On the set of Mega Spider, actor Greg Grunberg was more enthralled with my audio recorder than anything else. "I like your World War One tape recorder thing. This is very cool." "It's like we're doing a 1920s radio show for Mega Spider!" director Mike Mendez chimed in. Once they finally got over my enormous but assuredly high-tech MP3 recorder, we got down to business. Grunberg and Lombardo Boyar play exterminators who have to kill... well, a mega spider. This isn't rocket science folks; it's a big-ass monster movie. During crew lunch, Grunberg, Mendez, Boyar and I spoke about spiders, morgues, and gay porn.
How did you get suckered in-- I mean, get involved in this project?
GG: Suckered in! How did this happen? I actually called [Mike Mendez] because the script was really good. Often, I get offered these movies because I was on Heroes. First of all, to get offered the lead, which is such a great part, that intrigued me and I wanted to do it. My character, Alex Mathis, is a hero. He walks in and he is the smartest guy and the dumbest guy in the room, which I love. I wanted to know that I was in good hands with this [project]. I called Darren Lynn Bousman and asked him about them. He said he worked with the producers before and loves them, and he knew Mike Mendez and said that he is not only competent but incredible with the genre and with this level of film. Darren is apparently a producer on this because he was speaking like he was getting a cut of the film! Darren and I have a project we are working on together, so it was a no-brainer.
So we got together, and I didn't want to talk to Mike about anything other than the CGI aspects of this. The FX play a huge part. This is a character movie, first-and-foremost. Yes, it's a mega spider - a huge, big-ass spider. The big-ass spider is going to be the big-ass spider. Hopefully it will look great! But if it doesn't, it's still a character movie. You still want to sit next to these characters on this journey. [Mike and I] spent about 30 seconds [together]. We fell in love immediately - over our love of meat!
Wow, so between your love, your love of meat... that casting couch you alluded to earlier...
You didn't know this was gay porn? It's a gay snuff movie.
MM: This is Greg's last interview!
GG: This movie should be titled "The Bear and the Burrito."
Anyway, so out of Mike's pocket, he pulled out his iPhone and showed me one of the FX shots that Asif [Iqbal] is working on. They are incredible! It's this company from Pakistan and they are amazing. They are going to be the next huge FX house in Hollywood, but they need their foot in the door. I was blown away. So I figured they had [the FX] area covered, and I knew I could deliver. And then I desperately pushed [on to Mike] my really good friend, who I've worked with before, Lombardo Boyar. He's one of the best actors I know. He can do everything. He's usually the Hispanic heavy character. He can do serious drama, stuff that has comedy to it, but he was also in Happy Feet. He can literally hang on par with Hank Azaria and Robin Williams. He still hasn't cracked to where people know who he is. We have such a shorthand together that I urged Mike to bring him on. He did his due diligence but trusted me - and that was huge for me. It has worked out beautifully.
MM: The best decision I ever made, honestly!
GG: The script is very tight, but in discovering these characters, Mike has been really open to... we're not changing these characters, just making them more "us."
[At this point, the now-legendary Lombardo Boyar joins in our conversation, and the last shred of decorum left the room].
MM: What drew you to Mega Spider?
LB: My friend, Greg Grunberg, has known me for a long time and wanted me to do it. So he told Mike Mendez and Mike said, "Hell no! I don't know that guy!"
MM: Fuck that guy! What's Cheech Marin doing?
GG: That was the weirdest thing: the only prerequisite was that Lombardo have a mustache. I'm like, "He's a great actor, a great comedian, he can do it all, Mike!" Mike was like, "Yeah yeah. Does he have a mustache?"
MM: And he did!
Well mustaches are very important for gay porn.
GG: Literally! Those were his questions: does he have coveralls, and does he have a mustache.
So are these costumes from your personal collection?
GG: No, but I have to say I have been a long-standing Western Exterminator customer. No, seriously. They're not a national company, they are only in three or four states, and they have been around forever. I've always been enamored by this little character they have, the little man with the hammer [Western Exterminator's logo]. I didn't do a ride-along cause they don't do that, but I actually called my exterminator, Travis, over to the house, and he showed me everything! I wasn't able to actually hold anything or spray anything but I faked it pretty good.
Have you had any difficulties working against a creature that, essentially, isn't there?
GG: I did it for nine months on The Hollow Man. Even though Kevin [Bacon] was there, Kevin was green, and there were a lot of times when Kevin wasn't there - I had to pretend he was there because he was invisible. On Heroes we had to do that... actually, on Alias too. [To Lombardo] Have you ever done stuff like that?
LB: No. I've had to work with actors who left and I had to act with a C-stand...
GG: That's sort of the same thing! I've actually worked with actors who have given me less than an invisible spider.
LB: Exactly. Sometimes its better.
Are you disappointed that you couldn't get a real giant spider for the film?
