Quantcast ICONS Interview with Zachary Levi of SPIRAL with Joel David Moore

Zachary Levi!

On February 8th of 2008, the movie SPIRAL hits theaters for a limited theatrical run before debuting on DVD a mere two weeks later on the 19th. The project reunites HATCHET director Adam Green with actor Joel David Moore (also the co-writer of SPIRAL). This month, we got to speak to one of the stars of SPIRAL Zachary Levi (TV's CHUCK). His buddy Joel Moore sat in as a guest ICONS contributor to help us interview his friend. Below are the unedited results of that interview! - By Robg., Joel David Moore - 2/08

Hello, Zac and Joel!

: Hey Rob! This is Zac’s voice and obviously the other voice is Joel’s voice. (Laughs)

Joel: (in cracking teenager voice) I plan on sounding like a teenager the whole time. Can you hear the difference? (Laughs)

(Laughs) Well, Zac, I saw SPIRAL a couple of months ago with Adam Green, and I already spoke to Joel in September for HATCHET. I don’t know if you guys know this, but I was asked to interview you both because you guys are being referred to as “the next Ben Affleck and Matt Damon ”.

Zac: Well, we like that!
(Laughs) So again, I spoke with Joel about SPIRAL a few months ago, so I thought it’d be fun if Joel helped me interview you this month.

Joel: I think that that’d be great! And Zac, just to let you know Icons Of Fright put SPIRAL in their TOP LISTS for the year.

Zac: Oh, wow thank you very much, Rob! That’s fantastic!
Yeah, yeah. I loved it. I told Joel before, I picked both HATCHET and SPIRAL for my top list. I love HATCHET, but it seems like for everyone involved SPIRAL is the better movie, in terms of Adam’s directing, Joel as an actor or even Will Barratt as a cinematographer, because he did an amazing job. On all counts, it’s just a great movie, and great work from all of you.
Joel: We’re really happy with the way that it turned out, and we’re so happy to be able to have Adam and Will involved in the process. They were a big part of the movie. There was no other way to do it.

Joel, you’ve known Zac for a while before SPIRAL, so how’d you guys first meet?

Joel: Well, Zac and I met in LA about 5 years ago and just really hit it off and we’ve been best friends ever since. We’ve always looked for something we could do together, and we had talked about forming a production company very early on. Years and years before we actually formed the company. And so, after making SPIRAL, we decided that we were going to start a company and since then we’ve gone on to produce a couple of features and have been very excited about the future prospects of the company.

How’d Zac become a part of SPIRAL? I know you wrote the movie, Joel, so did you have him in mind for the character of Berkeley?

Joel: We wrote the movie for him. I mean, we wrote the movie for us. And I think that shows in the chemistry between the characters, even though we’re not playing ourselves. You can really see that there’s a lot of chemistry between us just because of our relationship off screen and I think that that bleeds through to these characters, even in the awkward situations that they’re in. Mason and Berkeley have an odd relationship but they’re necessary for each other. They’re people who need each other, even if it’s not in the most healthy of ways.

Zac: They’re people who need people.

It’s funny, because the last time we spoke, the way you described it is that the title SPIRAL is significant in that Mason is not only spiraling out of control, but for a part of the movie spiraling into control. And I always felt that Zac’s character was the one who kept him balanced. Zac, what’d you think of the story when you first read the script? Did you know anything about it?

Zac: I knew a little bit about it because I obviously knew that Joel and Jeremy (Boreing) were writing the script. I feel like I had maybe recognized a couple of scenes, but they were more along the lines of the earlier initial premises that they’d been kicking around. When they first handed me the script, my first reaction was “Wow”, I didn’t realize two of my best friends who I thought on a whole were very untalented actually could write a script.

Joel: (Laughs) Jerk.
Zac: (Laughs) No, it was great. It was an incredible little script. At that point, there were no plans to make the movie, as we made it. I was just kind of waiting to see what they were going to do with it. They had told me as they were writing the Berkeley character that they were drawing upon me as a muse in some ways, and I took that both as a compliment and an insult, I suppose… because Berkeley can be such a douchebag. (Laughs)
But I was excited to see what was going to pan out with it. We had a lot of irons in the fire with various scripts and script ideas. It’s interesting to watch Joel and his career, and for Joel to watch me in mine. The meetings we keep getting as the years go by and as our careers etch their way up. One week, I’d go in and have a meeting with some executive at a studio and literally either the next week or even a few days later, Joel will go in and talk to the same executive or vice versa. I remember one time, Joel went down to Fox and two days later I ended up sitting in the same office talking about the same stuff we were working on.

Joel: The other nice thing is now that we’ve had the company we’re able to take a lot of these meetings together and sort of power punch them.


Joel: Like… Thundercats. (Laughs) Wait, which was the one where they joined forces?

