BIGASSSPIDERGRUNBOYAR1To mark the home entertainment release (or perhaps we should say potential invasion of your Yuletide homes) of Big Ass Spider, HeyUGuys caught up with insect fighting duo Greg Grunberg and Lombardo Boyar.

We spoke about the advantages of low budget films, a change in name from ‘Mega’ to ‘Big Ass’, throwing itself back to past films of a similar ilk, offering the audience a good fun ride for which Greg’s sons gave it the thumbs up, and emergency advice on how to tackle a Big Ass Spider.

How did you become involved in the project?

Lombardo Boyar: Greg Grunberg called me one afternoon. I get this call from Greg saying, “Hey man, I’m sitting here with this director Mike Mendez, and I’m doing this crazy spider movie and I want you to be in it with me.” He’s so excited I’m like, “Slow down, slow down.” Then we actually met, and I actually tried to get Greg to get me an offer first, and he ended up telling Mike that he only wanted to work with me, and so they gave me the part. Mike Mendez’s only question was, “Does he have a moustache?” [Laughs] I did happen to have a moustache at the time so it worked out great.

Greg Grunberg: I was approached by Epic Pictures. They said they had something really interesting and super low budget. When you hear seven hundred effects shots and super low budget that’s a red flag right there. It was something that I was a little wary of, however I read the script and it was great. I could see that this was not taking itself too seriously. It was called Mega Spider at that time, and I knew that if I was involved I wanted to possibly produce. Also I would want to change it up and do something that wasn’t your typical sci-fi movie, because it would just get lumped in with all these others. The Sci-fi channel does so many movies, and so I said, “We’ve got to use humour as much as we can.” The script already had some humour and when I met with the director Mike Mendez, he was immediately on the same page as me. He told me, “Look, the effects house that we have are great, but they are looking for a break.” He showed me some shots he had on his iphone that blew me away. “WOW! This is campy and fun and it still looks great!” Then we started talking about the script and we agreed on a lot of stuff, and I brought in Lombardo who I thought would be great to play the security guard with me. It was like magic. It was so much fun working together.

Is there an advantage to doing a film like Big Ass Spider low budget?

LB: One of the funny stories was on my first day I was going to set and they were trying to tell me how to get to downtown. “When you get downtown you are going to see all these big trailers and all of these cranes. Go past that. That’s the Dark Knight Rises.” [Laughs] “If you go past that you’ll see this one little truck; that’s our base camp.” There are advantages to low budget definitely. We get to do what we want, and there are no big executives telling you what to do, what they want and what you can’t do. So in that sense it was a big advantage, because we got to improvise and to play a lot and Mike Mendez was great. Sometimes it is good to have one or two takes on things, because we tend to over think stuff and it just flowed. We shot it in seventeen days and we are pretty proud of this little movie that’s getting big assed.

GG: For sure. I think any film where you have a singular vision, where the filmmaker has the completed film in their head and he doesn’t have too many other hands if any deciding what he can and can’t do. That’s the best situation, and where the limitation is all in his imagination. If you look at some of the best filmmakers we have, their first films in my mind are always their best. As soon as the budgets go up, it’s never quite that same passionate vision that you see. I am always in favour of doing something interesting. This Underdogs film I am doing right now; it’s the same thing. It’s got a very interesting twist to the film. Mike Mendez knows how to bring in a budget like that, and knows how to make a real movie, and Shaked and Patrick are just passionate about delivering good movies and trying to get them out there and building their company and this was an opportunity for them to really have a cult classic. They gave Mike the free reign to go here, have at it. Clare Kramer, Ray Wise, and everybody who’s in the film felt the same way. Let’s get together and trust… Look a lot of the time I’m sitting there working and I’m not looking at anything, and I have to imagine the spider is this big or this small, and if you don’t trust your director you have nothing. We all gave everything we had, and we trusted in what was in Mikes head, and he really delivered.

It was probably for the best that the name of the movie was changed, because Big Ass Spider captures the comedic nature of the film much more effectively that Mega Spider.

