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Nora Arnezeder Dishes On Her Voyage To The Colony, Looks Back On Army Of The Dead, And More - Exclusive Interview

Acclaimed actor Nora Arnezeder has had quite an eventful summer, kicking off in late May with the monster reception to Zack Snyder's zombie heist extravaganza "Army of the Dead," which premiered to 72 million Netflix households in its first four weeks of release. That meant a lot of exposure for star Dave Bautista and the actors who played the crew infiltrating a zombie-infested Las Vegas. Among them was Arnezeder, who played Lilly, aka "The Coyote," a gun-toting ass-kicker who guided the group through the treacherous landscape to retrieve $200 million from an underground casino.

Now, nearly three months after the smashing debut of "Army of the Dead," Arnezeder is traversing another future apocalyptic landscape in director Tim Fehlbaum's sci-fi thriller "The Colony." Debuting in theaters, on digital, and video on demand on Friday, August 27, "The Colony" finds Earth in shambles after wars, pandemics, and climate change devastated the planet. Many of Earth's inhabitants evacuated Earth decades before for a distant planet called Kepler-209, only to find that the change in atmosphere prevented the ability to procreate.

In a bid to save humankind's future, astronauts return to Earth from their distant refuge, with Blake (Arnezeder) left as the only survivor after an attack by the planet's scavengers following her crew's crash landing. With Earth mostly submerged in water and the state of the planet looking bleak, Blake must find a way to reconnect with a crucial survivor who stayed behind years before to take on forces of evil in a bid to save the future.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Arnezeder discussed the important themes of "The Colony," reminisced about her experiences on "Army of the Dead," and gave a preview of her next project, "The Offer" — a streaming series about the making of the Oscar-winning crime drama "The Godfather."

Nora Arnezeder welcomes physically demanding roles

When we first talked for "Army of the Dead" a few months ago, I remember you were sad that COVID forced you to miss "The Colony," also known as "Tides," at its premiere at Berlin Film Festival. You have to be happy now, though, knowing that people in the U.S. are going to see it.

Yes, I'm so happy. I'm so happy that my friends and family are going to see the movie as well. I saw the movie in my living room a month ago, and I was so proud of it. I'm so proud of what Tim did. He's such an amazing director and one of the best that I've worked with. And it's one of the best movies I've ever made, and I'm really, really proud of it. I got the part three years ago. Everyone took the chance to hire me, because it was a lead role, and Tim trusted me. And we did it together, and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had. And I cannot wait to watch it in the cinema. I miss those days when we could go to the cinema, feeling free.

Right from the very beginning of "The Colony," it seems to me — like when you worked with Zack Snyder in "Army of the Dead" — that you're not afraid to get down and dirty in the mud, the blood, and whatever gets in your way. Do you have an attraction to those sorts of roles?

Yeah. To me, the roles that have the most obstacles are the best. I like being challenged, and I like to play different characters. I like to embody different characters and renew myself and discover myself or parts of myself through my characters. I discovered a lot of things shooting "Tides."

You referred to it as "Tides." Is it still called "Tides" in Europe or is the official title of the film now "The Colony"?

It's "The Colony" and "Tides." In Europe, it's "Tides," and "The Colony" in America.

Nora Arnezeder liked working in real elements

The film is dark, dreary, damp, and desperate. How much does that affect your psyche while working? I mean, a lot of different things can inform a performance, but to have this bleak atmosphere, which I think Tim Fehlbaum really is terrific at creating, that has to have some sort of effect on you.

Yeah. What was great is that Tim really wanted to play with real elements, so it was barely no green screen effects. Working with real elements was extraordinary. I discovered the locations the same way my character, Blake, discovered it.

At its heart, "The Colony" is a human story, a drama, but obviously it's sci-fi as well. Was there a specific element of the script that you read and said, "You know what, I really need to get involved with this project."?

To me, it's not a specific scene, it's an assortment of things. I was really drawn to Blake. Her emotional arc was very interesting to me. She starts off robotic. She learned from a very young age how to suppress her emotions. She cannot procreate on planet Kepler. When she goes to Earth, her TSH level starts recovering, and then she starts having human feelings again, gets her period for the first time. And so, the journey, her emotional arc is extraordinary. And I think it's gold for an actor to be playing these kinds of roles.

