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For a movie about co-workers forced to fight to the death, there was none of the workplace tension you’d expect on the set of The Belko Experiment.
The ensemble cast would go out partying until the wee hours of the morning in Bogota, Colombia, coming to set bleary-eyed (but happy). Night’s out were full of food and dancing, with the cast of American actors rolling 20 deep as they’d take over local haunts.
The script is from writer/producer James Gunn, who conceived of the project far before he was elevated to A-list director’s status with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2007, Gunn was set to helm Belko Experiment in São Paulo, Brazil, but he was going through a divorce from The Office actress Jenna Fischer and the timing just wasn’t right.
“I didn’t feel like going out of the country and shooting this dark movie about people shooting each other and killing each other when I was kind of in an emotionally and spiritually corrupt place,” Gunn told Heat Vision in December at an office-themed trailer launch party for Belko Experiment. “I needed to have my friends and family around me, so I didn’t do it. If I knew it was going to be as fun as this was, then it probably would have been a great thing for me to do.”
In some ways, making a movie on location can be like working in an office during a particularly busy time. There’s long hours away from your family with people you may or may not get along with. There may be that one person who particularly rubs you the wrong way.
“When you stop your life and you go away somewhere for three months, you are totally rolling the dice,” said Belko Experiment star John C. McGinley. “Ninety percent of the time it sucks, because there’s always a jackass. And men, when they are jackasses, we function on fear. So someone is really scared and they are trying to take up more space. But this group … it was magic.”
Belko Experiment opens Friday, with Gunn mainstays such as Guardians‘ Michael Rooker and brother Sean Gunn among the cast. Sean Gunn was given the script and asked to see who he might be interested in playing, and he quickly gravitated to the role of a “stoner cafeteria worker,” a role quite unlike one the Gilmore Girls alum has ever played.
Rooker, who shot the film before donning the blue makeup once again to play Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, insisted that though the cast partook in plenty of Salsa dancing during nights out, he was there for the food (“There was plenty of salsa eating,” on his part, he said). When asked what some of the advantages to shooting in Colombia were, the actor answered quickly, “Pretty girls, man. A lot of good food. Good beverages to drink.”
Australian helmer Greg McLean was sent the script in 2014 shortly after seeing Guardians and worked hard to land the job of directing Gunn’s story. For him, shooting wasn’t quite the carefree experience it was for his cast.
“They’d all come to set. ‘You guys look really tired! What’s going on?’ And they’d go, ‘Oh nothing, nothing.’ And then I see on their Instagram all these party shots of them out drinking and partying,” McLean said with a laugh. “I’m going, ‘What time did you go to bed last night?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know! 2 … 3 … 4 [a.m.].'”
The director spent his evenings storyboarding scenes for the next day, so generally he wasn’t able to partake in the fun, but he learned something quite valuable about his leading man one night.
“I did go out one night and realize that Tony Goldwyn is one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen in my life. Like a John Travolta-like, clear-the-dance-floor dancer,” said McLean.
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