Overlord: Preparing for Zombies in World War II

Overlord stars Jovan Adepo and Mathilde Ollivier told us how they got into character for Overlord.

Overlord is a pleasant surprise. Throwing zombies into World War II is the kind of thing that video games have been doing well for years, but to see it work so well on the big screen, in a movie produced by JJ Abrams no less, is a real post-Halloween treat.

The movie is buoyed by its talented young cast (who we’ve spoken to in groups in the leadup to the film’s release), but the story really centers on Jovan Adepo’s Boyce and Mathilde Ollivier’s Chloe, two unlikely heroes in the face of an even more unlikely adventure. Here’s what they told us about Overlord‘s fun blend of genres.

Den of Geek: I was pleasantly surprised to find this to be more of a World War II movie with just a little twinge of monster movie in there. Is that what you were expecting too after reading the script?

Jovan Adepo: I think that it was done really seamlessly, just from the beginning of them developing the story that they wanted it to be before we came on. To appear to be a traditional WWII story and then they kind of yank the rug from under you and kind of add this crazy batshit experience into it and just see how these people who think they’re in pretty normal circumstances react to this extra crazy element that’s been added.

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Mathilde Ollivier: Yeah, I definitely think that the twist and the film work really well and zombies and WWII era is actually a good match. I find that not that surprising at all. It’s a good balance.

Let’s talk a little bit about Chloe because she’s obviously smart and strong and brave, but do you think if it wasn’t for Paul she wouldn’t have gone as far as she did at the end to help out?

Mathilde: The only thing she wanted absolutely is to keep him alive. So when he’s been taken away from her she is getting very angry and she’s gonna do everything. But also, I think if it wasn’t for Paul she would probably come and help Boyce and the Americans to their mission. I think she would be part of it, she would love this.

And similarly for Boyce, obviously he knew what he was there for and he would do what he has to, but do you think he just needed that point, we’ll say at the chase scene, to say, “I can do this now?”

Jovan: I think so. I think throughout the film that was his struggles and even the earlier scenes when he first arrived at Chloe’s house, it was just him trying to show the team that he could contribute with good ideas and if we need an extra guy for cover or for stakeout, I can do it.

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further reading: Overlord Review

The fact that he keeps getting ignored, it’s something that just kind of bubbles up over the film and when it’s like, there’s no turning back, the “all is lost” moment in the film, it’s like, “guys freakin’ listen to me, I can help. I’ve seen everything that you’re wondering about. I know how to get us there. Listen to what I’m saying, let’s make it happen.”

So, yes, I think it was that moment that kind of really pushed him over to really have to step up and kind of go against the rules and to his chain of command and kind of just say, “I can do this.”

In WWII films, it’s always about the opening. Saving Private Ryan, the landing on the beaches, everything like that. You get to add in your take now being on this plane. What was it like filming that scene?

Jovan: It was intense. They built this beautiful set, when you see us tilting and dipping in the plane it’s like we’re really doing that and we’re suspended really high above ground in the warehouse where we filmed it. And all of the guys were totally committed it to it. I think what’s special about it is that you have to really care about these characters before all the crazy shit starts. Otherwise, it’s just action for the sake of and action so it’s really sweet to be able to have the guys that “Can I get some bubble gum, Boyce?” or telling jokes or throwing stuff at each other. Because then you see, these guys, at that time, they were all boys. They were like between 18 and really early 20s. They were kids and they’re all joking around but they know that they’re going to die. That’s what you’re going to war for. We’re probably not gonna make it out. But they’re trying to just enjoy this moment of camaraderie and then it just snaps!

further reading: Overlord Ending Explained

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And then, people just start dying. And you just have to still continue to do your job and you got guys who are trying to put their hands on the lines and they can’t even get the cables on because they’re freaking out. So just having that element and being able to film that was brilliant because it’s just a lot of raw emotions that were there on set that I think was captured on screen.

Tell me about a lot of those action ideas because I don’t know when things get filmed.But there’s really an essence, both of you, the first time you’re in this very big action-y type of atmosphere. Was it everything you expected?

Jovan: Everything and more.

Mathilde: Yeah, and more, exactly. It was incredible. The scale of the project was enormous and all the locations were phenomenal and the stage that they created and they built, the laboratory….Everything that you see in the film was actually real. They built everything on their own, it was just like making us have to react and make our lives so much easier.

Well, talking about it making your life so much easier. Do you do you own prep? Did you have to say well, I’m gonna kind of follow up more on the WWII aspect” or “I’m gonna follow up more on the zombie aspect.” Do you do your research back and forth?

Jovan: The zombie part, not so much because I didn’t wanna learn how to react to seeing a zombie for the first time, if that makes sense. I just wanted to understand what the time was, the time period, the era, like we discussed before. The era that we were living in and how people would spend their everyday lives and then when the zombie part came into it, okay, holy shit, this is something crazy. How am I gonna live in this?

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Mathilde: The interesting part was to get the most comfortable in the era of the 1940s and the Second World War and what happened. When you were comfortable, the action starts but hasn’t been ready for that which makes us really believable because things that I really enjoy the most with Overlord is a lot of character driven narrative. You can really get attached to all the characters and so when the characters are reacting to the action and terrifying experiences is in front of them.

When Boyce is going out on his own, it’s like you really care for him because he doesn’t know what’s going on. And he played it really well as well. He’s very subtle and everything because in his preparation to stay in 1940 have been so good and sometimes just gonna leave space to more play and having fun.

You speak French normally? Or is it just learned for the film?

Jovan: I was getting ready to lie to you. Just for the sake of keeping you on your toes but no, I do not speak any French. I had a great instructor and she worked with me. Her name’s Mathilde. She made sure that the things that I was saying sounded, that they aligned with the time, that it was accurate.

How is he as a student?

Mathilde: It was amazing. He’s a very hard worker and he’s committed in general, in his life in general. We had to get ready for the part and he’s so easy to work with.

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It was very, really great when he speaks French, when we have this scene in French with each other, it was very important to don’t speak like we would speak French or English right now. They speak completely differently in 1940. It was, you know, even the way they were opening their mouths was different. So that was very interesting to stay in an era, and Jovan did such an incredible job. He’s a very fast learner.

Obviously there’s a little bit of a door open for possibility for Overlord 2. Is everybody ready to sign up?

Jovan: I think everybody would be open to what other crazy shit that they could think of.

Mathilde: Exactly.

Jovan: It could go anywhere and I think everybody’s pretty open to that idea.

Overlord is in theaters now.

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