Matt Lanter and Amanda Walsh
Would Like to Play a Game
by Jay S. Jacobs
It doesn’t seem like that long, but the pioneering computer movie WarGames with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy is turning 25 years old. To honor this anniversary, not only is the original film being rereleased on DVD but there is a new WarGames film, subtitled The Dead Code.
Although the two leads of the new film were barely alive when Broderick had to convince the government supercomputer Joshua not to start World War III, they are familiar with the cult that built up around the film. The world has changed a lot since the first film – back then hackers were a rarity, dial-up modems and MS-DOS were the state of the art in computer and the Cold War was still America’s greatest threat. The new film updates the story for a new millennium, taking into mind much greater technological possibilities, terrorism and homeland security.
The movie stars Matt Lanter, a former star of Commander in Chief and Heroes who is also no stranger to updating older franchises, starring in The Cutting Edge – Chasing the Dreamearlier this year. He is also due to star in the spoof Disaster Movie and gives voice to Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
His co-star Amanda Walsh was the youngest VJ ever on Canadian cable network MuchMusic (sort of like the Canadian equivalent of MTV, back when that network played music.) Since moving on to acting, she has appeared in the movies Disturbia and Full of It and the series Veronica Mars, The Big Bang Theory and Smallville. She was also a regular on Lorne Michaels’ respected-but-short-lived improvisational sitcom Sons and Daughters.
About a week before WarGames-The Dead Code was to be released, stars Matt Lanter and Amanda Walsh sat down with us to discuss the movie and their careers.
First of all, I’m in Philadelphia, so thanks for your part in making sure that my city was not destroyed.
Matt Lanter: (laughs) Sure. Well, you know, I live there, too, so…. [Ed. note: Well, his character did…]
Amanda Walsh: Oh, anytime!
I did actually see lots of stock footage of the city, but otherwise I wasn’t sure, did you film here at all or did they use Canada as a stand-in in the scenes taking place in your house and neighborhood?
Matt Lanter: Those were definitely done in Canada. I can say that because I was freezing while I was doing them. (laughs) Those were done in a little neighborhood around Montreal. We filmed in and around Montreal the entire time. That was actually the very first day of filming, those exterior house scenes, with Massude being hauled off and going to school and stuff. Man, it was freezing cold that morning. We were just trying to get our mouth to function.
How familiar were you with the original WarGames before you got involved in this role?
Amanda Walsh: I had seen it once, a few years prior. I didn’t see it when it first came out. I wasn’t really…
Born yet? [Ed. note: Turns out she was actually about two when it was released.]
Amanda Walsh: Watching things like that yet. But I did see it the years prior and then when I got the role, I re-watched it a few times, actually.
Matt Lanter: Well, before I actually got the role, I had seen it. Obviously heard about it, knew it was a classic, but I had not retained it. I had seen it at one point, but I didn’t grow up with it, like a lot of people. It was just another fun movie. When I got the role, I obviously dove into it and researched it. Went out and bought the movie. Watched it several times. Even throughout when I was filming, there were a lot of times where we kind of pay homage – a little throwback to the original. I was referencing it the entire time while I was filming, to kind of make sure some of the things I was doing was how Matthew did it. Such as the telephone trick on the pay phone – it’s slightly different because of the technology now. I think he picked up a Coke tab and kind of zapped something. This one, the way the phones are made now… supposedly, by the way, it would work… it was just a little safety pin in the hole and you click the receiver until you hear the dial tone. So, little things like that I just kind of referenced all the way through and made sure I was on track.
What was it about this script that attracted you?
Amanda Walsh: Well, I really liked the fact that Annie is “the girl” character in this, but she also gets to contribute to the cause and sort of help save the day, which I thought was really nice to see. To me she was a really fun character to play, because oftentimes in film or TV, you have to be one way or the other. You have to be “the hot chick” over here or “the smart girl” over there. I liked that Annie got to be a girl and be smart and be able to keep up with Matt’s character of Will. It felt more like a real person.
Matt, This is your second straight sequel to an older film. I interviewed Francia [Raisa – his costar in the film] when Cutting Edge: Chasing the Dream came out.
Matt Lanter: Yes, that was the third one [Cutting Edge movie] actually.
