Nora Arnezeder Interview: Army of the Dead


On May 21, the world will see Zack Snyder and zombie apocalypses reunited with Army of the Dead. The epic adventure focuses on a group of mercenaries trying to pull off a heist in Las Vegas while the undead run amok – but to get into the once thriving metropolis, they first need the help of a newfangled coyote named Lily.

Nora Arnezeder, who plays Lily, spoke to Screen Rant about the aspects of the script that spoke to her and the importance of French pride when playing her role.

When you first read the script, what were some of the themes that jumped out at you?

Nora Arnezeder: Well, it’s definitely a zombie movie with a lot of poetry and a lot of different genres. It was funny at times; it had some thriller aspects to it. It’s incorporating a lot of different genres that are melting really well together. It’s really well put together.

Zack Snyder is a very visual director, and when you read the script, you could really feel his vision. By only reading the script, actually.

Your character Lily is the coyote that takes the team into Vegas. Can you tell me a little bit about her backstory and how she ended up in the camp outside of Vegas?

Nora Arnezeder: That’s something that I created for myself. That’s something that you do as an actor: you create a background character. I can tell you my little secrets, if you want.

She’s doing everything for her daughter. She has a daughter. Yeah, it’s a big revelation.

In order to build a strong character, I always look at the big picture and the bigger objective. I think doing it for the money is not as strong, but doing it for someone that’s so dear to your heart brings so many layers to the character. It makes it deep.

Lily feels like she has penance to pay for what she’s done in her past by being a coyote Can you talk to me a little bit about that, and about some of the sacrifices that she has to make up for?

Nora Arnezeder: Yeah, she’s basically sacrificing her life. And sometimes she has to do stuff that’s not necessarily something she wants to do. She has to make a lot of sacrifices.

She’s a bit of an antihero in a way as well. It’s also interesting to build a character that’s not perfect. Because who’s perfect? No one. So, I don’t really believe in the hero who’s got to save the world. No, Lily is an antihero who works in the refugee camp. The mercenaries call her so she could help them get back into the zombie stronghold. She’s very crafty. She’s very strong. She knows how to deal with weapons.

On paper, she’s kind of like a badass. But there’s something deeper than that.

We also get introduced to these elevated zombies, if you will. Can you talk to me a little bit about who they are, and about how your character Lily knows so much about them?

Nora Arnezeder: They are different types of zombies. I don’t think I can really get into details, but they’re definitely smarter and more organized. Just saying this because it was in the trailer, so that’s something I can say. But yeah, there are different kinds of zombies who are smarter. So yeah, it’s gonna be fun.

Nora Arnezeder, Raúl Castillo, Matthias Schweighöfer, Omari Hardwick and Ana de la Reguera in Army of the Dead

Nora Arnezeder, Raúl Castillo, Matthias Schweighöfer, Omari Hardwick and Ana de la Reguera in Army of the Dead

Everybody that I’ve ever spoken to about Zack loves the guy and his passion for making film. Can you talk to me about the collaboration process of working with Zack?

Nora Arnezeder: Listen, Zack is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. He’s so generous. He really trusts his actors’ instincts. I just love working with a director and feel that I can make any kind of decisions or choices, and he’s never going to be judgmental. He’s never gonna make me feel like it was a mistake, or I shouldn’t have tried this and that.

Because I think that the best thing about acting is to ridicule yourself and not feel sorry about it, and make sure the director is not making you feel sorry about it. Because that’s freedom, you know? It’s funny, because we live in a society where everyone has to be perfect, where we have to think like everyone else. If someone on social media thinks one way, we’ve got to follow what they say. And I think the best thing about life and arts is being able to have this freedom and creativity, and be okay with not being perfect. To fail and try again.

Zack is truly a visionary, and he’s also the DP on this film. What surprised you about his directing style?

Nora Arnezeder: Well, he’s very freestyle, handheld. No marks on the ground. I think his camera follows the actors; we don’t follow the camera. Right. And I think that’s something that I really appreciate. It elevates the performances, for sure.

You guys shot this in a casino that’s been closed down for a while. Did that add any kind of creepy factor?

Nora Arnezeder: We slept inside a casino, and it was really creepy. I couldn’t sleep at night. It was like the walls were cracking.

It was interesting. We really like got in, you know?

What is what did you want to bring to Lily that wasn’t necessarily on the page?

Nora Arnezeder: I just wanted to also bring her French-ness. She was not written as a French character.

It’s funny, because I was having this conversation earlier with Ana and another journalist. I came to America 10 years ago, and at the time, no one could understand a word of what I was saying when I was acting in English. I took a lot of dialect coaching [classes], and I tried to sound as American as possible. But, of course, I will never be American because I’m from the south of France.

But what I’m saying is, for Lily, I really wanted her to bring the French-ness in her. And the real journey that was interesting, from when I arrived in America to today, is that in the beginning I really wanted to fit in. And now with all the work that I did on myself, and all the work that I did as an actor, there’s something interesting in just owning who you are.

This movie looks like so much fun to make. And are there any fun stories that you can tell from the set?

Nora Arnezeder: To me, it really felt like the first day at school every day. She’s in charge. And at some point, I remember I had this scene where I had a lot [to do], I had a lot of dialogue, and all the characters were standing in front of me. I had to teach them, to be in charge and tell them what to do and what not to do. And at some point, I really lost it. I forgot my lines; I didn’t know what I was doing. I saw completely black.

And at this point, I realized that my character could be vulnerable. [Just] because you’re in charge, and because you are a badass, that doesn’t mean you can’t also he vulnerable and sensitive.

Next: Omari Hardwick & Matthias Schweighöfer Interview for Army of the Dead

  • Army of the Dead (2021)Release date: May 21, 2021

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