Here's a new look at Tig Notaro as you've never seen her before: as a badass helicopter pilot in Zack Snyder's upcoming zombie heist movie Army of the Dead.
The role represents a bit of a departure for the comedian and actress, who is best known for her deadpan stand-up. "My agent called and told me that they wanted me for the film and I said, 'Oh, okay, cool, so they're looking at a few people,' and she said, 'No, they want you,'" Notaro recalls. "And I said, 'Oh, that's really interesting,' because it's not my typical role. I've done Star Trek: Discovery, but I've certainly never been in an action film."
The rest of the situation wasn't exactly typical either. The film had already wrapped production in 2019, and the pilot role was originally shot with comedian-actor Chris D'Elia, who was accused of sexual misconduct by several women after filming had finished. Snyder had decided to replace the actor digitally (not entirely unlike how Kevin Spacey was swapped out for Christopher Plummer in the 2017 film All the Money in the World). "It was the best thing to do not just for the property, but for respecting humanity and people and decency," Snyder says.
Notaro accepted the role despite being in a vulnerable group and having to film her scenes during the pandemic (she's a cancer survivor, something she hilariously and heartbreakingly discussed in her acclaimed 2012 stand-up album Tig Notaro – Live). "We were right in the heart of COVID and she is in a vulnerable group, and yet she just put her head down and came out and did that work with us, and it turned out to be amazing," Snyder says. "I just think she's cool as hell."
The role was rebranded as "Marianne Peters," with "little tweaks" made to the script. Notaro shot her scenes against a greenscreen. It was a rather odd experience, as Notaro was put in the surreal position of watching a movie that had already been completely shot and then playing a part to be digitally inserted into the scenes.
"It felt a little daunting," Notaro says, "but Zack basically just told me it's a sarcastic, comedic role and said he wanted me to do exactly what I do — which is good because I always tell directors, when they walk up to me to give me direction, 'Before you say anything, just keep in mind that I have no range.'"
Adds Snyder: "I knew she was awesome and I knew it'd be good, though I also couldn't be 100 percent sure what it would mean for the movie — what would be her alchemy inside of this film. Her subtlety, her cadence, it's just so unique. So it was like an exciting adventure for us."
"It was definitely helpful [to have seen the film], and it was also very exciting because every single person in the version I watched was incredible," Notaro says. "I was doing a lot of stuff just completely by myself. It was such a funny realization because I could start to think, 'Wow, I'm starring in a movie,' because it seemed like I was the focal point of everything. Then I realized there was no real way for me to be able to tell how far off in the distance [in the shot] I am. One time, 'I'm getting the feeling that I'm going to be blurred out [in the background] in this, am I correct?'"
That said, Notaro adds that she was rather surprised by how much fun she had given that greenscreen shooting is notoriously an arduous process.
"This could have been the drabbest greenscreen experience, yet it was by far one of the most fun experiences I've had," she says. "Zack Snyder is a genius. The fact that he wrote, produced, and directed this, and was a cinematographer and was the cameraman. Somebody that talented and busy could certainly be a jerk, but he took the time to hang out and talk to everybody and gave every single person the time of day. So I would love for people to know what a stellar human that guy is and the entire crew. It was a blast."
Beyond Army of the Dead, Notaro says she expects to return as chief engineer Jett Reno for Star Trek: Discovery season 4 after having joined the show for its sophomore season. Notaro also has another stand-up special in the works, following up on 2015's Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl (HBO) and 2018's Happy To Be Here (Netflix).
"I did sell a new stand-up special, no exaggeration, on the day that Hollywood shut down [last March]," she says. "We sold this and went home and were never allowed out of our houses again. It's a stand-up special like no other that I've done. There's a lot of creativity to it, it's not a typical straight-ahead stand-up show. I believe it's supposed to be out in ."