Zack Snyder takes us behind the scenes of the apocalyptic Army of the Dead title sequence
What happens in Vegas... will likely feature a horde of hungry ghouls in Army of the Dead (out now in theaters; May 21 on Netflix), director Zack Snyder's return to the zombie genre 17 years after his Dawn of the Dead remake. During the intense heist film's high-octane title sequence, flesheaters overrun Sin City, prompting the authorities to wall in the entire burg. "When we did Dawn of the Dead, the social commentary was the shopping mall — Las Vegas seemed like the next frontier," says Snyder. "Only in the practical creation of this world did it dawn on us that we were going to have to destroy Vegas. The specifics of it became quite fun."
Prior to the mid-2019 shoot in Atlantic City and New Mexico, Snyder visited Las Vegas for what he swears were research purposes. "My visual-effects team and I, we spent a lot of time walking around," says the Justice League filmmaker. Snyder and his crew also created a couple of their own casino complexes, including a Greek-gods-themed establishment named the Olympus. "A lot of action takes place in our own hotels, to make it easier," he says.
The film's superstrong patient-zero zombie Zeus is played by Snyder's friend and longtime collaborator Richard Cetrone. "He's an amazing stunt performer and actor," says the director. "He's been in every film I've done." The setting allowed for all kinds of zombies, from undead showgirls to a reanimated Elvis impersonator. "We have high-roller zombies, pilot zombies, dealers, chefs," says Snyder. "All things Vegas in zombie form."
The title sequence introduces us to a clutch of zombie-battling Vegas residents (played by Dave Bautista, Ana de la Reguera, and Omari Hardwick) who subsequently return to the walled-in city to retrieve a fortune in cash. "Dave is an amazing actor and an incredible stunt performer," says Snyder. "I like to push actors to their limits a little bit. He rose to it and seemed to really enjoy the vanquishing of said zombies."
The title sequence is soundtracked by "Viva Las Vegas," performed by Richard Cheese and Allison Crowe. "When we put the song together, I knew Alison could do the soulful part and I knew Richard Cheese could do the sort of loungey part," says Snyder. "The title sequence is a bit of a metaphor for the film itself in the sense that it's really fun and self-aware and having a good time and then it catches you off-guard with a little bit of emotional weight. And that's kind of the musical journey of that song as well."