How the The Crazies is scary, violent, funny and 'F-d' up

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

When star Timothy Olyphant was first approached to play the starring role in director Breck Eisner's remake of George A. Romero's classic sci-fi horror movie The Crazies, the actor says he was more drawn to the intensity of the action and dark themes of the cautionary tale than to the character itself.

"I think there was something there," Olyphant told SCI FI Wire, "but Breck and I kind of rolled up our shirtsleeves and together fleshed something out." (Spoilers ahead!)

Olyphant's Sheriff Dutton is the de-facto leader of a small fictional town called Ogden Marsh, Iowa. He inherited the badge from his father, who never once fired his weapon. "I think he thought it was like a lifeguarding gig," says Olyphant. "Every now and then he'd have to say, 'No running, get out of the pool,' and then the s--t kind of hits the fan, and it just gets worse from there."

As in the original movie, a mysterious disease starts to take hold of the townspeople, and Dutton must rise to the occasion along with his wife and the town doctor, Judy (Radha Mitchell). During the film's opening sequence, a peaceful, sunny spring opening day for the local baseball team, a pig farmer ominously walks onto the field with a shotgun. Dutton steps in and is forced to gun the man down in front of the horrified townspeople. From there, The Crazies has very little time for warm and fuzzy moments.

Olyphant says he and Eisner enjoyed finding that delicate balance between action, violence and, to quote the actor, "The overall F'd-up-ness of it all." From there it was all about balancing the story's many emotional highs and lows.

"When it's really fun is when you're really taking [the audience] on a ride," says Olyphant. "What Breck and I had a lot of fun with was in seeing where we could find a laugh, seeing where we could really feel like 'this is going to make people squirm,' 'this is going to make people uncomfortable.' It's really fun if you can find a couple of those things in a single moment."

Although Olyphant's character is a pretty serious guy, the actor says he did try to pepper in some humor to lighten the mood just a bit. "That's always tricky," says Olyphant. "We snuck in a couple laughs. I'm always trying to find some comedy with my drama, but at the same time you have to stay true to the tone of what we're trying to do. There are some really funny moments to the film that I'm really pleased with."

Still, Crazies is mainly about the action and the scares, and Olyphant says he was happy to dive in feet first. Fortunately, aside from a few bumps and bruises, the actor says he was able to escape from The Crazies unscathed. "Technically, as part of my job description, I should complain about something," Olyphant jokes. "It really is part of the profession. But quite honestly, it was a piece of cake. It was great."

The Crazies opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.

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