In Platinum Studios’ upcoming film, “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night,” actor Brandon Routh takes on the role of the titular investigator of the supernatural. The movie, based on the Italian comic series of the same name, marks Routh’s third go-round as a character with comic book roots, having previously brought Superman and Scott Pilgrim foe Todd Ingram, AKA Evil Ex #3, to the big screen. During our visit to the set of “Dylan Dog,” the actor told CBR News his current role reminded him of Harrison Ford’s turn as Indiana Jones. “I think it was in the voice of Dylan,” he explained. “There’s all these emotions going on with Dylan, but when it’s step up and take care of business time, that all goes away and Dylan puts on his game face — much like Indy does.”
Another similarity Dylan Dog shares with the esteemed Professor Jones is his level of physicality, something that was new for Routh. “There was a slight learning curve,” he said. “Eric Norris, the stunt coordinator, and also Mike Massa, my stunt double, have been very helpful in teaching me.” Entering the world of stage fights and pratfalls was difficult for the actor, with some stunts proving to be too dangerous for him, requiring Massa to take his place. Overall, however, Routh is pleased that he was able to take most of Dylan’s on-camera hits. “You get a few bumps and bruises, but I’d rather it be me when it can be. It makes it easier for the editors to cut and gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
The stunt training was only part of the challenge that came with portraying one of Italy’s most popular comic characters. Routh prepared for Dylan’s emotional journey with director Kevin Munroe through extensive script meetings, a process which strengthened his bond with the character. “My involvement with the story certainly helped me feel more passionate about it; more creatively just a part of it and proud to bring it to the screen.”
Routh’s passion for the role was evident while shooting his scenes, with the actor finding the atmosphere on set one that encouraged improvisation. “When you get there, [the lines] seem easier to say by just changing a few words,” he said, noting that the freedom to adapt dialogue on the fly had a positive effect on Dylan’s on-screen relationships with Marcus (Sam Huntington), his best friend, and Elizabeth (Anita Briem), the client who sets Dylan off on his journey. “That kind of happens on sets sometimes,” he explained. “As you’re here, living it, [those things] can change a little bit.”
While some story elements and character relationships evolved during shooting, Routh remained mindful of Dylan’s history. “I believe we have the idea of what the ‘Dylan Dog’ comics are,” he said. Visual call-backs to the comics pepper Dylan’s office, and the script relies on all of the published stories as a loose backstory for the character, though viewers need not know them to follow the movie’s plot. The film also plays with the series’ recurring theme of “humane” monsters. “Having that [theme] closely linked with the turmoil and the balance between humans and the undead is important,” Routh said.
In acknowledgment of the movie’s roots, Routh speaks Italian to an old vampire in one scene, an idea of the actor’s. “I said to Kevin, ‘It would be cool to speak some Italian in there,'” he recalled. Routh enlisted the aid of a friend to learn the necessary pronunciations. “I did it fairly well. The way it plays in the movie is that I’m not great at it, so that gives me a little bit of help,” he said, emphasizing his hope for the scene to play as a “tip of the hat” to fans of the comic book.
Despite the cast and crew’s desire to remain faithful to the source material, the realities of adapting the series did require some rather large adjustments. One in particular is the loss of Dylan’s sidekick Groucho — cut from the movie due to copyright reasons — but Routh feels the character’s loss opened an opportunity for the film to create a strong character to fill the void in Huntington’s Marcus. “I think we’ve established a really cool relationship with these two guys that really makes the movie pop even more and adds a new element that I’m really excited about,” he said.
Another departure from the comics is the film’s New Orleans setting. Dylan traditionally lives and works in London; an expensive city to shoot in, but this was an alteration the actor was comfortable with. “It works perfectly because there’s so much mysticism and history with magic and all these crazy things already. It’s a great mix. I trust going away from a conventional place like London or New York.”
One unusual aspect of the New Orleans shoot was its accelerated pace. During CBR’s visit, an entire fight scene and the sequence that immediately precedes it were filmed, a schedule that is extraordinarily for an effects-heavy feature. “Everyone — the whole crew — is making it work,” Routh said. “I appreciate having more time to do things and work things out, but that’s also part of the process. On some movies, you get a longer time; sometimes, you get shorter. I’ve had enough experience at this point to be ready, but certainly, most actors will tell you they’d enjoy a little more time.”
Ultimately, Routh believes “Dylan Dog” will have a broad appeal and hopes the film’s cross-genre elements will offer something new to film-goers, whether or not they are familiar with the character. “There are horror aspects and there are some funny/scary moments,” he said, likening it in tone to “Men in Black” or “Ghostbusters.” “We’re reaching into different [audience] pools. Most people in America don’t know what ‘Dylan Dog’ is, so, even though it’s a comic book movie, to people in America it’s just going to be this film that looks really awesome.”
“Dylan Dog: Dead of Night” arrives in theaters on April 29