GG: The crew has been amazing and even our practical stuff looks great. And we've shot in some interesting locations, like a haunted hospital called Linda Vista Hospital. If you look it up, it is supposed to be the most haunted spot in Los Angeles. It's located in Boyle Heights. We shot there in the boiler room, and it was dark so I had this flashlight. I roll a quarter because it is shiny and spiders like shiny. We had this fake spider and we put it behind some pipes, but even that looked great. Everybody is scared of spiders. When I tell them I am on this film... you're scared of spiders, aren't you?
LB:Yeah, I don't really like spiders.
Have you guys used any live spiders on this shoot?
GG: All effects. I had a scene where I was at this woman, Mrs. Jefferson's house, played by the amazing Lin Shaye. In the scene, I have a brown recluse on my shoulder and it bites me, so I thought on that day [it would be real]. I had a scorpion on my face in Heroes, so I figured no problem, I could do this if we have a wrangler. It used to be, on a movie, you would shy away from effect shots because it would cost too much money, but now it's like, "We need to get this shot right, so just fake it and we'll put it in later." And that's what we did [with the brown recluse]. So no, not yet. No real spiders.
LB: I don't think we will. Now we are fighting the big one.
Yeah, you guys are almost done shooting, aren't you?
GG: Yeah, but this isn't the end for Alex and Jose. This is just the beginning. We might not be called Alex and Jose. We may be called Grunny and Bardo. This is the second movie we've done together. We're starting to become the new Laurel and Hardy.
LB: Yeah, he brought me on to Group Sex, but we didn't have many scenes together in that.
GG: We are starring in this movie together! We drive this thing. And it's fun.
LB: The great thing is that it feels like a sci-fi/horror flick, then it's like, "What are these two guys doing in it?" We are like the reality of it. Everyone is talking it seriously, and we are too, but we still add comedy and [incredulity]. We are kind of going through what the audience will go through.
GG: Imagine a high-concept, relatable monster. Obviously, it is this alien spider and it grows and becomes this huge thing. But then infuse really, really funny stuff, and I think people are going to relate to it and enjoy it a lot. We're having fun doing it. And we're naked half the time, so there's that.
LB: Oh wait, they may not want to see that.
GG: Oh, that's true. We need people to go see this movie. Sorry; fully clothed! In fact, layers!
You mentioned you were working on a project with Darren Lynn Bousman.
GG: Yeah. We are just finishing the script now. It's from an idea I had. Again, it has comedy to it, and Bardo will be in that, too! Bardo will definitely be in it.
Is it horror?
GG: It's a thriller. People don't realize how funny Darren is. He is an amazing filmmaker and director, very funny, but he also knows how to bring the gruesome, so there will be a lot of gruesome stuff in it. It is a hostage situation gone terribly, terribly wrong. It has a lot of comedy, but then it is very, very dark.
What are you guys filming this afternoon?
GG: We've got a good scene coming up.
LB: Yeah, it's the action scene. We jump out of the truck, and we're looking at the big, imaginary spider.
GG: It's chasing us.
LB: Yeah, and we shoot at it.
GG: It's cool because the spider has real contempt for us.
LB: Yeah, he's been trying to kill it since it was a baby. But now [the two of us] are after it, so it's starting to take it personally.
[We are distracted by a symphony of gunshots going off at the nearby LAPD training facility]
LB: They should roll on that - might need it for the movie.
GG: But that sounds like a kid's movie. It's amazing. Real gunshots are not scary.
LB: They're not as loud as movie gunshots.
It's the same with corpses. In real life, dead bodies look... fake.
GG: Yes. I did research for this pilot down in San Diego. I went with the homicide detectives and had to go into the morgue. We were in the morgue and there were bodies everywhere. All in bags, and they just have them out. The "new morgues" don't put them in drawers, they just put them out.
Yeah! I went to the morgue here in Los Angeles and it's just a big freezer with bodies essentially stacked up. It's fascinating.
GG: It is fascinating. I saw a leg, sticking out on a table, and the foot looked fake. It's like, "Whose foot [bends] that way, and is waxy and weird?" I go over and look at it, and as I do, the M.E. shows the writers and producers something, unzips a bag - thinking it was a dog - and it was a child. I thank god I didn't see that, because those are the images you just don't need to see. He opened it up because he was talking about the fact that, in San Diego, they get a lot of whales and dolphins washing ashore, so they do everything, all in the same place. He thought it was an animal, but it was a child.
LB: Temple Grandin said, "When something dies, where does it go?" The spirit is gone, so what's left... it just looks fake. It's just laying there. I don't know if you saw any of the pictures of the quake in Japan, but you will see some of the bodies of the victims, and it looks fake because there is nothing in there.
GG: Instantly looks fake. I had to put one of my dogs down - she was really sick - and I was right there with her when they gave her the shot. She was looking up at me, and then all of a sudden... you just see it.
LB: That's why [what Temple Grandin said] is so great. I've never heard it put that way before, but yeah, it's just flesh and bone. Nothing. Anyway, good stories!
GG: Yeah, way to bring the room down!