Arriving today on Blu-ray and DVD is Adam Robitel’s Escape Room, which this writer totally dug (you can read my review here). And because I had so much fun with the film, which pits a group of strangers against a series of masochistic escape room scenarios where certain death is looming all around them, I jumped at the opportunity to speak with one of Escape Room’s co-stars, Tyler Labine, about his involvement in the project.
Labine, who is no stranger to the world of horror and science fiction cinema, discussed the initial appeal of coming on board Escape Room, how the film’s shroud of mystery only heightened his experiences while working over in South Africa, and his experiences collaborating with his fellow co-stars. Labine also discussed the long-awaited sequel to Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, which looks to be finally inching closer to becoming a reality.
I’ve been a big fan of your work for quite some time now, and while you do so many different projects across the board, I’m always excited to see you doing something in horror or sci-fi. With that in mind, what was it about Escape Room that initially got you excited to be a part of it? Was it the concept? The script? Your character?
Tyler Labine: Well, you know, we didn't see a script until we got to South Africa. So all I had to go on was the fact that I love escape rooms, myself personally. I am fascinated with them, and I think I'd even thought at one point, "Man, I should write a movie about doing these things,” and then someone did.
But it was just like that lighting in a bottle feeling when I was approached. I wanted to be a part of it, because I thought the idea could be really huge. And I thought the character was interesting, too, even if I didn't know much about him at the beginning. I think I had two scenes to put on tape beforehand, and so there was this mystique of it going into it.
And then when I got to South Africa and saw the script, I was like, "Yep, this is good—they caught the essence of what I think it is that we all liked about escape rooms. So, that’s really why I wanted to do it. And like you said, I didn't even realize this until years ago, but someone once said to me, "Oh, you always do sci-fi or genre stuff.” And that’s when I realized that I had I never really put it together that I guess I do a lot of genre stuff.
I think it's just because that's where the most interesting sort of jobs for an actor lie. The stakes are impossibly high, and I feel like there's always some sort of interesting challenge and almost cartoon-like elements to genre movies that are just really fun for actors to play with. I just naturally gravitate towards that stuff.
So, coming into this, and not really having a script ahead of time where you’re having to prepare yourself once you get to South Africa, did you feel like that really lent itself to the experiences that your character was undergoing while being in the circumstances of the story?
Tyler Labine: Yeah, and it was really cool because we all got on these planes, flying to Dubai overnight. Jay Ellis and I met each other en route to South Africa. It was very akin to that feeling where our characters all start off meeting each other in the lobby, where it feels like anything can happen. So, art was definitely imitating life in that regard.
I'm such a sucker for details in filmmaking that I really thought the production design in this movie is fantastic, where it really becomes this other character. How much does it help you guys being inside these rooms and really being put in the middle of these things? Especially the upside-down room, which I thought was one of the coolest things I've seen this year in a film.
Tyler Labine: Yeah, for sure. We started in the waiting room set and I think we were on that set for eight days. It was a beautiful set, really well-crafted, and they had rigged it so that everything actually did light up. None of that was CG; we got to react to these red lights, which actually did throw quite a bit of heat if I'm being honest. But we all were just thrust into this environment, and once we were shut in that set, it was a totally enclosed set. We were basically in a vacuum.
Then, we got to the outdoor/indoor room, with the cabin and then the snow, and there were all these amazing details. When we got to the upside-down room, it was like this progression of us not knowing what could possibly be next. Everything just kept getting crazier and crazier. And when we shot in the upside room, they had all of us hanging from these harnesses on the ceiling and you're upside down. Those floor panels actually fell out too, and we were elevated about six/seven feet in the air. It was very dangerous, but none of us cared because the environment was so amazing. We were all so ecstatic. It was like doing a completely different movie in that room.
Obviously, we had all the character development and the tension from the movie going into it, but once we got to that environment, we all knew that this room alone was going to get some serious attention.
I really enjoy the entire cast in this, and I think you can feel how you guys came together through the different environments. Can you talk about building that camaraderie on set? I'm guessing when you are in these enclosed spaces with a group of people for great lengths of time, it becomes pretty easy to build everything up between all of you.
Tyler Labine: Oh, yeah. And look, we were all coming from different places in our lives and points in our career. Things got difficult from time to time, because this film was so ambitious, but I think that strengthened the bond and the experience for everybody. Halfway through it, I feel like we were all very certain that we could rely on each other and lean on each other for almost anything. We all had each other's backs, we all went out all the time together, we all ate together, we played D&D together because Deb [Ann Woll]'s a huge dork, which I love. We were a team, we were totally a team and everybody was there for the entire run, whether you had been killed by that point or not.
It was amazing, it was an amazing experience, and you definitely carry that camaraderie through on to camera. It really showed that we relied on each other and trusted each other up there on screen. There wasn't a weak link in the group, and everybody was just so good that there were never any of those moments where I was like, “Whoa—cheesy alert!” And that's what the whole movie hinges on, is these people and their fear, and everyone did such a good job.
One really quick geeky question before we go, just because I have been waiting for years. I know they toyed with this idea after the movie came out and then we kind of haven't really heard anything. But have you ever heard any more talk about possibly revisiting Tucker & Dale? I just love that movie so much and I know so many people do, and would love more time with your characters.
Tyler Labine: Oh, yeah. There have been many iterations through the years about things that we were going to do for a sequel. There have been lots of rumors too, and there have actually been times where we were working on it actively—Alan [Tudyk], Eli [Craig], and myself—have had many meetings and we've totally hashed out an entire script, but the timing was just never right.
We actually just received some emails this week, though, from the team saying that we are now embarking on a new way to tell the story, which is looking very promising. I can't say much about it, but we are actively right now working on what I guess you could call a sequel. I wouldn't think of it in terms of a conventional film, a theatrical sequel, we're just going to be able to continue telling the story, I think. So, it's cool either way.
No one made any money during this movie, no one got rich, we were all just really proud of what we made, and it did so well and meant so much to the fans that we've always maintained that we would never do a sequel as any sort of quick cash grab. Those opportunities did actually come up a couple times and we all said no; if we ever do it, it's only ever going to be because we want to give something awesome to the fans who have made it what it is. That's the only stipulation that any of us ever had, is if we're doing it, we're doing it for the fans and it can't be anything less than. That's the bottom line, so that's why it's taken this long, but I think we are finally getting close to something.