It feels like we have been hearing about Knights of Badassdom forever. The action / horror / fantasy / comedy from director Joe Lynch (Holliston) is due out this summer. The film stars a top-notch roster of genre favorites like Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), and Summer Glau (Firefly), a group of LARPers (live-action role playing) who discover that monsters and demons are real - and they're hungry. Newcomer Brett Gipson will surely join the ranks of his costars when Knights of Badassdom hits theaters. We grabbed him while he was still taking our calls to tell us about the film.
Tell me about your role in Knights of Badassdom.
Essentially, it's a group of live-action role players - like Dungeons and Dragons on steroids. I play Gunther the Mighty. I'm the viking of the group. To everyone else - Ryan Kwanten, Danny Pudi, Steve Zahn, Summer Glau - this is just a game to them. But for me, it is 100% real. I never break character, even when things are going horribly wrong, I am 100% in it. It was a lot of fun for me to dive into this crazy world of knights and wizards and dragons, and allowed myself to accept everything as a reality.
What kind of "special powers" does a viking have?
[Laughs] Insanity and strength!
That's a deadly combo right there!
Exactly! Everyone else has daggers or lightning bolts or stuff like that. The sword that I am equipped with is an almost seven-foot-long dragon slaying sword. It's bigger than my body. The guy that was doing all our LARP training suggested I use it with two hands, but I was like, "No, character choice." I'm so mighty and arrogant that I decide I am going to use one hand most of the time.
Did you injure yourself?
I did a little bit, a couple of times. I did a lot of my own stunts and things got a little bit rougher... I just got really into it. There's one scene where I get hurled off a moving truck and I fall about four and a half feet on to my chest. I did that and everyone in video village was like, "That was amazing! Um... are you okay?" I'm just like, "Yeah, I'm good, I'm good." The next day I woke up and thought, "Oh, this is why they have stunt men."
Injuries aside, it sounds like it was really fun. I spoke to Joe Lynch about it a few months ago and he described the shoot as "summer camp with chain mail."
It was! We were shooting up in Spokane Washington, and we were there for seven weeks. It was all of us in the forest, mostly night shoots, running around with chain mail and armor and bows and arrows and swords and getting to play for seven weeks straight. It was the coolest - and nerdiest - summer camp, all at the same time.
Had you heard of LARPing before this project?
I had heard a little bit about it. There's a documentary called Monster Camp that is all about LARPing and the LARP lifestyle. A buddy of mine told me I should check it out. But I never did. I wound up getting thrown into this world and discovered it was a whole culture. We learned a lot. We had 180 LARPing extras that came from all across the country, teaching us how to make chain mail, the proper way to cast spells... they are 100% committed to this. Some people will spend thousands of dollars on their character. It's amazing.
The easy thing would be to approach LARPing as a joke; something to make fun of. Did that happen at all? Did you want to make fun of them?
Not at all. This movie absolutely glorifies [LARPing]. Essentially it is Ryan Kwanten's character that gets broken up with, and his nerdy buddies - Dinklage and Steve Zahn - want him to go LARPing. He is hemming and hawing because he is the "cool guy" in the group, so they end up "kidnapping" him and taking him into this LARPing world. He sees there is something to this, something fun and innocent, where you can actually become who you want to be. So we definitely steer clear of making fun of anything.
We had a group there called LARP Alliance, and we referenced them for everything. We wanted to make sure everything was 100% real, 100% legit. We didn't want anyone making fun of us for making fun of them. It's all real.
Was the LARPing Alliance helpful? Did they approach this warily?
They were 100% helpful. Joe Lynch, and all the producers, went to them and laid it all out: we're making this horror / comedy / adventure film and we want to give credence to everything you are doing, and they were totally on board. They came in, they were manufacturing our weapons, they were like our own little armory. We would ask for an axe, and they would say, "What kind of axe do you need? Double handed? Double bladed? What do you need?" I wouldn't know, so they would whip up three or four different axes that all looked 100% real. It was amazing what these guys could do.
Joe Lynch is known for using copious amounts of blood, and crazy monsters. How crazy did he get for this one?
[Laughs] Um...a ton of blood. It was awesome. They had these things we called gak guns. Essentially they just filled it full of body parts and blood and heads. In some of the huge scenes there was just gore flying everywhere. It was amazing. As far as the monsters go, they are keeping that super hush-hush. But it's going to blow some minds.
Not only were you working with some great actors, you were working with a lot of genre heavy-hitters. Was it intimidating at all? Was there any hazing?
I came in as the "newcomer." The first day on set, I'm sitting across from Steve Zahn, from Peter Dinklage, across from all these huge names, but I was in character. I just saw them as the Mage or the Cleric or whatever. Strangely enough, I've never seen True Blood or Firefly.
Wow. And they still let you be in the movie?
[Laughs] I know! But it really helped me because I just saw them as good actors who were fun to work with. My brother is a huge, huge nerd and a big gamer, so when I told him who I was working with, he was like "Holy shit, Stackhouse? You're working with Jason Stackhouse?" Then when I told him about Summer Glau, he just lost it. So I knew they had a lot of clout but as an actor, I just walked in and saw them as my colleagues. For me, it was pretty easy.
Was there a lot of testosterone on set?
There was! One of our first major conflict scenes, between Ryan Kwanten and I, both of us were alpha males and neither of us were going to back down. We got into our own little LARPing pissing contest, essentially. After a few days of that, Kwanten and I bonded. Our styles are very similar, our energy is very similar.
You mentioned that you did a lot of your own stunts. What was fun, challenging, terrifying about that?
For me, it was all fun. Under the guidance of Joe Lynch, who has so much energy, he gets you to want to do things that will hurt! I found it awesome. It was freeing and liberating to take leaps, to take part in sword fights, to wield eight foot axes... just awesome.
Was there a favorite stunt you did?
I think it was the truck fall. There was this one scene where I run up to fight and I just get thrown off the bed of a truck. I got to watch the footage of it. My face bounced three or four times in the dust, and my legs scorpioned up behind me. I had no idea that happened - I was just so in the moment. But everyone came around me asking if I was ok, if I could do another take.
Are you doing Comic Con this year?
We did it last year, when we released the trailer. It was in Hall H, and we had way more of a turnout than we possibly could have imagined. I think it seats 4,500 or 5,000, something like that, and they opened it up to standing room as well, so there were like 8,000 people in there for the trailer and the Q&A. I don't know if we are doing it again this year. That was my first Comic Con experience, so it was insane. Walking around with my costars, I realized they were really popular around there.