everybody responding to this disaster at once. It was great to work that way and it gave us a lot of freedom.
Matt: For me it didn’t affect my performance in the way I thought about scenes. There’s truth to [it being like a stage performance] because there are moments that ended up in the movie where we were still rolling and you just let behavior happen.
I hear you kept breaking the Titus, is that true?
Matt: It basically was like the shark in Jaws. It was never working, it always broke down. Todd (Garner), our producer, put a shark sticker on the back of the vehicle, which you can actually see at some point in the movie.
I broke several windows by slamming the door too [hard]. It was leaking water on me when I was driving so it was not waterproof. There were times where it had to get towed, it wouldn’t start.
It was a source of comedy during the movie. But I did love driving that thing, it was a beast. It probably weighed ten tons with all that gear on it.
I asked Max and Alycia about their frightening scene trapped practically underwater in a paper factory (pictured below). Play the audio to listen to their reply.
I asked Sarah and Arlen Escarpeta the difference between reading a script for a disaster movie, and ‘living’ it? Click here to see their reply.
I asked Matt and Jeremy Sumpter what their hardest scene was to shoot? Click here to see their answer.