Tomorrowland is one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, but people still don't have the foggiest idea of what it's all about.
A new Disney live-action feature headed by director Brad Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof, Tomorrowland has long been shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that the film, which hits theaters May 22, shares its name with the Disney Parks section featuring beloved attractions like Space Mountain and the Carousel of Progress.
Bird and Lindelof were inspired by Walt Disney's personal interest in futurism, and by a mysterious box with the label "1952" that was discovered in the basement of an animation building at Walt Disney Studios in 2008. The so-called "1952 box" contained old photos of Disney, blueprints for the "It's a Small World" ride and an issue of the Amazing Stories magazine.
From the trailers that have been released so far, we've been able to piece together that Britt Robertson's character Casey Newton is a young woman in trouble who stumbles upon an enigmatic pin that seems to transport her to a futuristic city. She enlists the help of genius-turned-recluse Frank Walker, played by George Clooney, to discover what it's all about.
The latest Tomorrowland trailer features a scene in which Casey and Frank get chased through a house by an army of killer androids. One of them commands Frank to hand Casey over — an android who goes by the name of Dave Clark, played by Canadian actor Matthew MacCaull.
Dave Clark is yet another mystery in the Tomorrowland universe. He is described as the right hand of David Nix, played by Hugh Laurie — a scientist who subscribes to cold, hard facts, not dreams. Though we see Dave Clark on a search-and-destroy mission in this trailer, he still has a huge grin on his face. A guy (robot?) like that can't be all bad, can he?
It's that ambiguity that guided MacCaull's approach to the character of Dave Clark in Tomorrowland. In fact, the idea that not everything may be what it seems is a running theme in MacCaull's work on other recent projects, The CW's iZombie and the new WWE Studios prison drama Vendetta.
T-Lounge recently caught up with MacCaull over the phone and found out all about his upcoming roles as well as his thoughts on becoming an action figure, surviving a zombie apocalypse and auditioning for a future Star Wars movie.
We've been hearing about Tomorrowland for a long time, but we still don't know very much about it, so I’m hoping you can reveal a little bit more.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s really interesting. I just saw the premiere in Anaheim on Saturday, and I really finally sort of get what they’re doing with the trailers. They’re doing such a great job of whetting your appetite, sort of insinuating a few things — but what they’re really doing is trying to still make the story ambiguous enough from what they’re giving us. They’re trying to basically lure us in, so that by the time we go to the movie, we’re so surprised at what the movie is and where it’s gonna take us.
We know that your character Dave Clark is David Nix’s right-hand man, but what else can you tell us about your role?
Well, Dave Clark is a really smooth, cool character. Basically, I tried to invoke this throwback feel to Dave Clark. When I got the sides [portion of the script used in auditions], his character name just jumped right off the page at me.
I just immediately harkened back to The Dave Clark Five, and I had no idea if that was going to be a good choice or a bad choice — but it’s just something I couldn’t let go of, I couldn’t shake. So I really tried to bring in this whole sort of '60s cool to Dave Clark. I listened to the main theme from Bullitt with Steve McQueen and really tried to bring in that classic essence of a character. But [Dave Clark]’s also very mysterious. I wish I could reveal more. He’s a very stylized, mysterious character, but also super-smooth and super-cool. Dave Clark.
That’s interesting how you gave the role a throwback feel in this futuristic kind of a movie.
I think in my mind, I was thinking about it in terms of how history sort of repeats itself, how styles will revolve throughout time, and I just thought that it could be so futuristic — something that’s been done so many years ago. So that’s what I went with, and we were all happy with the outcome.
Apparently, there’s also a DJ named Dave Clarke, who has performed at an electronic music festival in Belgium called Tomorrowland, funnily enough. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him.
[Laughs] As a matter of fact, I have. In my research for the movie, the very first mention of "Tomorrowland" that came up in my research was this electronic music festival. And I thought, “They’re not making a movie based on this. I’ll have to do more research.” But I think it’s just so interesting. I don’t think Damon Lindelof does anything unintentionally with his stories. So take that for what you will.
What was it like to work with Hugh Laurie on the film?
Actually, sadly, he and I never shared any scenes together. So I saw him once during filming, and he was so interesting. I got to work with George Clooney, and that was one amazing experience. I’m Canadian, and I grew up with a lot of British humor being broadcast into our homes. I watched Blackadder [which Hugh Laurie starred in]. I was just so struck by that, that here’s this great comic genius. And not only that, but here’s House as well. This guy is one of the finer actors we’ve got.
