The Curious Case of Tyler Labine

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Published August 31, 2011

JASON SUDEIKIS (LEFT) AND TYLER LABINE IN A GOOD OLD FASHIONED ORGY. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS

Tyler Labine is in the peculiar position of becoming a big name in Hollywood—just 24-odd years after he began performing professionally. Labine, who got his start as a child filming bit parts in Canadian TV shows, has major roles in three movies this year: franchise reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, R-rated raunchfest A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, and Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, a horror comedy about two genial buddies who are mistaken for murderers. Due to a quirk in the studios’ release schedules, the films are being released within 60 days of one another, although they were shot years apart.

Before Orgy‘s Labor Day premiere, we caught up with Labine to ask him about nude scenes, Canadian cinema, and locking lips with Jason Sudeikis. 

BUSIS: I was researching you today and I realized you were in one of the scariest episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? ever.

LABINE: Oh my God! The scarecrow one, right?

BUSIS: Yeah! You gave me nightmares!

LABINE: I’m sorry! That was not my intention. I was like, 15 when I did that. [laughs]  Big, award-winning Canadian show, proud that I was actually a part of that—and that you know what it is.BUSIS: Well, there were a ton of Canadian actors that got a start on it. Ryan Gosling was in an episode.

LABINE: I know! I actually was on another show with Ryan Gosling—a Canadian show called Breaker High, where we went to school on a boat all over the world. Him and I are still really good friends. We were shooting on a converted soda pop factory in suburban Burnaby, which is outside Vancouver. I [still] get full grown adults who’ve seen the show going, like, “What was it like when you went to France?” Seriously? Do you honestly think that we went all over the world on that boat? There’s no boat!

BUSIS: That’s like telling them there isn’t a Santa.

LABINE: Oh yeah, I know. I take pride in breaking their hearts. But no, it was awesome. Ryan and I became really good friends. I taught him how to drive a car. And it was almost like I was a member of a boy band in Canada for awhile. It was so wildly popular.

BUSIS: Beyond that, you’ve been under the radar for so long, and now, all of a sudden, you’re starring in all of these movies that are coming out at the same time.

LABINE: It’s weird, man. I actually started acting professionally when I was 9 years old. And to have people saying that I’m on this breakthrough list, it’s all really flattering—I’m like, “Oh, I am? I’ll believe it when I see it.” It seems like it’s a bit of a coincidence that these three movies are coming out at the same time, because we shot them—I shot Good Old Fashioned three years ago, Tucker & Dale was two years ago, and Planet of the Apes was last year. But I do have a couple other movies coming out and a couple of things on the horizon, so it does feel like things have shifted a bit—but I will always be glad just to be a working actor, you know?

BUSIS: So let’s talk about Orgy. What was your reaction when you first read the script?

LABINE: I wouldn’t say it was disgust, but it was pretty skeptical. I remember I read three or four pages of it and I thought, “Yeah, it’s a titty comedy.” And then I read more, and I realized very quickly that it was not. It was much more based around the ins and outs of being long-term friends with people, and how you choose to stay in those people’s lives. This movie’s about making some last, crazy attempt to cling on to our friendships by having sex with each other. And of course, it goes horribly wrong.

BUSIS: I was really surprised by how sweet it was. I guess that’s becoming a cliché, to say, “This movie is about sex but it also has heart.”

LABINE: Yeah. I guess the R-rated sex comedy, which has made such a huge comeback, is definitely at play in this. But I think it’s even tamer than some people thought it was going to be. It’s even sweeter. And also a lot funnier, and not just like, gross-out.

BUSIS: Did you have any hesitation about your various nude scenes?

LABINE: I didn’t think I was going to, because I had done a whole string of movies where I showed my ass. And the one I made with my brother in Toronto was about a guy that fucks computers—that’s his fetish.

BUSIS: You made that with your brother?

LABINE: Yeah. He wrote the starring role for me. About a guy who fucks computers. Anyway, I thought, “I’m not going to have any hang-ups about doing this.” But then I realized, “We’re actually going to simulate an orgy.” And I think an orgy to some people sounds like a good idea, but to me, it sounds terrifying. We shot it at the end of the shoot as well, which for some people made them feel more comfortable. But I was like, “No! Now that I know you more, I don’t want to fuck you! I want to be your friend.” So we finally shot it. We loosened up with a few cocktails and did it. And next thing you know, everybody was perhaps too comfortable around each other.

BUSIS: In the movie, someone says that people in their 30s are the lamest generation because they’re so inhibited. Do you think that that’s fair?