Do you feel a responsibility when taking on one of these franchises to live up to the older film?
Amanda Walsh: Absolutely. You totally feel a responsibility and a certain amount of pressure. (laughs) Because I totally understand what that movie was – especially, it was so ahead of its time. When you watch it now, although the technology is pretty dated (chuckles) it still keeps you. It still keeps your attention. There is something really special about it. It still stands the test of time in that respect. You want to be very careful and aware of that going in. And with any project I do, I just want to do my best, so I just brought that to it as well. Tried not to think about the pressure.
Matt Lanter: Yeah, without a doubt. You know, Stuart Gillard directed both of those movies and I know Stuart is very conscious of the fan base and wanting to do it justice. Because, it’s very, very tough, and even if you make a quality film a lot of people are still going to judge it in a negative way, because it is a sequel and it comes fifteen-twenty years later. And, you know, to some degree I understand that. People love their classic movies. Anything might deter a little bit from liking it. But I think that if you watch and give these things a chance that they’ll actually like them. I think they were both – especially WarGames was a really quality film.
That’s true. A lot of the time where they are making these sequels they just coast on the old story, but this one thought it out and deepened it some.
Matt Lanter: Yeah, I think they definitely had a new script that had to try and fit with today’s times. That was one of the conversations that was brought up so many times while we were filming – how can we make this story work because of all the technology and the things that have changed since 1983? You know, we’re not going to be able to put a land mind phone on a dial tone receiver and flip a button. (laughs) That’s just not going to fly. I know they were trying to figure out how to make this thing work in the present day. I think Randall Badat did a great job of writing the original script and Stuart did a wonderful job of bringing it to life. Like I said, I think we have something of quality here and hopefully the fans of the original will accept it and like it.
In particular the scenes in Montreal where RIPLEY was able to track your every move with street level cameras and the like – do you feel this is realistic and could be happening now?
Amanda Walsh: Ooh… Conspiracy theory.
What I mean is with all this stuff, does it seem people have more to worry about our rights to privacy?
Amanda Walsh: Definitely. I think that definitely there is much less privacy than there used to be. And then, in a weird way, sometimes people choose to have less – all sorts of online profiles and everything. (laughs) But I think that what’s interesting in the first movie, it was this time when most people didn’t have computers in their homes. It was sort of this sense of… it was during the Cold War [and] there was this huge fear of the unknown. Now, it feels like the world has gotten much smaller. We know so much that it’s almost become the opposite. A fear of the known, because we just know too much, it seems.
Matt Lanter: I guess to some degree it’s good to know that we’re being watched. Then to another degree it’s quite scary to know that we’re being watched. It’s a double-edged sword. If this stuff does exist – which I really don’t know, like I said, it’s not common knowledge. They don’t put it out there for people to know. (laughs) I guess if we’re being watched, it’s kind of scary. I suppose it really could happen. You know, we’ve got that technology. I’m sure it could.
The world has changed so much since the original film came out. Back then there was a different enemy and the computer equipment was much more archaic. Back then they were using dial-up modems and MS-DOS. Hackers were pretty out there, that wasn’t something common. There is sort of a showdown of technology where the obsolete Joshua has to take on the state-of-the-art war computer RIPLEY. It’s sort of like the old John Henry story, why do you think that people tend to root for the older more seasoned battered hero over the new state of the art antihero? It’s something that keeps coming up in fiction over the generations.
Amanda Walsh: Hmmm. That’s a good question. I think maybe it’s just something about that feeling of… I guess what Joshua represents in comparison to RIPLEY are sort of the base values. I want to say this right. In all those old stories, something about the idea of the core values or traditions. RIPLEY came from Joshua, but then RIPLEY kind of forgot what Joshua was all about at the heart of it. Does that make sense? So when the little guy comes back to fight the big guy who is sort of the corrupted version, it’s sort of getting back to the heart of it – which I think people like.
Matt Lanter: You know, I don’t know. I think with WarGames, Joshua is classic. Just the name Joshua, it was given the name because of Falken’s [the creator of the computer] son. It’s got an emotional tie right there. Joshua was very much a character in the original. Kind of like an R2-D2. (chuckles) People love the character. It’s just a machine. Especially because it’s got the voice and it’s such an iconic voice of the time. Such a classic movie. I think the machine Joshua is such a character that people love it. When you see him back and he’s kind of this good machine, I guess you should say, as opposed to the bad machine that RIPLEY is. I guess you’re just drawn to him. He’s a bit of the underdog as well.
