Michael Rooker Interview: Love and Monsters

Michael Rooker is a veteran of the adventure genre and survival stories, and in Love and Monsters he finds a little bit of both. In the film, which is currently available on VOD, he plays a hardened survivor of a monster apocalypse that has left him caring for a rough-and-tumble 8-year old girl.

Along the way, his character Clyde meets with Dylan O’Brien’s Joel and imparts some of the wisdom he’s accrued in this particular dystopia. After that, Rooker himself spoke with Screen Rant about the touching dynamics he juggled in the film and his favorite wardrobe item on set.

First and foremost, can you talk to me about Clyde and Minnow’s relationship?

Michael Rooker: How great is it, right? I mean, what a connection already. I’ve spoken about it, but sometimes you just meet actors that you connect with right away – and this is one of them. Ariana was a beautiful young lady, and oh, man. It was just so much fun; so great. What great chemistry; it was just instantaneous.

Ariana and Dylan, all three of us, even before the read through we were constantly cracking jokes with one another and just going at it. It was beautiful. The poor director, I don’t know how he handled us.

The connection that you and Ariana have is amazing. It’s so beautiful. How long have Minnow and Clyde been traveling together?

Michael Rooker: Oh, we’ve been traveling together quite a while. I think she hooked up with me – the way it was, after our group had been devastated by monsters, the only survivors were me and her. We’re both in shock, and we just ended up hanging out from there. So, it’s been probably a number of years.

Dylan’s been in his bunker for seven years, so we were on the surface level for maybe not that long. Who knows? She may have been quite a small child.

What do Minnow and Clyde have in common? What ties their bond together?

Michael Rooker: Pain; the pain of loss, the pain of losing our world and losing our families. We’re bonded. We are now family, you know? That’s it. We’re just family – it doesn’t have to be biological, or through blood or anything like that. We hooked up; we are the only survivors, and so we got each other’s backs.

You play this grizzled adventurer, which is a perfect character for this kind of film. What were some of the films or characters that help inspire you when playing Clyde?

Michael Rooker: Oh, nothing really. I just read the script, and I like the role the way it was written. It just connected with me, and I was ready to go pretty much from day one. Of course, the hat is a very Indiana Jones kind of a hat. I thought that was great. But you know what, it’s a great hat.

I had a feather in my hat, and I was so happy. I was like, “What can we do to this hat to make it more Clyde?” And so I found a feather and popped it in the hat, and we’re done and done. We’re ready to go. The rest is history, dude. He’s a very well-written character. I thought it was well-written, so I enjoyed it.

This movie is brilliant. It reminds me of a new generation’s version of The Princess Bride.

Michael Rooker: It’s got a great combination of humor. And you know what? It’s not too bloody; it’s not too scary. It’s kind of walking that line that I just think is going to appeal to a lot of people in this day and time right now. It’s kind of nice to have a movie you can watch that leaves you with some positive-ness, you know?

Interestingly enough, it’s about a lot of characters that are essentially trying to stay away from the outside world, which is what we’re going through in this pandemic. You’re no stranger to monster flicks, whether we’re talking about Slither or The Walking Dead. How does this movie set itself apart?

Michael Rooker: Yeah, that’s all in the writing, man. And also the playing of it and stuff. Dylan just knocked it out of the park, and to be in there and teach him a little bit on how to survive was a great pleasure.

The character itself welcomes Dylan into this small family group instantly, pretty much Him and Minnow are still like, “Oh, yeah. Are you a food stealer?” They’re still a little leery of him, but they after they realize, “I think you’re okay,” it’s very positive. It ended up being a very positive experience for this character to team up with Dylan. We even asked him to come along with us, you know? He’s kind of a stranger. He’s definitely a stranger, but we still trust him enough to allow him to come along with us and be safe.

There are some great lessons in this film that you guys have. One of my favorites is “not both.” You can’t eat and sleep. You can’t do both. And also “keep your socks dry.” What were some of your favorite lessons?

Michael Rooker: I know, right? I think like “[not both]”. You can have one or the other, man. That’s the way it is in this world. So, you can have one or the other. That’s got to be one of my favorite ones.

I love that Minnow actually delivers that. It’s so brilliant.

Michael Rooker: Yeah, you can either sleep or eat. You can’t do both.

For a lot of this movie, we follow Dylan O’Brien’s Joel journey with his dog Boy. When you were working with Dylan, what were some of the things that impressed you about his performance? I heard he did a lot of improv.

Michael Rooker: Oh, yeah. We have the lines, of course, and sometimes you just go off-book. Sometimes you physically go off-book. How they write it down sometimes in the script is not necessarily how it plays out. Just logistically, you have to change stuff.

But sometimes, within the scene itself, certain lines just don’t make sense anymore. So, you’ve got to change; you’ve got to adapt. Just like in this new world that we’re living in, you have to adapt. You can’t eat and enjoy a good night’s sleep; you gotta have one or the other, okay? Because these creatures have senses too, and like Clyde says in the script, “Within 30 minutes, there’s going to be something all over us. They’re going to smell this food and they’re gonna be here.”

How does Clyde view Joel initially?

Michael Rooker: Well, we initially are a little leery of him, you know? Because he looks healthy right; he doesn’t look like he’s starving. And I think that’s what motivates the whole food stealing thing. “Dude, you’re a food stealer. I mean, you don’t look like you’ve been starving out here, okay?”

Some of our first questions are like, “Where’s your group? What happened? Why did they kick you out?” I mean, we’re just assuming they kicked you out, because no one – it seems like we don’t experience a lot of people coming out of their bunkers intentionally. Nobody wants to get out here in this world and be eaten. So, we’re just a little bit leery of him at first.

I think we end up trusting him, which is cool. We end up trusting him, and we end up inviting him along with us. That whole positiveness, and that ability to trust and allow him into our group, that’s very important. It’s really cool. It’s a very cool piece because of that, I think.

You’re no stranger to working with green screen, but a lot of this movie seems very practical. Everything looks so real, especially your locations and maybe even some little monster claws here and there that pop up. Can you talk about how that helps inform your performance?

Michael Rooker: Well, we were right there. I mean, there were not a lot of sets built. There was, like, one interior set that I worked on. But most everything else was outside in the real world, and that always adds to it.

When you’re walking around out there, you’re not just walking around. You’re looking and you’re alert. In the movie, we are, because there’s monsters everywhere that could eat us. But in real life, you are as well, because I mentioned earlier that every now and then you’d see these guys around the perimeter of our set outside in the woods – in the outback, wherever we were – and they have little orange vests, and they have the long poles. These guys are looking for snakes.

Let me tell you, you’re in Australia, and there are some really scary critters out there. So, they had to go in before the actors moved in and snake-proof the area, and then they had to roam around outside the perimeter of the cameras and everybody, and still look around and make sure everybody was safe and nobody got bit. That adds to the realism immediately, because you’re alert. You’re supposed to be alert in the movie, and you got to be alert in real life as well.

More: Read Screen Rant’s Love and Monsters Review