I don’t think I get starstruck. I’ve been in this business for about 15 years. But he was easily one of those people that I couldn’t even go up to and introduce myself. He was sort of off doing some technical work with one of the crew members, and I suppose I could have, but I was just like, “Oh my gosh. That’s Hugh Laurie.” And then before I knew it, he had moved on. But it was amazing to be in the same room as that guy.
What is it like for you to be an action figure now as part of Tomorrowland?
[Laughs] Surreal is really what it comes down to. When you do the movie, when you sign on to a project like this, you feel very fortunate. You sort of start to surmise as to where it could go. You’re thinking, “OK. This could be a huge Disney film.”
And I think, in all honesty, in the back of my mind, I sort of maybe kind of thought I might get an action figure out of this. I feel like my character Dave Clark is just one of those characters in the movie that could have been that memorable and that stylized that they could have made an action figure out of him.
But honestly, my friend, I think he had contacted me about two months ago, and he had gone to Collider.com – that’s a spoiler website – and he said, “Look what I found!” And when I saw it, I couldn’t believe it, honestly. It was just, "oh my God. This is happening. This is real. This is crazy." So it’s surreal, is what it is.
And there's kind of a dent in the action figure's face. What's that about?
Well, I’ve got very pronounced cheekbones, so maybe that was it.
OK, it kind of looked like it was a little uneven, like there was one side that is kind of dented in. I didn’t know if that’s just the action figure or, as you say, it’s just high cheekbones.
Or maybe it was just one of those things that they did mistakenly, and they were like, “Well, let’s just release it anyway.”
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Absolutely. I think what they’re trying to do is give you a little wink and a nod but not reveal too much, and I certainly don’t want to ruin that fun for anyone.
Do you think the action figure looks like you?
Yeah, I do, actually. It’s sort of one of those things you look at, and you think, “Oh, my goodness. There’s a little action figure of me.” It’s ridiculous, you know? It’s like one of those benchmarks in your career, you know? In writing, it’s when you get published in a certain publication. And I think definitely having your own action figure is one of those benchmarks when you think, “OK, this is the right choice for me. Things are going well.”
And as we talked about before, Tomorrowland has been kind of shrouded in secrecy in the run-up to its release. Is this the most top-secret project you’ve been a part of?
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I’ve done a couple of other interviews where people are asking me about that, and I think more and more these days, productions are headed that way with the proliferation of multimedia, social media. It’s just so easy for people to get information about the movie.
Even from my perspective, when I went in for the audition, I wasn’t given any information other than my character name, the movie name and one scene that my character was in, and I basically had to create everything out of that.
This was close to two years ago now, about a year and a half. I was able to discover a couple of interesting things on the Internet that I just choose either to believe or not believe. So yeah, what I think they’re doing is trying to keep everything under wraps, and yes, it is definitely the most secretive project I’ve ever worked on.
But I think it’s for good reason. This is also one of the most fantastical, adventurous movies I’ve ever worked on – if not the most – and they’re really trying to give the audience a ride on a rocket ship into the far reaches of the universe, and I think they really deliver that. So the less you know about the movie, the more surprise and the greater the experience it will be. So I definitely invite everyone to just wait two more weeks and go and see the film and allow yourself to be surprised and go on the ride.
Lindelof and Bird have spoken about Walt Disney as a futurist and this "1952 box" as inspiration for the film. Did you know about any of that before joining the project?
I did, yeah. I found out about the "1952 box." In my research online, I had come across a few sites where people were talking about how Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird got their inspiration for the film from this little box of items and paraphernalia and nostalgia, so I knew that going into it. I think that’s one of the reasons why I chose to go into my audition with more of this sort of throwback sense to my character. It felt like what they were doing was a throwback to that nostalgia. I sort of wanted to add a flavor of that to my performance. So yeah, that was one of the few things I was able to find out about was that "1952 box," and it’s definitely present in the film.
You're also appearing in the final episodes of this season of iZombie as a character named Sebastian Meyer. What can you tell us about him?
He wants to help Rose McIver’s character Liv. She’s been sort of on an arc to discover what’s been going on and how this zombieism has been created and get some concrete information and evidence about who’s been behind it all. So my character’s introduced to somebody who wants to help her in that journey, and as the arc of our story continues, there’s some really interesting twists and turns that take place.
The CW just renewed iZombie for Season 2, so do you know if you’ll be back next season?
