Contrary to popular belief, Zack Snyder is actually doing more with his life than just producing mastubatory material for Justice League Snyder Cut fanboys. For a while now, the filmmaker has been working on Army of the Dead, an ensemble heist movie set during a zombie apocalypse. I’m pretty sure Netflix thought that sounded as cool as we did, which is why the streamer greenlit it almost immediately. Besides for the pitch, I’m certain it didn’t hurt that Snyder also made his name (and feature film directing debut) with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, a surprisingly great remake of zombie master George A. Romero’s classic horror film of the same name.
And speaking to Entertainment Weekly as he debuted the first images from the upcoming Army of the Dead, Snyder revealed that it was shortly after wrapping up Dawn of the Dead that he got the idea for what he describes as “a full-blown, balls-to-the-wall zombie heist movie”.
With Dawn, we made a zombie movie but tried to do it all the way with all of those tropes of the genre. That was so fun, so I started to think of what were other genres that story didn’t have room for. It’s this tone where you have fun with the genre but you don’t make fun of the genre — it’s a fine line.
Army of the Dead is a full-blown, balls-to-the-wall zombie heist movie, so it’s genre-on-genre in a great way. So you expect pure zombie mayhem, and you get that, 100 percent. But also you get these really amazing characters on a fantastic journey. It’s going to surprise people that there’s a lot of warmth and real emotion with these great characters.
So what’s this movie actually about though? According to the blurb from EW, the pitch is that “a plague has been released from Nevada’s secretive Area 51 military base. The U.S. government has managed to contain the outbreak by building a wall around an overrun Sin City. But there’s still all that cash in zombie-infested casinos, if only somebody is brave (or dumb) enough to try to go and get it.”
That sounds great, right? Well, not to Warner Bros. who didn’t care for it for years. According to Snyder, “They didn’t want to spend that kind of money on a zombie movie, or just didn’t take it that seriously”. Luckily, somebody else did.
We were in a meeting at Netflix and I was talking about some of these scripts I was working on. And I mentioned the idea to [Netflix head of original films Scott Stuber] and he was like, ‘That is the movie! Go write that movie and let’s make it.’ I was like, ‘What, do you mean now?’ And he’s like, ‘Go write it tomorrow and we’ll shoot it in a week.’
On top of throwing money at Snyder to make Army of the Dead, Netflix also signed off on a still-untitled live-action prequel film starring and directed by Army of the Dead’s Matthias Schweighöfer. We don’t really know much about his character of Ludwig Dieter from Army of the Dead, so we don’t know how this prequel will play out. What we do know is that he’s got a solid cast and the film has already started production in October 2020.
This untitled film is not to be confused with another previously announced prequel (Netflix were really sold on this idea apparently), this one being an animated prequel series titled Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas that will see former DC Animated Movie Universe wunderkind Jay Oliva as showrunner. According to Snyder, Lost Vegas will be doing “a very deep dive with the why of the zombie plague and where it starts” and will see Christian Slater voicing the bad guy while the entire cast of Army of the Dead will voice their animated counterparts.
And it’s quite a cast, led by none other than Dave Bautista as Scott Ward, the “capable hero who assembles a team of undesirables to infiltrate an impregnable fortress (in this case, a Las Vegas casino) during an undead uprising”. After, making the transition from professional wrestling to acting, Bautista has proven to be surprisingly proficient in the latter thanks to roles in Guardians of the Galaxy and Blade Runner 2049. And as his thespian trajectory was on the rise, Bautista had initially not cared for the project by his own admission.
I had this chip on my shoulder and was looking for juicy [dramatic roles]. Then I read the script and it was a lot deeper and had more layers than I thought. And also, to be quite frank, I wanted to work with Zack.
Bautista wanted this gig so badly, that he actually gave up the opportunity to reteam with his Guardians director James Gunn on The Suicide Squad. And it sounds like he’s not regretting that decision at all.
We’re running around killing zombies on craps tables. It’s just a ton of fun.
Besides for Bautista and the previously mentioned Schweighöfer, Army of the Dead also stars Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Garret Dillahunt, Raul Castillo, Omari Hardwick, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Tig Notaro. The latter was actually added after the movie had already wrapped production, with the comedian replacing Chris D’Elia as a sarcastic helicopter pilot through some greenscreen filming. This was necessary after D’Elia was removed from the film due to a slew of sexual misconduct accusations made against him outside of the production. Other than that pitfall though, Army of the Dead’s filming – which saw Snyder server as his own cinematographer – went pretty smoothly. Hopefully, that means we’ll get a trailer and release date very soon.
Last Updated: February 25, 2021