Do you think the movie suggests we may rely on machines and computers too much?
Matt Lanter: Well, I think there is definitely those colors in there. At the end, all us humans are sitting around the room, just waiting to see if we’re going to die or not because these two computers are talking to each other. Yeah, in a way I guess that’s one aspect of it.
There were some definite pointed political moments in the film, too. Was that something you were conscious of when you were making it? Or was it just something that comes with the territory?
Amanda Walsh: I think it’s more something that comes with the territory. I was aware that it was there, but it just seemed like, well of course that would be there – making a movie about this part of our world.
Matt Lanter: Yeah, I know there’s a little quote about bi-partisanship and how that didn’t turn out…. (laughs) It was just funny things. I mean, I didn’t write it, I’m just an actor.
What was Amanda like to work with?
Matt Lanter: She was great. Amanda was one of the kindest girls that I know. We really had a good time filming the movie. When you are around someone for so many weeks – and primarily it was Amanda and I shooting scenes – you have someone you get along with. I was so lucky to have her as a co-star that I could just goof off with in between scenes. You kind of have to have that, especially when you are doing kind of heavy stuff – talking about the end of the world and people are going to die. A lot of computer jargon and stuff like that. You have to have a break, so it’s nice to have her to goof off with and mess around with.
What was Matt like to work with?
Amanda Walsh: He was great. He’s a really nice guy. I tried to teach him a little bit of French while we were up there.
Yes, I read you are fluent in a few languages. I guess being from Canada it isn’t all that surprising that you speak English and French, but I also read that you are fluent German as well.
Amanda Walsh: I think someone was being a little flattering saying fluent. (laughs) It’s been a while. I took German in school a little bit and I actually lived and worked in Germany. I worked at the World’s Fair back in 2000, making crepes and backpacked around. So, when I was there I got to put some of the German I learned to use. I try to hold onto it, but fluent is extremely generous. (laughs again)
You grew up around baseball and sports – in fact I think I read you were a ball boy for the Braves.
Matt Lanter: I was, yeah.
I’m a Phillies fan, but I won’t hold it against you….
Matt Lanter: You know what? It’s okay. This year the Braves are doing really badly.
And also in college you gravitated towards sports and sport marketing. When did you decide that you would prefer to be in the arts?
Matt Lanter: Well, I guess I should start by saying that I’ve always been really intrigued by film and television – the magic of it all and putting it together. Ever since I can remember… since DVDs were out and they started doing the behind the scenes stuff, that’s been one of my favorite things. I’ll go buy DVDs just to watch the behind the scenes. I love it. I just think it’s so interesting. Even though I’ve done it and done quite a bit of TV work, it’s still so cool for me. That being said, when I was in college, I was working at a golf course. There was a little fax that came through. They were filming a movie in Atlanta – Bobby Jones-Stroke of Genius. I went out there, really just to be an extra. They ended up picking me out of the crowd just to give me a little featured part. That just really did it for me, right there. That sparked my interest. I caught the bug. I just decided that I want to do it, so I started taking some acting classes in Atlanta and I eventually fell across this television show. They brought me out and I met some people out here and ended up making the move. I was in college and I just thought, you know, I want to do this. I’ve got to do this now. I decided to move to LA. I packed up the car and drove out.
Amanda, how did you originally get involved in acting? I read that you were the youngest VJ on MuchMusic. How did that come about and what was that experience like?