LB: Oh definitely. As soon as we signed on, the first thing Greg and I were telling them was, “We’ve got to change the name of this frickin’ movie.” When you hear Mega Spider you just think oh it’s another sci-fi movie. Not that those aren’t great, but it discredits our movie a little bit, because our movie feels a little bit like a throwback. I think Big Ass Spider lets you know exactly what you are getting into. It’s a fun horror-comedy that shouldn’t be taken seriously, and it feels like an older kind of seventies film.

GG: It says right up front that you know what you are in for. There’s something off here; there’s something funny, and also that we are not taking ourselves too seriously. Also with Sharknado it’s a good time to do a film like this, and everyone’s got their own opinion, but I think it’s a real movie. Is it the best movie in the world? No! Is it a great time? Yeah. It’s a great ride and you know right away with Big Assed Spider that this is going to be something fun, funny and I just think it surprises you from there.

Big Ass Spider is a film that looks back to the past, perhaps to the 1950’s sci-fi horror, but has its own identity and is more of an action, sci-fi comedy as opposed to sci-fi-horror.

LB: Yeah exactly, and I think so too. A couple of people have mentioned Ghostbusters which I kind of see a little bit, but I think that’s all Greg because he was so great with his character. He loves his job and he’s a super exterminator, and so he’s also got this John Goodman thing going on from Arachnophobia in that he’s really serious about his job. But one of the funniest things I heard was that somebody said it’s kind of “Cheech and Costello” [laughs] which I thought was hilarious. “Cheech and Costello fight the big spider.” That’s been my favourite so far. It’s turned into more of an action-comedy, duo comedy, and again what you like is that these two are just blue collar heroes that end up saving the day. We comment on how silly the movie is, and we kind of speak for the audience, and so I think that helps it a lot.

GG: It’s true and Mike was really adamant about hitting all of those important beats that those kinds of movies tend to hit. There was kind of a WHAMO-O charge that goes off when you look on the wall and you say okay, “We’ve got this, and in two minutes we’ve got to have a joke; we’ve got to have something big here.” In the editing room he really crafted it well but it’s pretty much the way we shot it. Mike is also a big fan and friend of Lloyd Kaufman. Those movies that you spoke of, Lloyd through Troma is the king of creating those types of movies on that budget. Sometimes they are so bad its good, and sometimes it’s actually good. That’s what I think Big Ass Spider is – it’s a good movie that keeps you entertained the whole way. My kids, I have three boys who are ten, fourteen and seventeen and they love the movie. They are quoting me and Jose. The moments in which they are supposed to be scared, my ten year old couldn’t watch. Even when it was a small spider, the size of a water melon or smaller even, he was actually scared. That was all digital. We used one practical spider obviously but he was scared, and then the rest of the movie he was laughing his head off. So it really did what we set out to do.


How important is it to not have unrealistic expectations with films like this? Because if you walk in expecting a good fun ride, then you are likely to have the time of your life.

LB: If you wanted to rip the movie apart you definitely could. Just ask the New York Times [Laughs]. But yeah that’s what the New York Times is. They are there in a drama and theatre town, and they take everything a little too seriously, and it’s not that type of movie at all.

GG: I could not agree more, but I am also not a fan of lowering expectations. It’s a fine line, but you’re right. Also by the way, going into making the film, we all knew what we were making here, and I’ve been on sets where you hear the director go, “Cut that was good enough let’s move on.” Like whoa, whoa good job? What are you talking about? That’s crazy. It’s a little out of focus and we didn’t exactly say the lines right… that wasn’t perfect!

big-ass-spiderWhy can’t film just be fun? We sometimes take it so seriously, and we should be able to kick back and just have fun. Cinema shouldn’t always be serious, reflecting on the human condition and philosophical issues.

