FF2011: 'No Rest for the Wicked' (or for Ryan Schifrin)

How to build a short into a franchise

No Rest for the Wicked: Zachary Levi and Ray Park try to keep up with their comic book alter egos, Moebius and Basil in Ryan Schifrin's action-packed short

Fantastic Fest is not just about feature films and hard partying: It is also about short films, those acorns that might grow into might acorns. That is what director Ryan Schifrin hopes will happen with No Rest for the Wicked: A Basil and Moebius Adventure.

Schifrin is a Fantastic Fest veteran: His Rear Window-esque Sasquatch shocker Abominable took best supporting actor in a horror film and best score in 2006. His latest short takes Darth Maul himself, the inimitable Ray Park, and Chuck star Zachary Levi, and casts them as Basil and Moebius, a royal guardsman and an enigmatic adventurer who track down mysterious artifacts for a shadowy figure known only as The Collector.

With a big nod to classic British adventure series of the 1970s like The Persuaders, it captures the roguish appeal of landmark Italian graphic novels like Corto Maltese and Diabolik. But this is more than a one-off homage: Instead, this is just the latest stage in turning the treasure-seeking rogues into pan-media icons.

Austin Chronicle: So what's the back story with No Rest for the Wicked?

Ryan Schifrin: I did a horror movie called Abominable, which I premiered here in 2006, and I was offered a lot of torture porn horror stuff, which I don't like. So I started thinking, what do I like, what do I want to see, and I wanted to see something that had a lot of fun factor to and action. I love monsters, I love the supernatural, I love martial arts, and I started thinking about two iconic heroes. Because there're so many iconic bad guys, but not that many iconic heroes in horror. Ash from Evil Dead would be one, but you generally think about Freddie Krueger, Jason, those guys. So I came up with these two characters, but I had no idea what the stories were. I wanted to do it as a feature and that was going to be my next movie. So I wrote the first movie with these characters and I was trying to get it financed, and in the process I did a comic book with them [The Devil's Handshake] and now we're going another one called The Shadow Gambit, which is coming out in 2012. But I wanted to do a live action piece that we could either turn into a feature or even a TV series. You can always talk about your plans, but when you have something to show, my advice to any film maker or storyteller is make something. Make a short, because people respond to visuals. They can't see what you see in your mind. You have to just show them.

AC: For a short, you assembled a pretty serious cast, with Ray Park and Zachary Levi. How do you get them on board?

RS: I met Ray back in 2006. I went to the Saturn Awards, and I was randomly seated next to him. We became friends after that and we met at Comic-Con, and I created the character of Basil for him. He always plays these very famous roles, like Darth Maul and Snake Eyes, but he's always behind a mask or makeup. He really wanted to show his acting and his martial arts and just be himself, really. I created this character of Queen's guard by day and thief by night, tailored for him. He read the script and loved it. He said, if you cast anyone else, I'll kill you.

AC: But in that charming Ray way.

RS: He had his two year old daughter with him, so I felt pretty safe. So then I met Zack Levi through a mutual friend, Adam Green, who did Hatchet and they did a movie together called Spiral. So I did comic book signing for my other comic called Spooks and they were doing a DVD signing for Spiral, so I met Zack and realized we both loved to play Xbox – Gears of War, Call of Duty – so we exchanged gamer tags and became friends through playing on Xbox. So when it came to do this, I asked him to be Moebius, even though Moebius is supposed to be British. Zack had done a British accent for Tangled originally, but I guess they nixed it, for whatever reason. He had practiced this incredibly good British accent, but he was incredibly busy shooting Chuck all week, then he was preparing to sing at the Oscars for Tangled, but he generous enough to give us two Saturdays in his very busy schedule to do this.

“We had the monkey for one day and we had Malcolm (McDowell) for one day. It was a lot to try to do in one day.”
AC: And then there's Malcolm McDowell and Kane Hodder.

RS: My dad [composer Lalo Schifrin] did a movie with Malcolm a long time ago called Voyage of the Damned, a Lew Grade production, so I had a way to approach him. I'd wanted to work with Malcolm my whole life, and I figured this was a great way to do it. I wrote that character specifically, hoping to get Malcolm. But it's the sort of thing that any great British Shakesperian actors could do. I have this theory that if you got Alec Guinness or Ian McKellan or any of those guys in your fantasy movie, they help sell the bullshit.

Kane, again, from doing a horror movie, I met through the conventions, and he was in Hatchet as well. We'd been wanting to work together for a while, and he was always asking me, 'When are you going to put me in something?' and I called him up and said, 'You'll be in makeup, but we'll also throw you in as a security guard.' And then the monkey was the monkey from The Hangover 2.

AC: I was wondering how easy it was to get hold of a razor-wielding ninja monkey.

RS: We had the monkey for one day and we had Malcolm for one day. It was a lot to try to do in one day.

AC: Who was more demanding?

RS: Honestly? Malcolm. The thing with the monkey is that she's so well trained that everything is one take. So when you say, 'That's too risky, don't want to work with kids and animals,' the monkey was the easiest thing of anything we had to deal with. She just did her thing and licked yogurt off the trainer's finger and was good to go again.

She also made the set really happy. Malcolm was really nervous when they were loading her into her cage. I could see that he had this look on his face that this was going to be a really long day. But as soon as she dropped out of the cage with a knife, he lit up and was like, 'My god, who needs actors?'

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ff2011, Fantastic Fest, The Devil's Handshake, No Rest for the Wicked, Basil and Moebius, Maclom McDowell, Tangled, Ray Park, Zachary Levi, Crystal the monkey, Hangover 2, Kane Hodder

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