Producer J.J. Abrams is a self-described gamer, having worked on multiple projects including the Star Trek video game and the upcoming Epic Games mobile title, SPYJiNX. His latest film, the World War II horror movie Overlord, is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. The original action-packed story sends a squad of American paratroopers into Nazi-occupied France ahead of the D-Day invasion, where they uncover a secret lab hidden beneath a church where experiments have brought the dead to life.
This may sound familiar to those who have played Wolfenstein games, but Overlord introduces an original take on this formula. And while director Julius Avery’s filmmaking both draws inspiration from that franchise, and pays tribute to video game narrative, this is a brand new adventure that’s not based on any licensed game or comic book. It’s also a must-see flick now that it’s available at home following a short theatrical release.
Ian De Caestecker plays Chase in the film, which was filmed in and around London. We caught up with the actor to talk about the movie in this exclusive interview, which covers gaming topics like Castle Wolfenstein and Nintendo Switch.
What type of preparation was there for becoming a World War II soldier?
We had such a fun time making it, obviously. I’ve been fortunate in that most things that I’ve done you just get work with a great bunch of people. From the start we were just kind of thrown into it. We had our World War II costumes and they took us out in a little forest and we did a five-day boot camp with military advisors. It was very informative, and it gave us a huge level of respect for what soldiers went through at that time and the responsibility that’s required when you’re putting on that uniform. It was also a great bonding experience that we had sitting by the campfire every night and getting to know each other for five days without modern luxuries like phones and computers.
How did that help when it came to filming in and around London?
That history we built up between us was really invaluable when we went on to shooting and Julius (Avery) was a great. From an actor’s perspective, he’s the perfect person to have at the helm because he’s a very fun to be around and he knows what he wants. He can really push you to get that out of you, but also he’s very open to everyone being inclusive with their ideas and taking them on board and giving everything a shot.
How did that translate to the final film?
A lot of times when you’re in the midst of something, even if you’re having a great time where it’s creatively fulfilling, you never know how something is going to turn out. So when we got to see it for the first time it was great because that really shows what a special director Julius. He crafted this thing so well with the editing once all the production was said and done. He created this pulse that runs through the movie. It’s one of those movies that just keeps your heart racing the whole time.
The first trailer for Overlord brought similarities to the Castle Wolfenstein video game franchise. Did you ever play any of those games, which pit an American soldier against Nazi-created monsters?
I’m aware of them. I think my brother has one of those games. I’ve never actually played it. Weirdly enough while we were filming it, Wyatt (Russell) asked us if we’d seen the trailer for Call of Duty World War II, which had Nazi zombies. It was this weird kind of moment where we’re there facing Nazi zombies on set and a video game is coming out.
A lot of our research that we did together and privately was studying that time and the effects of being in the front line and the kind of fear involved with that, and the courage that it took to do that. And then also on the other hand there was the supernatural element to it. So there’s some stuff that you can’t prepare for. There’s this transformation in the movie that you can’t prepare for. You just have to act off what you think might happen because there’s no real book for that kind of stuff.
You did have some experience with games having worked on Assassin’s Creed IV?
Oh, yeah, I did a tiny voice in that years ago. I went in and just did a couple of lines for them for some small character that was featured. I never actually played the game, but I’ve heard it was a really fun game.
What games did you play growing up?
One of the first systems I got was a Sega Mega Drive, which was probably my favorite one. And when we were younger, I remember all my friends had them and I’d go to their houses, and I remember getting one for Christmas and it was the most exciting thing in the world. I used to play like Sonic the Hedgehog with my brother. Later on we got Nintendo and played all the Mario games. But I’d say now I’m probably more interested in sports games or the shooter games and stuff.
Did you get to play any games on set?
Jacob (Anderson), who plays Dawson, had one of the new Nintendo Switch on set one day. It started with just me and him around the trailers playing a bit through all of these competitions and by the end of it – because we were making so much noise -- people came out from all the trailers in costume watching us. There was a bunch of us by the end of it playing these challenges, like we had this dance competition for 60 seconds. I have a vivid memory of Wyatt and John (Magaro) just seriously dancing for a minute in World War II costumes.
That sounds like fun. Switch is great in getting you out of your seat and interacting in fun ways and away from your TV.
Yeah. Growing up you’d just sit around and play games. And now there are so many different kinds of games to choose from.
The one similarity to Castle Wolfenstein is that you’ve got Nazi bad guys and then monsters created by Nazis to deal with.
Wyatt would always say when we were filming that Nazis are the perfect bad guys. And then with these transformations we’re making the bad guys even worse.
You’ve got a long list of projects you’ve worked on, but what keeps things exciting for you?
One of the luxuries about what I do is that you sometimes get to travel the world and go to places you’ve never been before, and you get to discover different aspects of life that you didn’t know about. Especially on Overlord. I thought I knew about World War II, but actually when you start delving into that deeper there are so many untold stories. And it’s important for those stories to keep on being told. You also get to meet, especially on a project like this which is creatively fulfilling,, but you also get to meet and work with and hopefully to become friends with new people. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to get those opportunities.