And of course, I've watched the work of Tim before. He did a movie called "Hell" [aka "Apocalypse"] that I really loved. And I was like, "Okay, he's a serious director, and it's a great script." I just want to be involved in this film, so I auditioned for it. I auditioned, didn't get a call back, waited, waited, forgot about the project. And then they called me and said, "Hey, the director wants to want to meet you and wants you to go to Berlin to meet him." And so I met him, and I did a callback with him, and I got the part, and that was great.

Nora Arnezeder sees similarities in her Colony and Army of the Dead characters

Like Lilly in "Army of the Dead," Blake is definitely a character who cares for others, yet she's a compassionate loner. Do you feel that somehow subconsciously you're drawn to roles like that?

Oh, that's really interesting. I really believe we get offered roles that reflect on your life or roles that can actually make you grow as a human being. But yeah, I can see the similarities between Blake and Lilly. In the beginning, they are kind of isolated from the rest of the world, and then they have to start working, team up with people and connect. And they're not necessarily used to that. So yeah, I definitely see the similarity. If I can like make a parallel to my own life, I don't know. I feel we always need to connect in order to create. We have an idea in our head, and then we need to let go of our idea and connect. That's the essence of a human being. If we don't connect, we're dying.

Going back to the production of this film and as it relates to "Army of the Dead" — did Zack somehow see any footage of you in "The Colony" or get wind of what you were doing in this film as a way to bring you into "Army of the Dead," because of those parallels between the two characters?

I don't think he saw "Tides" at all. I did an audition for Zack Snyder, and he cast me after he saw my audition and he liked it, and he offered me the part. And it was actually seven months after I shot "Tides."

The Colony gave Nora Arnezeder her Ripley moment

At the beginning of "The Colony," Blake encounters these tentacled creatures that to me, evoke "Alien" in a way. And while the plot of "The Colony" is very different from anything you'd see in any of the "Alien" movies, did that scene help you live a Sigourney Weaver/Ripley-like moment that you were hoping to act out someday?

Yeah. I mean, she's a great reference, for sure. I had a picture of her on my phone, and I would look at the picture sometimes. Actually, I didn't necessarily base my character on her, but I definitely loved her physicality. Her physicality was something that kind of inspired me, and she's great. She's fantastic.

There was also a movie that I saw called "Under the Skin" with Scarlet Johansson, where she was very robotic, repressed her emotions completely, and everything was internalized. I actually got really inspired watching that movie and watching her performance.

Were you a fan of science fiction growing up at all? Is it the sort of genre you've always wanted to be a part of in some capacity?

You know what? That genre came to me. I've never liked it, necessarily. I appreciate science fiction movies, but I'm not a connoisseur. They're not necessarily the kind of movies I would watch. But what I love about "Tides" is that it's not a science fiction movie completely. It has different kind of topics, about connection, family, friendship and ecological themes. And it's a rich movie. So when I watched "Tides," I actually wasn't watching me in the movie. I was really trying to put my perspective between the movie and myself, and I really enjoyed the movie. Really, really enjoyed it, and I'm very proud of it.

Roland Emmerich is the executive producer on this picture. Did you see "Independence Day"?

A long time ago, I did, of course.

It must've been exciting knowing that he's part of "The Colony," knowing his big contributions to the science fiction genre.

Yeah. He's definitely great making these science fiction movies. He did very well. And I met him, actually. I met him recently in L.A. at a premiere. We had a screening of "Tides," and he was there, and it was great. He's a great guy.

Nora Arnezeder believes The Colony is a cautionary tale

The Earth in the future that you're exploring in "The Colony" is ravaged by pandemics, war, and climate change. Looking at the completed film now — while we're still in the pandemic, and the world is a very fragile place with wars and countries falling under terrorist rule, and lastly, the pressing concerns of climate change — do you look at the story of "The Colony" different now than you did then when you were filming it?

That's a very good question. Actually, yes. Because until you really live it, you have an idea of it, but know we're going through this war, this crisis, and we have to get used to it and reinvent ourselves. You know what I mean? And find a way to focus on even more on ourselves, even more than we used to. And it's an interesting time. Now, the question is, "Are we going to learn from our past mistakes?" You know? "Are we going to repeat the same mistakes over and over again? Are we going to try to find solutions or are we going to try to escape the problem?"

