Interview: CODY DEAL, Almighty Thor

On Feb 16, 2011, I had the pleasure of doing something few get the chance to… I had a friendly chat with THE ALMIGHTY THOR! I have to put that in all caps because, really, is there anyone more awesome than THOR? Not really.

Okay, well, maybe it wasn’t really Thor, but it was Cody Deal, the rising star who plays Thor in the upcoming SyFy Channel mockbuster film Almighty Thor to be shown on SyFy May 7 and released on DVD May 10, 2011! You may have seen Cody in The Hangover or Get Him to the Greek. You can’t miss him as Thor, though — this man is a towering inferno of raw intensity.

We covered how he came to find acting, what Richard Grieco is like, and mention another production that fantasy/superhero fans may want to keep their eyes open for…

GS: If your bio is correct, you were a valedictorian and were All-State, and could have done pretty much anything. What made you choose acting?

CD: Good question. My brothers and I used to, when we were kids, had a VHS camera and we used to make wrestling videos. It was rough — you started where you started, you cut it where you cut it. There was no editing or splicing. My freshman year in college we started making short films and in one of the scenes my twin brother ends up dying, and I’m mourning his death. And when my mother watched it, she started crying and said, “Cody, you sure take acting seriously.” I laughed! Hollywood was so far away from anything I was contemplating. I ended up injuring my arm in college while playing sports, and that made me think of what I really wanted to do with my life. Sports at that level stopped becoming fun for me.

I decided I wanted to move out of the state, and I had a met friend who lived in Vegas. She told me I could try modeling and acting to see if I even liked it. It isn’t as competitive in Vegas and the cost of living is so much cheaper than Los Angeles. My biggest goal was to get out of Kansas. So that was my start: short films as a child, and getting injured in football. I still didn’t know I wanted to be an actor. I thought about it because of what my mom said and wanted to be, but I didn’t have the strongest background in the arts, and felt if I wasn’t a good painter or crafty, I wouldn’t be good at acting. That was my naivety speaking.

So, I turned to modeling first because of that fear of thinking I wouldn’t be a good actor, and one of my gigs was working for Caesar’s Palace, dressing up on the weekends as a Roman soldier. I would give tours and introduce Ceasar and Cleopatra on the coliseum steps, and we do mini skits six times a night. It was so fun for me. The Director of Entertinament really liked me, so when something when a production was slated to be out Ceasar’s, he asked if I wanted to do it. So I escorted Sherry Shepherd out on The View, and got to do the weather with Al Roker on The Today Show. It was small, but planted some big seeds. Those gigs inspired me to start taking some acting classes.

I actually auditioned for the big budget version of “Thor”, the Marvel Comics version before I moved to L.A. It didn’t pan out and shortly afterwards I decided to move and pursue acting seriously.

GS: I did notice from looking at your past credits that you seem to have been discovered because of your work at Caesar’s Palace.

CD: Yeah, that’s where all that comes from. I always wonder what people think when they see my credits and say “Roman soldier, Roman soldier, Roman soldier, Roman soldier”, but that’s where all that comes from. I did a lot of random stuff, as you can tell, with that outfit on.

GS: How much did you get to interact with the cast and crew of “The Hangover”?

CD: With “The Hangover”, I was on set for ten hours. We went in overtime. They treated us great. The director (Todd Phillips) was a really nice guy and fun to talk to. I was basically just an extra, but because we were part of Caesar’s, we got to break where the director and principal actors were hanging. After we wrapped I asked Todd if I could watch shooting more up close. I said, “I don’t want to be that guy, but when we’re done can I just stick around and see how you and Bradley (Cooper) work?” And he said, “Sure, no prob.” So I was able to ask the producers and cinematographer questions and they were all very great to me. It was my first time on a big set and it was quite a learning experience.

GS: Can you explain how you tried out for the role of Thor, and ended up getting the role of Thor, but not in the same movie?

CD: It’s kind of weird to me. Thor is actually what inspired me to come out here, and I became a Thor fanatic after that. I researched everything that was going on with that production. Then this new role came across the table, and I wouldn’t have even heard about it if it wasn’t for a friend. My friend said, “Cody, you’re Thor in real life. This is you.” For some reason people called me Thor before auditioning for the first one. But because I had studied Thor the first time I read for him, I knew everything about him and I had two years of acting under my belt. I was ready. I went in and the director and casting director liked me and liked my look, but the producers weren’t sure because I had no real credits to my name. The casting director took me aside to see if I was directable, and decided I had a likability factor and hired me. They took a risk on me, but I think they were pleased. After shooting, the director said, “You really became almighty, Deal!”

GS: When you auditioned, did you know who director Christopher Ray was?

CD: Well, I’m assuming that based on your website’s focus, that you probably know who his father is.

GS: That is exactly what I’m asking.