LB: Yeah I think people tend to take movies a little seriously. I got into this business because I love movies, and growing up that was my escape. I would go to the movies just to enjoy the ride, to see where these people on the screen would take me and not worry about my life for a little while. I think that’s what you have got to remember. Remember why you love movies and go there to root for the movie rather than to assassinate the movie. [Laughs]

GG: It starts with a good script and again one singular vision where somebody has to go I know exactly… This is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes people fall into it and it’s very rare, but I have been in the situation where I’m in the middle of shooting and I’m like “Uh-oh, we don’t have anybody, and this ship is sailing without anybody steering it.” But I have been fortunate enough on this one with Mike. It is interesting because while we improvised ninety per cent of the movie we did hit the script, but we also went off to create more character moments. If everybody trusts each other and that is what it should be – a good collaborative film process that becomes better with the director and the actors. Everybody adds to it: the make-up, the wardrobe; everybody adds an element that brings it more to life, and makes it even more interesting and entertaining. That’s what happened on this film. I’m so proud of it, and it could have easily gone the way of these other low budget sci-fi movies. It’s definitely got a following.

Were there moments when you had to be cautious to treat the material seriously, to step away from the comedy to ensure the audience didn’t get the sense that there was a lack of respect to the material?

LB: Oh yeah, definitely. Greg and I were really good about watching each other, and we would come up with things, and some things worked and some things didn’t. Of course my thing was to go to the comedy, but like you said, you have to remember what the story is, and move it forward. So a lot of stuff didn’t work, and a lot of stuff isn’t in the film because you have to keep it moving forward, keep the audience interested, and hopefully build tension.

GG: Yeah without question. There were moments when we could have made it extremely funny, and Mike was always there to tell us, “The spider could kill you right now. You should really take this seriously. This is a plot point here and let’s lay off the humour so much here, because we’ve got it in the next scene, or we’ve got it coming up.” Again it was Mike, and by the way it was also a choice in the editing room. We would get something as written, then we would get something improved and even funnier, and we would just see how the tone and the flow of the film went. If you have a crew that can handle that; actors that can handle that, who can do it both ways because you only get one or two takes for each try. You don’t really have time to do it ten or fifteen times like you do on something else. So we just had people who were ready to go and play, and he picked the best options. A lot of times I’ll see a film or I see something that I’ve done and that’s the take they used?” You know it’s like urgh, I’m disappointed. With this, it was that singular vision that I’m talking about that Mike had. It really was consistent with what I envisioned almost up to eighty five per cent of the time. Yes that’s what I wanted to see; that’s what I was going for. We were all on the same page.

With any film it all starts with director who sets the tone and guides the entire production. Any final words for maestro Mike Mendez.

LB: The funny thing with Mike is that he does it in such a nice, polite way. He just knows what he wants and I’ve never seen a more relaxed director on the set. He’s very chilled. He’s lived this movie for a while and he knew what he was doing. We had some days where Greg and I would be looking at each other saying, “Oh man, are we really doing this? Is this going to work?” But mike knew exactly what he was doing, and I think it shows in the movie, and especially with what he had to work with. I mean the film was made on a low budget and that’s what I’m most proud of. What we made it for, the amount of days we shot it in, and what we had to work with, it’s pretty amazing.

GG: I mean he was everything. This was truly Mike’s project. I’m lucky that he trusted me, that he was so collaborative and I proudly take a lot of the credit for the humour, but it’s Mike. It really comes down at the end of the day to the director. He shoots what he needs and what he wants, and he shot this like an editor; from an editor’s point of view. He didn’t shoot more than he needed, and he knew exactly what he needed and he didn’t waste time. So we spent the time that we needed on the important things and it shows. He’s really such a film geek and a fan of this genre. I can’t say enough about Mike, and it really comes down to him and the great job he did.

So finally, if anybody does wake up to find their village, town, city or island overrun by a Big Ass Spider, what advice would you offer them?

LB: Call Jose and Alex. We’ll be there right away man to take care of it.

GG: Call Lombardo. That’s what I’d tell them. Don’t call me, I hate spiders. I just hate them! I hate them! He says it, and I’ve heard it in interviews that if he catches a spider inside his house he kills it. If he sees a spider outside his house, it can run free and do whatever it wants. But this was the right film and this was the right insect to start with. I’m hoping to get to do a series of these movies with a cockroach or whatever. It was fun and it lends itself to … You can’t control any other kind of an animal that you can communicate with. Spiders, insects, ants, these are all types of antagonists you really can’t empathise with, and you cannot communicate with. So they are wild cards and they’ll do anything. Don’t call me if you village gets inundated with… Call Alex Mathis; he’s in the business.

Big Ass Spider is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.