Home News 14 Things About ‘Army of the Dead’ That Will Stop Your Heart

14 Things About ‘Army of the Dead’ That Will Stop Your Heart

by Talia M.
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Las Vegas is known to many as the entertainment capital of the world. But when Zack Snyder wanted to set his new zombie heist thriller Army of the Dead there, it turned out to be a much complicated undertaking. To celebrate the film’s Netflix debut on May 21, here are 14 behind-the-scenes facts about how the crew recreated Sin City in Albuquerque and Atlantic City, the special camera Snyder specifically made for the film and how Carole Baskin – yes, really – helped bring the film to life.

Zack Snyder started working on the first draft of Army of the Dead a decade ago.

It took five weeks to film the opening scene where the soldiers first encounter Zeus. “I really wanted to shoot it at dusk in natural light,” says Snyder. “We shot it everyday at dusk for five weeks to get it right.”

In the opening sequence, the VFX team added some subtle orbs to the sky as a nod to Area 51.

While Snyder doesn’t make any cameos in the film, eagle-eyed fans will spot him in two scenes in the beginning of the film.

Snyder spent years buying every 1960s-era Canon Dream lens he could find on eBay to give the film a soft, organic look in contrast to the harsh apocalyptic zombie landscape in the film.

Before production started, he collaborated with RED Studios for a year on designing custom-made cameras that combined digital camera technology with the Canon Dream lenses.

Army of the Dead marks Snyder’s first feature film as Director of Photography and the first time he used digital cameras for a full-length feature.

The ensemble’s 10 lead actors completed a week-long “Zombie Boot Camp” where they were drilled on weapons nomenclature, gun handling, stance, weapon manipulation, moving with a weapon, and working as a cohesive unit.

Unlike his character, Matthias Schweighöfer knew how to handle a gun, so the film’s tactical consultants had to teach him how to look less skilled.

Because casinos in Las Vegas are open 24 hours a day, it was impossible to actually shoot in Sin City. Instead, the Showboat Atlantic City was used for the interior of Bly’s Las Vegas casino in the film. As a non-gaming hotel, The Showboat’s 60,000 square-foot casino floor has been empty since 2014. Production designer Julie Berghoff and her team had to source more than 500 slot machines to use in the space.

Production also purchased 2,500 plastic skeletons from Amazon and Halloween stores that the art department then dressed up and piled all over the backlot at ABQ Studios in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The crew couldn’t gain access to the highest rooftops in Vegas in order to scan the strip, so VFX Supervisor Marcus Taormina and his team of 12 to 14 VFX still photographers and LiDAR technicians spent 12 days using scissor lifts, drones, and a helicopter equipped with a LiDAR scanner to get the above-ground shots. The effort resulted in an accurate 3D model of the entire Las Vegas strip that was used throughout various sets.

In order to create the zombie tiger Valentine (as seen in the trailer), the VFX team needed a real-life tiger to base the virtual creature on. Enter Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fl. where the team also met Carole Baskin several months before Tiger King debuted. “She was a very sweet lady and she gave us the rundown of everything,” Taormina recalls. “In passing, Carole had mentioned, ‘Oh yeah, I know cameras. We just finished some little docu-series over here.’”

Stuntman Albert Spider Valladares stood in for Valentine during the mauling scene. Garret Dillahunt did his own stunts for the scene, and was pulled and tossed around on wires to make the scene as realistic as possible.

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