He is best known for playing the lead role in the highly regarded Playtest episode of BBC/Netflix’s critically acclaimed series Black Mirror (directed by 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg). Now, emerging actor Wyatt Russell stars in Paramount Pictures’ new suspense thriller Overlord (in Philippine cinemas November 7).
From producer J.J. Abrams, Overlord is a thrilling, pulse-pounding action adventure with a twist. With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that’s crucial to the invasion’s success. Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower. But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies unlike any the world has ever seen.
Wyatt Russell plays the hard-bitten Cpl. Ford. An experienced explosives expert who’s seen more than his share of mayhem on the battlefield, Ford assumes command of the ragtag unit early in the film.
“Ford had to be someone who intimidates the audience on some level, but who’s also the guy you’d want on your side if you’re parachuting into Nazi territory,” says J.J. Abrams. “To play him, we needed someone with an inherent strength and gruffness, and it’s harder to find that combination than you might expect. But when we saw Wyatt, he had all the qualities we were looking for.”
The filmmakers were all ready to cast Russell when an issue over the actor’s hair threatened to derail the deal. He had already booked his role as a scruffy ex-surfer on the new AMC series Lodge 49, and his contract stipulated that he couldn’t cut his hair or beard, both of which would need substantial trimming for his role in Overlord. After months of negotiating, the Overlord team cut Russell’s hair and then added long extensions to prove to AMC that they would look realistic enough for his Lodge 49 role.
“We sent him back to AMC studios in person so their executives and producers could inspect his scalp up close,” says producer Lindsey Weber with a laugh. “Thankfully it all worked out, because Wyatt has a quiet intensity and strength that we really needed for Ford. When he smiles and his tough exterior breaks, you totally love him.”
Although the film shrouds Ford’s backstory in mystery, Russell developed a psychological profile of the character that allowed him to fully inhabit the role. “I think Ford was a guy who probably had a normal job before World War II came along,” says the actor. “He left it and joined the military because that’s what you were supposed to do at the time. He’s a natural leader who can tell people what to do and how to do it.”
Russell was formerly a professional hockey player before he turned his attention to acting.
Overlord is directed by Julius Avery and stars Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, and Iain de Caestecker.
Overlord is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.