Zac: That was Voltron.

Joel: Yes, like Voltron. (Laughs)

One of the biggest thrills for me in the past year after seeing HATCHET and SPIRAL was to see everyone involved go on to other great projects. I remember when CHUCK premiered, I turned to my friends and said, “Hey, that’s the guy from SPIRAL!” And they’re all like, “What? What are you talking about?” I’d seen Tricia Helfer in an episode of SUPERNATURAL, same goes for Tamara Feldman (from HATCHET). It’s just great to see everyone involved in both films all over the place now.

Joel: Well, it’s great. We wrote the film for Zac, but we were hoping for Ryan Reynolds. But that didn’t work out.

Joel: And it really worked out well that CHUCK came out. And Zac was actually hoping that DJ Qualls would play the main part in SPIRAL.

Zac: (Huge laughs)

Joel: That didn’t work out either. So, his second choice was Jon Heder. Again, didn’t pan out. So, I played the part.

I see, I see. Well, I’m glad you guys ended up in those roles. Joel, is there anything that you’ve never had a chance to ask Zac that you can put him on the spot right now and ask him about? Anything, it could be personal or about working on the movie?

Joel: Yes. Why… can’t we be together, Zac?

Zac: We’ve been over this and over this. But I think he asked you do you have a question you’ve never asked me before?


Joel: Oh, oh, oh! I thought, I thought he said ask him a question that you ask him everyday.
Oh, ok.

Joel: Um, yeah. I want to know what Zac’s interpretation is of his character’s relationship with Mason? Because it’s a weird relationship, it’s really awkward and strained in many ways and there’s obviously a history between the two. I just want to hear your thoughts? Why does Berkeley feel like he has to keep Mason around him?
Zac: Well, I think the first thing is that the two characters I find to be kind of the same guy in a lot of ways. I think that they’re both isolated and Berkeley hides it better and surrounds himself with women and fake friends, whatever the case might be. We kind of discussed this as we were shooting and even while you guys were writing, it’s implied through the story that Berkeley and Mason have known each other for quite some time and this isn’t the first time that Berkeley’s had to bail Mason out.
Maybe they were childhood friends. I feel like Berkeley keeps Mason around for the same reason Mason keeps Berkeley around, which is that they are two kind of loners in their own very different ways. Berkeley kind of fashions himself a father figure for Mason is some ways, and I think it’s his way of feeling better about himself by taking care of another individual, albeit in a kind of shitty way sometimes. I feel that Jeremy and Joel did a really incredible job of creating characters that were interesting and colorful without being caricatures.
And I know that Joel and Adam (especially with Berkeley) in the first sit-down talks, when we first were reading some scenes – one of the biggest things was they didn’t want Berkeley to come off jokey in any way. They wanted the comedy to play just out of the relationship. That’s tough for me sometimes. I really like getting a laugh and making people laugh! So, that was a fun step for me and I appreciated that that’s where Joel and Adam wanted to go with the character, because that’s where I also wanted to go in the sense of my career, and not always playing some jokester.
Joel: As a director and the writer, there were certain aspects of Berkeley’s character that we wanted to come across as not a caricature. Ya know, Zac is so naturally talented as a comedian that at first, when we were going through the scenes, there was a lot of “making the joke” instead of letting the joke happen. And because it’s so natural – it was never about it being too much. It was always about letting the situation be the joke or whatever was surrounding the scene was what led to the joke. It was a very slight shift, because we’re dealing with someone who’s incredibly talented at the thing we’ve written into the script for him. There is a comedic side to Zac’s character, but it always had to be based in a reality.

Zac: Rob, do you see how we do that? You give Joel an opportunity to ask me a question, and we turn it into just a, a patting-of-the-back fest. I might as well have just played with his balls right there.

Joel: I’m actually giving him a massage right now.

(Laughs) Zac, I hope you know that every single thing you guys say is all going in this interview. Word for word. Don’t worry, all the ass kissing and patting of the backs will be in tact.

Zac: (Laughs)

Zac, let me ask you – what was it like for you in particular to work with two directors, Adam and Joel, who were both coming off of another picture together and whom already had somewhat of a working relationship together?