Well, I don’t know that at all — based on how they’ve ended this first season, which I could never have imagined going into the last three episodes. Even the day I got the script, I sort of had in my mind, “OK, I bet you this is what they’re gonna do with the end of the season.”
And I started reading the script, and I was blown away. I had no idea. I could never have imagined how they ended this season, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen for Season 2 or whether my character’s in it or not — but you know, we’re talking about a really interesting zombie story, so I believe anything can happen.
Do you think a zombie apocalypse could actually happen in real life?
I’d love to say yes — but no, I don’t.
Yeah, hopefully not.
Honestly, I think the worst thing that would happen is some terrible pandemic outbreak, but I don’t think there would be The Walking Dead among us. I just think there would be a terrible event in the history of humanity.
But I think that’s what’s great about storytelling and humanity’s capacity for stories is we can translate our fears and our concerns for the future and for our present times into stories that are completely far-fetched and conceivably will never happen. But the metaphor is there to allow us to communicate with one another our fears and our hopes and our aspirations, and I think iZombie has done that really well.
They’ve taken this classic zombie genre and rearticulated it in this interesting way. It’s almost like a zombie vampire in that the more brains you eat, the more you can keep your humanity, and I think that’s so intelligent what they’ve done with that. It’s not just you’re humans versus zombies. It’s now you’re zombies trying to retain your humanity, and that’s sad and poetic and beautiful. I think it’s so clever.
But if we did have a zombie apocalypse, what would you do to survive it? What would be your survival tactic?
I think I would try to lay low as long as possible. I live in an earthquake zone, so I’ve got my water and my rations set up. Hopefully, I’ll still be able to get to them if a zombie apocalypse happens. I think this is one of the things that zombie shows do really well — they comment on humanity itself and retention of or your loss of humanity, and I think that in a zombie apocalypse, maintaining your humanity, maintaining civilization, your civility is something that will be so key to your survival. The more you give in to your animal instincts, the more you allow yourself to devolve and, perhaps in the name of survival, perhaps you lose that humanity too.
So I would definitely try to lay low for as long as I could and then see if I could finagle a boat somewhere and see if I could head up into the countryside away from the major centers. I’ve got a friend who lives not too far away, and I can reach him by boat, and he’s the guy with all the guns and all the tack, so he’d definitely be the guy I’d go and see.
You’ve really thought about this.
Yeah, I think it’s really interesting. I do like my zombie shows. I’m a fan of The Walking Dead. I loved 28 Days Later. I thought what [the movie's writer] Alex Garland did to restart or reignite the zombie genre was great. He made these fast-moving zombies.
You know, when I got hired for iZombie, I thought it was just so interesting that they had this sort of existential layer thrown in to an ostensibly teen, 20-something show that’s a comedy, but then got this great question of, you know, how do you keep your humanity if you’re eating brains when the more brains you eat, you fundamentally become more human. And it’s one of these questions that just keeps tossing around in my mind, and I think it’s just so clever. It’s really given me pause for thought. I have thought about it a lot.
You're also in WWE Studios' Vendetta with Dean Cain and Paul Wight, aka Big Show. What was filming that like?
It was awesome. The Soska sisters, Jen and Sylvia, they’re some of the most tenacious people I’ve ever met. They have this no-holds-barred kind of attitude. They own who they are. They own their presence, and they’re just this force of nature to work with. And they’re so gracious and lovely as well. So getting to work with them, getting to help bring their vision to life was fantastic. And they were just so complimentary of my style and the way that I worked and just so allowing of me to try whatever I wanted to basically find out what does and what doesn’t work.
And honestly, it was really a fantastic experience. This was, you know, an action adventure, a prison drama with a lot of fighting and testosterone, and to be handled by two women, you know. I would never say that could never be done, especially having seen Jen and Sylvia do this, but it was just a fantastic experience and a super-fun movie to work on.
What can you tell us about your character in Vendetta?
I play a corrections officer named Ben Pearson, and Dean Cain and Paul Wight – the Big Show – they’re the two leads. Basically, the bulk of the action takes place inside the prison, and Dean Cain’s gotten himself there on purpose to avenge his family and is trying to get to Big Show to have the ultimate showdown. We worked very hard to make it ambiguous as to whether he is a good guy or a bad guy or what his motives are.
So when you watch the film, I’m hoping that you won’t know until the last scene or two whether I’ve been there to help him or to hinder him along the way. And I think that what we were trying to do there was just add to that dramatic tension and just sort of keep the audience guessing as to what was really happening in the film.
Are you a wrestling fan?
