When Jovan Adepo first read the script for Overlord during the auditioning process, he was excited. “I was just thinking to myself, ‘This is an incredibly ambitious film,'” the actor told GameSpot during a recent interview.
Overlord follows a small squad of World War II paratroopers on a mission to destroy a radio tower on the eve of the famous Normandy landing in 1944. In a small French village, they discover horrifying experiments being perpetrated by evil Nazi scientists. Adepo plays Boyce, a member of the squad and the movie’s main protagonist.
Naturally, in addition to the film’s ambition, Adepo also liked one of the names attached to the movie: producer J.J. Abrams. “When my agent first told me about it and he told me who was involved, you know, I was obviously intrigued,” Adepo said. But it was more than just working with Abrams. Adepo spent much of production wondering the same thing as many fans: whether Overlord was going to be a Cloverfield movie.
“I’m a digger, man. I came from a journalist background, so I’m naturally very nosy,” Adepo said. “I was watching Cloverfield Paradox right after the Super Bowl, and I was really curious as to how we were going to be connected to them, or if we were at all.”
The question was treated as mystery internally, just like it was to those outside the movie. At one point, Adepo flat out asked: “It might not have been the smartest thing, but whatever–I just went up to one of the producers and I was like, ‘Hey are we a part of the Cloverfield universe? And he was like, ‘Uh, Jovan, I don’t know,’ and I know he knew, but he just wasn’t going to tell me. But I mean, that’s what you expect. Bad Robot is very good at keeping everything in this ‘mystery box’ until it’s the perfect time.”
Adepo said if there were Cloverfield connections in the early version of the script that he saw during auditioning, he never noticed them. And the script apparently underwent only minor changes after that, such as altering Boyce’s background after Adepo was cast. Adepo said the producers allowed the question to float around set well into production. But eventually, they came clean to the cast.
“There was a moment, from what I can remember, when we were doing a couple of pickups, where they just knew that we were very curious about the whole thing, and they were like, ‘No guys, we’re kind of just teasing you,'” Adepo recalled. “‘We were just pulling your leg. We very much wanted this to be its on thing.’ Because when it was conceived, it was its own thing.”
Naturally, not every production from Abrams’ Bad Robot studio is going to wind up being a secret Cloverfield movie, like 10 Cloverfield Lane and Cloverfield Paradox were. Overlord’s potential place in that canon felt both likely and unlikely; on one hand, a movie set during World War II would take place long before the events that set any of the other Cloverfield films in motion, but on the other, Overlord’s mix of grounded action and sci-fi horror is the exact right kind of weird to fit.
Adepo said he was intimidated to work with Abrams either way–until he met him. “It was a really cool experience, and it was really cool to meet him, because, you know, just seeing him only in videos and in interviews and stuff, he’s so intimidating to me,” Adepo said. “But to get to meet him in person, he’s one of the kindest people I’ve met, and he just genuinely wants you to do well.”
Abrams visited the set in England multiple times to check on production and offer his own creative input. “It’s so cool to see him walk around and just like, smile to himself and nod his head, and he’s like, ‘Show me the next thing, because I think you’re doing a good job,'” Adepo said. “When J.J. flies from Los Angeles to England to see the work on the film and he’s just smiling the whole time, you’re doing your job.”
He said Julius Avery, Overlord’s director, deserves a lot of credit for having a clear vision and executing it while also balancing the studios’ demands. “[Julius] walked in the first day of pre-production with this idea of the type of movie that he wanted to make,” Adepo said. “This is a guy who is in love with action movies, the classical heist film–that’s like, his jam. His favorite movie is Heat, for Christ’s sake. So when came into this movie, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. And of course, when you’re working with the studio, you have to learn to collaborate and be efficient in your collaboration, because everybody’s bringing great ideas to the forefront. You want to just try to mix it as much as you can and still come out with your movie.”
Cloverfield tie-in or not, Adepo thinks the people who will enjoy the movie most are the ones who understand what it’s supposed to be. “I’ve heard people talk about it’s like one of those classic B horror films,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong–you know, my first film was [1950s period drama] Fences. I get like, the importance of heightened drama and, you know, proper filmmaking. But like, you want to be able to go to a movie and enjoy a movie without it speaking to the social climate of what’s going on right now, or whatever the case may be. You know what I mean?”
“We get enough of that every day in the news,” he continued. “You want to have a moment where you can go to the movies, get some popcorn with your buddies or go on a date, and just see a really fun movie that’s high energy that’s going to keep you involved, and that’s exactly what Bad Robot wanted to do with this film. And I think we accomplished that.”
Overlord is in theaters now.