Keven Talks with THE WALKING DEAD Stuntman Max Calder
Published: November 22, 2010 - 11:02am
EXCLUSIVE: It's not easy getting beaten to death with a baseball bat and it's probably no walk in the park taking an axe to the face either. I recently had the chance to talk with Max Calder, whom you should know very well from watching AMC's The Walking Dead.
Calder is featured in two of the most brutal zombie kills on AMC's hit comic adapted The Walking Dead. Not only is he actually the very first zombie that hero Rick Grimes kills, but he's also the most memorable kill in the action packed second episode 'Guts' - when Rick offs him yet again, this time obviously as a different zombie.
Keven: First things first - You are a memorable part of The Walking Dead, because you are on the receiving end of two of the most brutal kill scenes on the show. Which one was worse to shoot? The axe to the face or the baseball bat scene?
Max: I'd have to say the baseball bat scene. Mainly because it was a really hot day, and I had a plastic prosthetic in my mouth that pushed my lower lips down and was full of movie blood. And that thing made it very difficult to drink and swallow water. Even with those conditions, I still had an amazing time, the cast and crew are full of nice people and were great to work with.
Keven: I read an interview with Lennie James and he mentioned you during the baseball bat scene and said he felt awful for you because of how many takes they took - just punishing the hell out of you - was it really as bad as it looked?
Max: It wasn't terrible, It's my job to make things look like they hurt. (laughing) But it's true there were a lot of takes cause they wanted the scene from a lot of angles. The worst part was laying out in the heat and humidity.
Keven: For the scene in episode two - Rick (Andrew Lincoln) kills you YET AGAIN - this time with an axe. How did they shoot that scene - was anything actually hitting you in the head?
Max: (laughing) Yeah this one was cool. They had a dummy axe hit me in the head and we would wait a beat while I stood there then Andrew would pull back with the axe and I would fall to the street out of the frame. They added the axe going through my head in post, I was really surprised to see how graphic they made it look.
When we shot it they only described it as blood spurting of my head out after he pulled out the axe, I didn't think my head was going to be split in two.
This was also a fun day for me because they had a rain machine running so everyone was soaked, most people hated it but personally love doing things out of the ordinary like that.
Keven: Did Andrew ever speak to you and perhaps apologize for killing you twice on the show?
Max: (laughing) Yeah Andrew was an awesome guy to work with, He really was good about making sure everyone was safe. During the baseball bat scene every take he asked if I was okay and made sure things were comfortable for me. It was pleasure working with an actor who is that down to earth and friendly.
He also made sure to get a picture of me, because he tries to keep track all of the zombies he kills in the show.
Keven: Have you ever sustained any injuries from doing stuntwork? From your scenes on The Walking Dead, you look like you can do some fairly brutal stunts and manage to make them look painstakingly real.
Max: I've been lucky so far and the worst injuries have been no worse than a few scrapes and bruises, which leave you sore for a few days, Knock on wood (laughing). Which is what most stunt people aim for, because one of the worst things is to get a serious injury and have to miss out of other work opportunities.
Also I really appreciate the compliment, I really strive to make everything I do look realistic and brutal.
Keven: How did you get into the stunt business?
Max: Well I've wanted to do stunts since I was a kid. I used to imitate stuntmen and do falls and tumbles for school projects in elementary school.But I didn't seriously start pursuing it until 2008ish and I started doing extra/ misc crew work to get experience on set and meet stunt people.
Eventually I met my now close friend Brent Bernhard who is a stuntman about my age and he let me train with him and other stuntmen around here. He also showed me how to write up resume's for stunts and also introduced me to a few stunt coordinators. He comes from a stunt family so he was already in the loop and was able to help me out a lot. Also both Brent and his dad were in the first episode of Walking Dead, Brent is the thug who shoots rick at the end of the shootout in the first act of the episode, and his dad is the one with the shotgun.
Anyways, I eventually I got a call from the stunt coordinator of CW's The Vampire Diaries, John Copeman, and he wanted me to come in for an interview to be a possible double for an episode. I went in the next day and I was probably the most nervous I had ever been in my life, thankfully I ended up getting the job. (laughing) That was the first thing I ever worked on, and I'm glad I was given the opportunity to do so.
Keven: When you got the job on The Walking Dead - did you ever take any direction from Frank (Darabont) or Michelle (Maclaren) directly for your two scenes? I'm just wondering if either had different advice for you since you die horrifically (or re-die because you're a zombie) in two very different ways.
Max: Yes, I did get direction from both of them. Frank wanted a lot slower of an approach like I didn't notice them right off the bat. And Michelle wanted me to be a lot more vicious and have a faster approach. They were both super nice people, and easy to work for.
Keven: Was it hard doing stuntwork while wearing that makeup/prosthetics? I'm thinking breathing and taking some hits/falls while still looking like a zombie can be quite tough.
Max: Actually it wasn't bad at all. Greg Nicotero did a great job of making sure you could breathe really well while wearing the prosthetics. And he likes peoples faces to be free to emote and act, so he places them so they don't restrict your face too much.
Keven: You're into Parkour, right? That's a fairly dangerous sport - have you ever been badly hurt doing anything for that?
Max: Yeah I love Parkour, I've been practicing the sport since late 2006 and one of the big passions I have in my life. It's actually as only dangerous as you make it, unlike other sports the only variable is yourself. So personally I try to never do anything too far outside my limits and progress in small increments. It's a great sport though, it really turns you into a well rounded athlete, because you use your whole body. (jumping, climbing, running, crawling, etc.)
Keven: What are your future plans - anything you want the BLAMMERS to know about?
Max: Well I'm still working my way into stunts, its a long process but so far it's going well. So really I just want to keep working in stunts and be able to pursue my dreams of having a lasting career in the film business.
I've also have been entertaining the idea of writing on the side. I have a few ideas in the back of my head that I would like to pursue one day. I have close friend from school who is an aspiring writer and the funniest person I've met. I'd love to collaborate with him and write a really funny screenplay.