Absolutely. I grew up in the '80s, the heyday of the WWF, so I was a little Hulkster for sure from way back. Vendetta was my second WWE film. I also did The Marine 4 with Mike "The Miz" Mizanin and Summer Rae. That was just such a fantastic experience as well. These wrestlers have arguably some of the biggest fan bases in the world. There’s so many fans for wrestling.
And these guys are just so down-to-earth. They perform every day they’re working, but they’re still so interested in the craft of performance itself that it’s no surprise to me that they are stars in the WWE because they take their work so seriously, and they still have so much fun with it, and I think that’s what elevates a good performance to a great performance is that element of fun and lightness.
And to work with Mike "The Miz" and Summer Rae and Paul Wight, all these guys brought so much professionalism to their performances, but also they brought all of that performance history that they had in the WWE to their roles as well. And yeah, I’m definitely a fan of these guys. It's so impressive to watch them work.
Speaking of fans, I read that you’re also a big Star Wars fan. I saw that you posted a photo of your Star Wars Insider membership card on Twitter.
My official Jedi Knight card, yeah. I think that definitely makes me a geek, for sure. I think it was about 15 years ago when I got that. Yeah, no. I’m a huge fan.
@lsirikul Here's the proof I'm a true geek ;) Thanks again for the interview... pic.twitter.com/w4igJLepRt — matthew maccaull (@matthewmaccaull) March 24, 2015
Who’s your favorite character?
Ooh, that’s a good one. I really love Yoda. You know, I think probably, sort of throughout the ages and throughout the different ages of my life, my favorite characters change. I think as a child, I was really attracted to the wisdom and interesting look of Yoda. Today to ask me, I’d definitely have to say Lando. He’s so cool. He’s the dude in outer space. And I challenge J.J. Abrams to create a cooler character than Lando. I’d like to see if that’s possible.
Are you excited for Episode VII?
Yeah, I just did another interview, and I was asked what my most anticipated film this year was gonna be, and that’s definitely it. That’s definitely it. You know, with everything that’s gone on in Episodes I through III and just from what I’m hearing about the throwback to technique and to attention to detail of Episodes IV, V, VI, I am so excited for this film. I’m even preventing myself from looking at any trailers or reading anything about the movie. I just want to go to the movie and sit down and fold my arms and say, “OK. Impress me, J.J. Abrams.” And I’m sure he will.
Now that you’re part of the Disney family, are you going to try to get into a future Star Wars film?
Yeah, to be short and sweet and polite about it, yes. Yes, I am. Yeah, that would be beyond anything. I think having an action figure is one thing. I think being a Jedi would be something else. Or even, I would love to play a Sith Lord who gets saved and drawn back into the Jedi Order. I think that’s sort of the thing that my friends keep saying.
As much as I’m trying to just say, you know, “Look, I’m happy to be in this one film, and if nothing Disney ever comes out of it after this, I am so thankful and happy and good with that.” But I would definitely love to be in a Star Wars movie, and if I was ever asked to even audition or be the reader for other actors, I am in. I am so in.
Is that your ultimate dream?
It is. You know, I definitely try and operate as a professional actor. I don’t allow my excitement to overtake my professionalism, but I think with something like Star Wars, I am a superfan, and it would just be a dream come true. I think the reason why I have that Star Wars Insider card is when they started re-releasing Episodes IV, V and VI in the late '90s, I knew that they were going to make Episodes I, II and III, and I just wanted to somehow be a part of it. And this was even before I was acting.
So I literally wrote a letter, I got somebody’s address somewhere in Lucasfilm and wrote them a letter. And to my surprise, they wrote me back saying, "That’s great, buddy, but you have to be an actor to do these things." But they said, "If you want, you can get a subscription to the Star Wars Insider and find out what’s gonna go on in the next episode." Along with that subscription came my crowning as an official Jedi Knight, which I am still very proud of.
It would be such a full circle kind of thing if you were in a Star Wars movie.
Yes, it would be, and anything you can do to help with that, I would appreciate.
Well, I definitely wish you the best of luck with that.
Yeah, let’s start a hashtag like, #DaveClarkJedi.
Yeah, that might work. Twitter is powerful.
Yeah, right? Exactly. Well, the Star Wars Kid unfortunately never made it into the series, so who knows?
That’s what you have to do. You have to create your own viral video of you wielding a lightsaber.
"Star Wars Matt." I’ll do it.
Yeah, it’ll be like your own virtual audition.
Exactly. Gotta figure out some way to get in there.