CD: And no, I didn’t at the time. But Chris was really fun to work with. He has done a lot with The Asylum, and has plans to do his own productions, do things completely his own way eventually. (The Asylum is a production company started in 1997, that works largely with SyFy Channel and makes “mockbusters” — B-movie knockoffs of popular theatrical films, often with similar and confusing titles.) The way The Asylum works, the producers have the final say. And they pump out 12 or 15 films a year, so it can be stressful. But Chris is really great under pressure and he makes it fun. He said that was my biggest problem, that I wasn’t having enough fun. I was more focused on making sure I got everything right. He told me it was only two weeks and I was starring in my own film, so this should be the time of my life. And that helped. I was much more relaxed the second week of filming. I’m just glad he didn’t say something like, “Your acting sucks! Fix it!” (laughs).

GS: Did you do a lot of interacting with a blue screen?

CD: Yes I did. I was actually in visual effects yesterday (February 15), watching what they were doing. They’re actually still designing Valhalla and the castle, and it looks really cool. We did do a lot of blue screen. Not as much as some other Asylum films, I guess, but it was still tough. There’s a pivotal scene with Thor, and I can’t give it away, but there’s this scene with nothing around me… and you have to create this physical space, create something in your hands… and it was really, really difficult. So I’m curious to see what they do with that. As far as creatures, they’ve got some great ones called Gamr and Lindworms (basically a wingless dragon). They have man-eating dogs. The Lindworms look like Ifrit from Final Fantasy 7… at least his head, and then there’s a snakelike body that winds around. There are fireballs and a ton of different visual effects. This is all action. It is surrounded by a nice story, but people definitely want to see Thor in action.

GS: I appreciate the Final Fantasy reference.

CD: (Laughs). I can only reference what I know from my limited vantage point.

GS: Loki is played by Richard Grieco… did you guys strike up a friendship during filming, or is it purely coincidental you’re appearing in another film together?

CD: That is a pure coincidence. I found out he was in “Cats Dancing on Jupiter”, and I asked if he had a cameo. He said, “No, I play the director.” I had no idea. I had a small role in the film.

GS: They call you “bicycle cop”.

CD: Yeah, they haven’t given me a name, so I’m not sure what it’ll say on the screen credits. Richard’s a cool guy and he took me under his wing a bit. You probably haven’t seen Richard act in a while, and when you see him as Loki you’re going to think he’s aged terribly. But it’s just the makeup. He looks great. There was a scene where we had to do wire work. They shot me up in the air about twenty feet in the air and were supposed to bring me down softly. I’m a pretty big guy. Things just weren’t feeling right, but I didn’t ask questions and was going to do anything to make the film look good. The Swordmaster put a pad on the ground and the stunt guy said we didn’t need it, but Chris said it wasn’t in the shot, so we should keep it there and just not worry about it. And sure enough, something snapped and I fell on the concrete, getting all cut up. I fell on my knee, partially on the pad. I was lucky, because if I had hit straight concrete, I’d have a shattered knee. Richard came to my trailer after we were done and made sure I was okay. He was really concerned. After that I really felt he took me under his wing and he would teach me things about this and that. The guy’s really, really cool.

They even ended up shutting down the production for two days because of that stunt. I was wanting to do more stunts late, as Chris was open to ideas from my end as a creative artist, but when it came to stunts, he became very cautious and I seemed to get a lot of, “I would love to, buddy, but we can’t.”

GS: Once people see you as Thor, offers should be coming your way, but is there anything else we should be aware of right now?

CD: I actually just finished with “Superseeds”, which is a comedy-action film. It’s a really funny story, it’s kind of like “Kick-Ass” meets “Superbad”. It’s “Superbad” with super powers. And I play the super villain named Mark Hardon, so you can’t take the movie too seriously. My super power is that I turn into anything I touch (like The Absorbing Man). So, if I touch wood, I turn into wood. And then I have to make a wood joke, because that’s what Mark does. We wrapped the film last month.

There is little info online about it. Kholi Hicks is the director and RainFall Films is the company behind the madness. It was shot with the Red and should have some pretty awesome visual effects.

I’m not looking to do anything low budget anymore unless I absolutely like the storyline or it just makes sense. Right now, I’m doing a lot of behind the scenes work, positioning myself so that when offers do show up, I’m ready for it. And I’m still taking classes; it’s currently one of my top priorities. With sports, I became good at sports because I did it my whole life and put a lot of time into it. So, I think it’s important to spend a lot of time with my craft, and promote the current film (Thor) as much as possible.

GS: Some people struggle looking for acting work for years. You caught a good break.

CD: I know, and I’m really thankful for that. There are a lot of people who come out here, are out here for years and never get close to the opportunity that I’ve gotten. I’ve been out here less than two years and got in, so I’m thankful for that. But I also have to look forward. You’re familiar with The Asylum films, right?

GS: To a point, yeah. I’ve seen enough of them.

CD: What I want people to see from “Thor” is that this is a good film, that you don’t need $150 million budget to do a great film. SyFy and The Asylum can telling a compelling story and do it on a shoestring budget. These guys are used to getting a lot done in limited time with limited money. When people see the film, I think some scenes are going to have them saying “wow” and others will have them groaning because it’s low budget. But you have to be realistic.

GS: The people who turn on the SyFy movies, they know what to expect.

CD: Exactly. I just want to make that clear for people who don’t know and will say, “That visual effect didn’t look right.” But like you said, anyone who is a SyFy fanatic knows and they won’t care.

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