Exclusive Interview: Joe Dante Talks Burying The Ex


Opening in theaters on June 19th is the new zombie comedy Burying the Ex, which was directed by legendary filmmaker Joe Dante. The filmmaker first gained attention in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s for making several classic genre films including Piranha and The Howling, before he was invited to direct a segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie along with Steven Spielberg, George Miller, and John Landis.

Nowadays, he’s probably best known for directing the now classic horror comedy Gremlins, which was produced by Spielberg and based on a script by Chris Columbus. He would also later go on to helm such equally beloved films as Innerspace, The Burbs, Small Soldiers and Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

As for Burying the Ex, the plot follows Max (Anton Yelchin), a horror film fanatic who regrets letting his bossy girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene) move in with him instead of breaking up with her. Things get even more confusing for Max when he meets the beautiful Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), who is also a horror movie fan and attracted to him. Everything suddenly changes for Max when Evelyn has a fatal accident and he is able to begin a relationship with Olivia. However, when Evelyn returns from the dead as a zombie, it jeopardizes his relationship with Olivia … and his own life!

We Got This Covered recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dante at the film’s press day. The iconic director discussed his new movie, how it was inspired by EC Comics, Ashley Greene’s hilarious performance, discovering Alexandra Daddario, why Anton Yelchin is the perfect “everyman,” making a relatable zombie movie and filming at the iconic Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Check it out below, and enjoy!

WGTC: You’ve mentioned previously that while Burying the Ex is not based on a specific comic book, it is rooted in the spirit of EC Comics (DC’s predecessor) and that you think your fans will really enjoy it. Can you talk about that statement?

Joe Dante: Well, it’s a film for people that love movies. The picture is filled with comments about horror comics, horror magazines and horror movies. The film captures a subculture I’ve never seen on screen before, which is Los Angeles cinefiles. There are a lot of nods to other places, but if you see the movie you will know that it is a quintessential Los Angeles movie. At one point they were thinking about moving the shoot to New Orleans to save money, and I said, “you know you really can’t do that. This is a Los Angeles movie.”

Ashley Greene gives a really funny performance as Evelyn, the zombie ex-girlfriend. Can you talk about casting her in the film?

Dante: I don’t think Ashley has had a chance, in the pictures that I’ve seen, to really show her acting chops. The biggest worry about the movie was what would Evelyn be like? Are we going to believe her? Will she be creepy, scary, and will she be attractive? Because she still needs to be attractive, even though she is rotting. She just brought such a manic intensity to it with the way she would do her mood swings. She gives such a good performance and I was really pleased. It could have gone any other way with another actress that might not have worked.

You also cast actress Alexandra Daddario long before she made San Andreas. Can you talk about discovering her?

Dante: She’s done a couple of horror pictures, and of course she did that Chris Columbus movie (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief). But she hadn’t really broken out the way she has now because of San Andreas. She is just such a talented actress and so funny. But I had never actually seen her be funny before. The word is loveable. As a screen presence she is just so powerful. You just root for her. This is the girl he should be with.

The character of Max is kind of an “everyman” role. Can you talk about why Anton Yelchin was the right actor for that part?

Dante: I think a lot of people in the audience may have found themselves in a similar predicament before. Being in a relationship that isn’t right for them but they don’t know how to get out of it. Anton has such an “everyman” quality. I’ve been watching him since he was a kid. He makes such interesting choices with his movies. His resume is full of off beat characters and his range is really quite large. He could be doing Shakespeare. But he is a lot of fun and a huge movie buff. We spent a lot of time on the set not talking about our movie but talking about other people’s movies.

As you mentioned, while the film is a zombie movie, it also is rooted in an idea that everyone can relate to, which is breaking up with someone. Is that the secret to this film, that while it has zombie elements, it is based on a relatable subject that everyone can understand?

Dante: I thought it was when I read it. To me, I approached this more like a screwball comedy and a relationship movie than a zombie movie. The zombie stuff is actually incidental. The fact that she comes back and he can’t get rid of her is a gag. The other stuff is fun and interesting, but the appeal of the movie is that it is a subject that everyone can relate to.

Finally, I’ve never seen the Hollywood Forever Cemetery look as good as it does in your movie. Can you talk about filming those shots?

Dante: Actually, I’ve been to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery not very much at all. I was surprised how little time I had spent there before making this movie. But we had a lot more stuff that we didn’t use that we shot there, which we ultimately didn’t need.

That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Joe very much for his time. Be sure to check out Burying The Ex when it hits theatres this weekend.