LABINE: Yeah. I had never really thought about it until I read that. We’re talking about the kids and their sex bracelets, and the wild parties that our parents had. And we just sort of got stuck with this fear of sex, of getting a disease. The ’90s were horseshit. What happened there? We got some okay grunge music out of it. But there was not a sexually liberated generation.

BUSIS: It’s funny to juxtapose that with something else your character says. He’s looking back at his high school years, and he goes, “Weren’t 30-year-olds a lot older back then, with mustaches and jobs?”

LABINE: Yeah! It’s true. I still look at those guys and think that they’re older than me. Same thing with athletes. I look at athletes who are probably 22 years old and I’m like, “Yeah, but they’re professional athletes. They must be like, in their 40s.” You get this preconceived notion of what a 30-year-old looks like, and I don’t think you ever look at yourself and go, “Yeah, yeah, that’s me.”

BUSIS: I wanted to ask you, also, about your kiss with Jason Sudeikis.

LABINE: [laughs] It was one of those ideas that was in the original script from as long back as I can remember. Originally, it was with me and Nick Kroll, and then it was going to be with Martin. Then a couple days before [shooting the scene], they were like, “It’s going to be you and Sudeikis.” I remember thinking, “Why am I the constant in this equation?” Jason and I were like, “If we’re going to do this, we’re gonna make it good.” [We] just really went for the seriousness of it. I guess it’s sort of gotten a bit of viral attention from the bear community.

BUSIS: Oh, really?

LABINE: Yeah! I say bring it, man. The more fans the better. It’s a funny bit, and it’s so awkward to watch.

BUSIS: Did you think that was the most awkward scene you had to shoot in the movie?

LABINE: I don’t know. I guess it’s the plain issue of kissing a guy, I find that kind of uncomfortable. But there were other scenes where I had to have just my ass in front of the camera, and that’s basically the [whole] shot. It’s one thing to do a little peck with a guy, but to have people around the country looking at my cottage cheese ass—all of these wild insecurities started to pop up.

BUSIS: Is it difficult to play a slacker character when in reality, you’re a grown-up who has a wife and a kid?

LABINE: Yeah, it’s getting that way. I’ve been trying to find more mature characters to play—there’s just something in me still that just really loves playing those characters that have no hang-ups. It’s like the id of the psyche—morally rudderless, say what you mean, do what you want, don’t worry about the repercussions. And it’s nice to have someone pay you to be that guy. But my wife is like, “When you come home from work, you are Dad, all right? We’re not going to go to a party and do keg stands.” There’s only so long that you can play that character.

BUSIS: That seems like a good transition into talking about Planet of the Apes, because your character really isn’t anything like that.

LABINE: Yeah. Planet of the Apes was such a great shot at being totally straight. Being a career-driven, legitimate scientist. Originally, in the script, I was a little more comedic. But we did reshoots and went back, and they edited it a lot. I was like, “Oh, that sucks, I thought that stuff was funny,” and [director Rupert Wyatt] was like, “This movie’s not funny.” So instead of just cutting me, he added some scenes for me, which I thought was really cool.

BUSIS: Then in Tucker & Dale, you’re in a broader role again.

LABINE: Well, Dale is not the smarmy, chubby slacker friend. He’s just honestly a very simple, genuine, nice guy. I liken him to being just sort of a big, brave, dumb animal. An animal that you shouldn’t underestimate. And I wasn’t allowed to do my schtick with him. Every time I tried to, Eli, the director, was like “He’s too dumb.” So it was really fun to strip everything back and just try and go for the earnest nature of the character.

BUSIS: How easy was it to negotiate the territory between horror and comedy?

LABINE: It was really tricky—I’m not going to lie. Me and Alan and Eli had our work cut out for us. We were trying to make this movie without winking at the audience. We wanted these guys to be genuinely reacting to a fucking crazy situation.

BUSIS: So after having had a pretty good year in terms of movies, do you feel like you would like to go back to TV at some point?

LABINE: I really love TV because it’s a longer, permanent gig, if it goes well. You really get to flesh out characters—13 episodes is like a 6-hour movie, basically. I just sold a show to Fox that I’m producing and starring in. Allan Loeb’s producing, Tim Dowling is writing and producing it [with] Ryan Reynolds and Allan’s company, DarkFire. And Ryan’s going to be a reoccurring character on the show. We’re going to shoot the pilot next year. I think it’s going to be a really good one. 

A GOOD OLD FASHIONED ORGY OPENS TODAY. TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL OPENS SEPTEMBER 30.