Back to "Army of the Dead," which had massive viewership on Netflix. While actors and filmmakers always go in with a great amount of hope into projects, the reception was overwhelming. Does that surprise you?

No, it doesn't, it doesn't. It's a fun, entertaining movie, and Zack is great. And I was sure when I was shooting the movie that it would be huge ... You feel these kinds of things. You don't think about it when you shoot it. You try to be as humble as possible and do the job. But yeah, I had a good feeling about that one. And it's been great for me. I'm very happy that [Zack] gave me that opportunity to be in the movie, because it's been really good. It got me great opportunities, and I'm very grateful for that.

Nora Arnezeder is up for exploring all sorts of genres

Now, when I talked with you for "Army of the Dead," your hair was blonde, but now, I'm presuming naturally, you're a brunette.

You know what? My eyebrows [which are brunette] are my real color.

I'm asking because I think that you'd scared the crap out of people. If you look like Lilly with blonde hair going out onto the street, people would be walking around you because you were such a badass in that movie!

You don't want to be friends with that person! [Laughs]

But like I said, she was a compassionate person. Plus, I think we can talk about this now: What a spectacular death Lilly had, huh?

Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. And she's not even a hero. She's a survivor, who's like a survivor like Blake, actually, and Lilly dies in a very heroic way.

Now that you've been so effective in both horror and sci-fi, given your pick, is there a specific superhero franchise that you'd like to join, Marvel or DC? I mean, Zack obviously has a great history in DC.

Yeah. I'd love to. Why not? I want to play a male superhero. Cut my hair, change my body language and just embody somebody else. I don't know. I'll be honest with you. I like superhero movies, but I don't watch them a lot, to be honest. I love what Gal Gadot did with "Wonder Woman." She's fantastic. The "Joker" movie was incredible.

All of the people who have played the Joker been incredible. That's for sure.

I like that character. He's like a dark supervillain. A lot of darkness. I like those kinds of roles and they're interesting to play.

I think you're saying you have a dark side, Nora. Nora has a dark side!

Don't we all? [Laughs]

Nora Arnezeder couldn't refuse a role in the Godfather series The Offer

Being a lifelong fan of "The Godfather," I'm so excited to see "The Offer" is coming up and thrilled to see that you're going to be a part of it. How did that opportunity come about? Do you think your work in "Army of the Dead" had something to do with that?

Yes! And you know why? Because John Papsidera cast me in "Army of the Dead" and cast me again in "The Offer." So I'm very grateful for him. And to be working with Dexter Fletcher is fantastic. He's an amazing, amazing guy and director, and we're having so much fun on set. And he lets me do my thing and improvise. I love improvising. I love trying things out. I love making mistakes. I also love the idea that there's no such things as mistakes, that we can try things out and it's fine. And someone like Tim, and someone like Zack and Dexter, they're very similar in that way, that they really understand and give a space to the actors to try things out. I auditioned for "The Offer" and I got the part, and I was thrilled.

Well, I can't wait to see it. And from what's being revealed about the project so far, I know it's centered around producer Al Ruddy, and you play his wife, Françoise Glazer. Is there anything you can share with me about your role specifically at this point?

Yeah, but I don't want to get fired, Tim!

I don't want you to get fired, either!

I'm kidding, by the way. I play Françoise Glazer. She owns the Chateau Marmont, and she's an interesting character. She's a real person. She's Jewish. She was hidden during the second World War, reconnected with her mother after the war, moved to Israel and then America.  After that, she got married and then got the Chateau Marmont. Then she meets Al Ruddy, falls in love with him, and he takes on the adventure of producing "The Godfather" ... she witnesses her husband producing the film with all the obstacles that he encounters.

Did you have a fascination with "The Godfather" prior to signing onto the project?

Of course! Who doesn't? You know what I mean? Completely. I've watched the movies, when I was in a different type of era of my life. I mean, Al Pacino? Like, wow. It's interesting to see a story when you watch it as an audience  and then when you get to shoot the story about the making of "The Godfather," you understand how much it took to produce this masterpiece. Wow. I'm telling you, Tim, you're going to love the show. It's great.

"The Colony" opens in theaters, and debuts on digital and video on demand August 27.