Zac: I thought it was fantastic! You know, for me, I love working with people that I know, and especially people that I know really well. Because when you get a job and your on-set, hours can be long, and the better communication levels are, the faster things can move. Especially if you all think alike and see things similarly. While we didn’t obviously always have that, for the most part as a collective, we all kind of saw the end results in the broader strokes. Being able to go to Portland and take on an 18 day schedule, yeah, it was a little nutty in some respects, but I knew going up there that if anyone’s going to pull it off in 18 days, it’s us, because we know each other and we know what to expect from each other.
And we bring out the best in one another. So, I thought it was great. It was truly an adventure from one end of the spectrum to the other. To all just kind of migrate north to Portland for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas and stay in this little hotel. It was like the craziest, coolest adventure, from top to bottom. And Adam Green, I was really looking forward to working with him, because of how much Joel had spoken so highly of him, and the experience he had on HATCHET. And Will Barratt as well and BJ and Lewis and Dustin, our camera guys that we brought over from HATCHET.
Joel: Adam being involved in this project was not, “I need help. I can’t handle this, let me bring on a co-director.” It was something we had talked about during HATCHET, about working on something together and he’s the first person that I called. I said, “Look, I want to do this movie and I want to play the lead, we just worked together and we worked together famously. Let’s do it again. Let’s make another movie together this year.” So it was very much two people collaborating and not one person asking another to be involved.

Right. Now, Joel, how difficult was the editing process, because if I understood correctly, the original cut of the film was a lot longer?

Joel: The movie was a lot longer, and I took the reigns on editing…

So, how difficult was SPIRAL to edit? The movie as it is feels complete, but did you have to lose anything that that you filmed that just didn’t fit in?

Joel: No. Not at all. We just trimmed a lot of fat. It’s funny, the first version of the movie was 2 hours long and we knew we had to cut a half hour out of it, so we did a bunch of stuff collaboratively, and took notes on it and decided what we were going to cut out. We ended up taking out a ton of scenes that we actually wanted in the movie. And then, I went back and trimmed the fat out of all the scenes. I was new at this as well, I had never edited a feature before. And I guess I didn’t know how much fat you can trim out of the scenes. You just take pauses here, or a beat there. And all of those pauses – if you’re taking a couple of seconds out here, a couple of seconds out there out of every scene, that adds up to minutes and minutes! The first pass, I took 10 minutes out of the movie. So, doing that, we were able to then add some of the scenes that we wanted back into the movie because of the fat that we had taken out. That process slowly allowed me to put everything that we wanted back into the movie. The scenes that didn’t make the movie didn’t have to be in the movie. We didn’t lose any part of the story. We didn’t lose any part of the relationship. It was a terrifying process. Because at the beginning, I thought we’re going to have to lose half of our movie to get this to an hour and a half. As time went on, it really opened itself up to let us put everything we needed back into the movie.

Zac, what was your most memorable aspect of making this movie? Weather it be filming a particular scene, or just a night that stood out from the 18 day shoot for you?

Zac: Um, ya know, it’s a tough question, just because I felt like so much stood out. I think anytime you go and try and pull off what we pulled off, not like we’re moving mountains. But in some ways, we’re moving little mini-mountains when you consider the budget and the time frame, and resources that – I don’t know! The one particular moment where I just stood there and was taking everything in. It was the last day of shooting and I was wrapped. We were getting these last shots, it’s a scene that’s in the beginning of the movie where Joel is walking down the street and looking into the café.
We had the rain towers set up, I’m just standing there and I was watching everybody do what they do. And aside from my executive producing role, which to me was a lot of fun, being able to take care of people and make sure everything was running as smoothly as possible. I just had a moment to stand there and take it all in. To reflect on 18 days that we had to shoot this thing. There was a blizzard day! We were shooting up on this hill, the roads were iced over and we thought “Well, I guess we’re not going to be able to make our film.” Because we didn’t have one single day to spare.
We were coming right up against the Christmas holiday. But sure enough, we got this incredible snow day right on our day off and then it all melted away, and we continued uninterrupted. I felt providence looking over us. Just thinking, “Wow, we were meant to come out here and do this, for whatever reason.” Weather it’s for some young kid who gets to see this in some theater and watches it and goes “Why don’t they make movies like this anymore?” Or for millions of people who hopefully go and rent it on DVD and say “Wow, these guys really are the new Luke & Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson, in Jeremy and Joel’s respect. For being our age, and at this point in our careers, I feel we pulled off something that few people actually pull off. A lot of people talk about it! Even we talked about it for a long time and didn’t end up doing anything until Joel had some epiphany while taking a crap and that led us to Portland!

Joel: It really was interesting the way we put this movie together. It’s really hard to put a movie together. Everything we’ve produced since has been put together outside of us and we’ve come on in some fashion beyond the funding of the film. We put this movie together piece by piece. Small chunk of the budget by small chunk of the budget. And we went to family and friends and relationships with people that we knew that were new to financing films. We said, “Look. Just give us a shot. Let us prove to you we can make a good movie.” And, we didn’t know if we were going to make a good movie! (Laughs)
You were hoping!

