Director Joe Lynch Talks 'Knights of Badassdom'


The Knights of Badassdom are here to school you in LARPing. Live-Action Role Playing (or LARP) is essentially like Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft in real life. People dress up in medieval clothing and act out fantasy battles. Think Civil War reenactments meet the Renaissance Faire.

Joe Lynch's upcoming film, Knights of Badassdom focuses around a group of life-long friends who drag Joe (played by True Blood's Ryan Kwanten) out to the forest for a weekend of LARPing, thinking it will be the perfect way to get his mind off Beth, the girl who just dumped him. Things get real when one of the LARP spells turns out to be real, and raises a mess of angry demons.

We chatted with Lynch about casting and keeping it real. Plus he brought us some props to play with. Check back with us on Sunday to view the trailer.

Tell us a little about the production.

The amount of love we have gotten surrounding this film is awesome. We used North by Northwest, the same production company that John Carpenter used for The Ward. They and Spokane (where we shot) completely embraced us - as well as the LARPing community. One of the things that we strove for from the beginning was to make this an adventure movie and we want to embrace the LARPing culture. Look, you are putting modern guys in medieval clothing - you can't not have a little fun with it. But at the same time, completely embrace it by shooting it in a way that evokes a true adventure film. Much like Shaun of the Dead or An American Werewolf in London, you are taking a serious situation with humor that springs up organically. It comes from the characters. 

When word got out about the film, Rick McCoy and his partner Adrianne Grady from the LARP Alliance found out about us and we started this relationship. The entire LARPing community embraced us. When the casting people put out notices for LARPing extras, people started coming in from everywhere. Florida, Georgia, everywhere. People were taking this as a vacation. It was insane! We would tell them we just needed them for this day, but they kept coming back for more! They would show up and we would say we don't them, and they would say, "Doesn't matter. We're here." They were in full regalia. It was total madness. 

The LARPing community is very sacred about the way they are perceived. They don't want to be considered a joke, and we didn't want them to be a joke. The theme of the movie is wish fulfillment. Matt [Wall, one of the writers] and I actually went on a couple LARPs. It is amazing cardio - I recommend it highly. I am dead serious - we were wheezing and sore for days. Once you put on a helmet and armor and grab a sword, you are in goddamn Braveheart or Excalibur! That was the moment that I knew how to approach this movie: absolute respect to culture, but still have a little fun with it. If someone sees the movie and afterwards says, "I wanna LARP!" then we have done our jobs.

Everyone wanted to know how we could make the film better, faster, more authentic. Rick and Adrianne were actually on set for the duration of shooting, and served as our technical advisors. It was great having them there, but sometimes they would say something like, "Actually, that axe would only be used at a German LARP." I had to make a decision, and sometimes I would let it go because that axe looked so cool!

How many monsters do you have?

I'm not giving that away! I'll give you a ballpark: under ten. One of the things that was exciting to me, reading the script, was that there were monsters in it! The script starts out very realistic, very grounded. It's a grounded comedy about guys at a crossroad in their lives. But by about page 30 or 40, it's like, "Monsters! Sweet!" Then it becomes, "Monsters! Shit..." You can either go practical or CG. We all grew up on practical effects, like Rick Baker. We knew we wanted to go old-school with this. Guillermo Del Toro actually called Spectral Motion on our behalf. They read the script and were so in. Our passion for the project fueled their fire. They also took care of all the gore effect. 

How much blood was there?

Something like 425 gallons. There was one night where we had an absolute massacre on the playing field. But that's my directorial style, keeping a bucket of blood by my chair and just flicking more on a scene. There couldn't have been more blood. It was a nice pastiche of blood and body parts.

Did you have to do much self-censoring on-set, since you are - presumably - trying to reach a wider audience?

We approached this not as a horror movie, but an adventure film. You have thrills and chills and laughs and drama. Adventure films, to me, are the ultimate mashup: you can have bloody battle scenes, scary wizard scenes, comedy scenes. You can have fun, but there are stakes involved. When shit gets real, it gets real. People die. We want to make you feel.

Can you talk about the casting for the film?

We could have cast this with 20-year-olds, CW fresh faces, shit like that. We are all in the same age range, and we all saw the script as more about what happens when the 20s are over and you are thinking "Where am I in my life?" This is, in a way, an origin story for a lot of these guys. It's more than just going out there with swords and hitting shit. You see these guys evolve.

Peter Dinklage was one of the first actors attached. Originally, his role was written for a very large Asian guy. His character's name is Hung. And now the connotation with Dinklage is completely different. It just clicked. He brings such a gravitas to a role, and it was a no-brainer. It's a domino effect. When one actor signs on, they all jump aboard. When we met with Steve Zahn, I was all ready for a hard pitch, but when we sat down with him, he immediately said, "I'm in! Let's do this! I get to be a wizard!"

How deeply were the technical advisors involved? Did they give the actors LARP training?

The first thing the actors said when they rolled in to town was, "When are we LARPing?" Adrianne and Rick were very instrumental, right from the beginning. In the LARPing community, there are different rules for different guilds. The rules in Knights of Badassdom are an amalgamation of the rules in lots of different guilds. They just wanted to make sure were weren't doing anything too "out of game." 

One of the first training days, Adrianne and Rick went over LARP points on the body, slavishly going over what you can and cannot do in a LARP. It felt like gym class, cause then everyone went off freeform. Pete Dinklage schooled everybody. I don't know if it is purely because he came to us straight from Narnia and Game of Thrones, but he was like the last man standing. It was crazy. Steve Zahn really wanted to make sure he was playing his wizard accurately. He wanted to know if he was using the right spells, would a wizard do this. Danny Pudi plays a cleric, and he wanted to make sure everything he was doing was true to form. Ryan Kwanten's character was kind of us. His biggest technical question was, "What kind of metal do I need to listen to?" Everyone was really having fun with their roles. When else do you get to speak a modern dialect, but be dressed in armor and medieval clothing? I was wearing chainmail half the time! It was medieval summer camp! 

How much of the movie did you storyboard?

A lot. Right from the beginning. Time is money and every second counts. To be able to show the DP, the stunts team, the whole crew what would be shot - it was freeing for them. It is so much easier than just having a shot list. 

How many of the effects were practical, and how many were CG?

We tried to do everything practically - or as much as possible. The most CG that you will see in the film is actually erasing stuff. One of the hardest things that we tried to do practically that just didn't work was making the gem on the spellbook glow. So that one, it was nice to have total control in post. The beauty of modern technology is that, if you can erase something, it still comes across as sleight-of-hand. The more of the monsters we could have on set, the happier the actors were because they aren't just looking at a tennis ball. Then we could go back and erase a wire or a rig.