Joel: Because we were so attached to it, we actually didn’t know if it was a good movie until other people saw it and we thankfully weren’t wrong when we were finished with the movie and got the final cut and sent it out there. We got into the festival that we wanted to get into, the Santa Barbara Film Festival and ended up winning one of the top 3 awards at the festival.
The Gold Vision award which was the perfect award for us, because it encompasses everything about the film. The award was for outstanding achievement and visual work, and that was what we were trying to do. The style we put into it, and the creative aspects we put into it was the most important thing. We didn’t want it to feel like a “whatever” movie that was just going to go straight to DVD and just be what it is.

Joel, I don’t mean to keep harping on this, but most people are familiar with your work in comedies (DODGEBALL, GRANDMA’S BOY). I can’t wait for people to see your performance in SPIRAL, because it’s so different from everything you’ve done and it’s fantastic. I just wanted to know if you personally have a favorite scene or a piece of work from SPIRAL that you’re most proud of?

Joel: Um… I’m very proud of the piece as a whole. To deconstruct it is tough! I think that one of my favorite moments in the movie is the long, steady-cam shot that Adam and I wrote on the fly, because we were trying to figure out how to shoot the scene. The camera is a character in this movie. And it’s something that we knew from the very beginning. We had written our shot list and developed the style of the movie to show that the camera is almost an on-looker looking at this crazy man’s life and the experiences that happen to him.
And one of my favorite moments in terms of the camera being it’s own character, is when after Amber walks Mason home, Mason walks up into his apartment and is freaking out, and there’s one long 4 minute camera move of him coming through the apartment, looking out the window to see her, backing up to look at something that people don’t know what it is. And he sort of freaks out watching this. The camera turns and reveals that he’s looking at these paintings of another woman. This woman that he was looking at, the waitress in the beginning of the movie. And I think that tells so much about this movie, because it doesn’t cut.
It’s an awkward feeling. It’s like watching the BBC Office. You just get that uncomfortable feeling because there is no cut, and you’re watching and following and he goes to the window, and he looks up and is staring at something and you don’t know what it is! Finally it turns to reveal and it continues on him moving into the bathroom. And it’s just this moment that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. We deliberately made a movie that is slower in pacing because that’s how it was written. That’s the movie we wrote! To go against that wouldn’t have made sense.
That sticks out to me as a moment that I’m proud of as a director. We wrote this long shot list, and a lot of times you get into making the movie, you can’t use your shot list. We ended up using a lot of our shot list, and that was just a moment that we had to figure out because of the setting of the loft -  how do we get the whole shot off? It ended up being a very cinematic move.

Awesome. Well my last question for both of you and honestly the main reason I wanted to talk to you both was to talk about THE TIFFANY PROBLEM. Any comments on this years Halloween short?

Joel: (Laughs) Adam (Green) and I talked about doing a short this year and we were on a plane, and he’s like I got this idea about this guy who can’t give up trick or treating on Halloween! We sort of answered back and forth about what jokes we could throw in and we figured out about 700 jokes and we had to get that down to however many made the cut. (Laughs)

Well, I know it’s a tradition for Adam Green to do an annual Halloween short film.

Joel: Zac literally just got off set shooting CHUCK, shot his scene and had no clue what the hell was going on! (Laughs) We put a wig on him, told him to wear these pink pj’s, walk in, point to a bunch of people, look at her, and walk out. And he just made part of that up. We gave him the gist of what was going on, but he made a lot of that up. A lot of what we did on that short, we just kind of made up on the fly. We did it in 6 hours, the whole thing and it was a couple of days before I was leaving to New Zealand to shoot the rest of AVATAR, so it was pretty fun. Zac was a sport. He was probably delusional after shooting a 14 hour day having no clue what we did. He probably woke up the next morning thinking, “Did I just shoot a short film with Adam and Joel? What happened?” (Laughs)

Zac, do you remember wearing the wig and dress?

Zac: Wait, what film is this?

Joel: Ha! It’s this short film, THE TIFFANY PROBLEM. You were in it.

Zac: Oh, I was? (Laughs)

Yeah! It’s on You Tube, we’ll send it to you.

Joel: (Laughs) Yeah, we’ll send it to you.


Thank you so much to both of you for your time, I really appreciate it.

Zac: Absolutely.

I’m really looking forward to the SPIRAL DVD, and I hope I get to catch it on its limited theatrical run here in NY.

Joel: We’re really proud of this project and we can’t wait for people to see it. We really appreciate your support of this and HATCHET. I’m as much a part of HATCHET as I am of SPIRAL and you guys have been big supporters of both and that means a lot to us.

Zac, it was a pleasure to talk to you as well. I’m a big fan of CHUCK. And again, I’ve seen you guys in these movies with Adam last year, and it’s great to see you continue on all these great projects – Zac with CHUCK, and Joel with James Cameron ’s new movie, AVATAR. I’m happy for both of you!

Zac: Much appreciated.

SPIRAL Trailer!

Other SPIRAL interviews:
HATCHET interviews:

Official SPIRAL website: www.SpiralTheMovie.com
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