Amanda Walsh: I’ve been acting since I was a kid – doing different guest star smaller projects that came through Montreal. Never enough that it took me out of school for more than maybe like one week out of the year. Just enough to get my feet wet. I was always doing the school play and making funny videos and sketches up with my friends. I ended up helping found this improv troupe out of Montreal. I was getting ready to start college and I ended up… I was actually waitressing in my small town and someone was in the place where I was waitressing and it’s a place where everyone knows everyone. Basically, I was walking by and they said, “Amanda’s an actress.” I ended up talking to this guy who said, “It’s not my job at all, I’m not the person who chooses this, but my boss says if we ever think we see someone who would be good to tell them to send in a demo tape.” He worked for a sister station of MuchMusic. At the time, I didn’t even get the channel, because I lived out in the country. It was the summer and I had time on my hands. I was already interested in video production, so a friend of mine helped me and I put a bunch of little sketches and stuff on tape and edited it and put music on. I just wanted to make the coolest tape I could – not to send something I was embarrassed of. I sent it in, not expecting to hear back, because as an actor you send so many things and don’t hear anything. They called me and brought me in for an interview and then hired me. It all happened within a month’s time that I went from living in a town of like 6,000 people to being on national live television when I wasnineteen.
I heard also you produced a movie on the swing revival when you were only sixteen.
Amanda Walsh: Yeah, when I was in high school. My best friend and I were making a documentary. We were really into swing music at the time.
Do you have any interest in moving behind the camera as well as acting?
Amanda Walsh: Yeah, I would love to. It was one of the great things I got to learn at Much. If I had an idea, I would get to go out and shoot it. I produced a special there once also on this kid who could talk to ghosts – it was a Halloween special. There was a bunch of other sketches and stuff. Basically, I learned how to produce – sit there and make a paper edit and go through the tapes, then sit with an editor and help bring it all together. I loved it. I love being in an edit bay. Time just flies by. It’s my favorite part.
You had been a part of the series Commander In Chief, which opened to really strong buzz but then kept getting moved around and eventually got pulled after only one season. I interviewed Donald Sutherland right before it officially went off the air in fact and he said that it would take a miracle for it to return. Were you disappointed it did not get more of a chance?
Matt Lanter: Oh, yeah, definitely. Commander In Chief was really such a quality show. You’re right; there were problems from the beginning. We started off premiering to like 17 or 18 million people or something. It kind of spiraled downward. Like you said, the network had taken it off the air like two different times and moved it around and it was just too hard for people to try to keep track. We had a couple of different show runners in and out. It was just plagued from the beginning. It was a quality show and of course I wish it would have gone on. For me personally, it’s not a horrible thing, because I was on there and I was kind of a background character. I mean, let’s face it, the show was about Geena [Davis] and Donald and I knew that. I knew that’s what it was. I had a blast doing it, but I guess in some ways it is good that I got to move on with my personal career to do some other stuff – so I wasn’t attached for like five years.
You also had a splashy role on the first season of Heroes, one of the few times when you have played a bad guy. What was that experience like?
Matt Lanter: Well, Heroes was great. I did the first like five episodes. Well, I think it was actually between episodes two through seven or whatever. It’s funny, because Heroes wasn’t the Heroes that it is now. I watched the first season. I was in love with the story. After I did my episodes I became a fan. But it’s kind of weird, because I did not experience the buzz that is going on with Heroes now. Had I done five episodes now, I would probably be getting interview requests and signings left and right. When I did it, I wasn’t because that just wasn’t the show it was. But it was a fun experience. I loved the people there. I love working with Hayden (Panettiere) – as a matter of fact, Hayden and I worked together on Commander in Chief, where she came in and played my girlfriend. Then I came into Heroes and played her boyfriend for a bit. And then, you know, attempted to rape her. That’s another story, but….
Yeah, that can cause some problems with a relationship….
Matt Lanter: A couple of problems. But it was great. I loved working with her. The scenes that I got to do were really fun, really cool. I got to play at the time it was a new character – I hadn’t really played that kind of asshole guy before. It was fun. It was fun to get the blood all over the face. Definitely an experience.
Amanda, I also read you have done standup comedy. Is that also something you’d be interested in pursuing more, or is the acting coming first?
Amanda Walsh: I did standup when I was in high school. The first time I did it was in the variety show at our high school, which looking back could have been social suicide. I have to ask my mom how she let me do that. Thank God it went over well. Since then, I’ve primarily done more sketch comedy and improv. I love doing that. When I was at MuchMusic, that’s what I would do during my off time. I would go perform with sketch comedy in Toronto or take improv classes and go back to Montreal and perform with my old improv group. It just makes me really happy. I guess if I was… I mean I was looking around at COMIC-CON and I was like, I’m not really a super fan with capital letters of anything, but I guess if I had to pick something it would probably growing up have been comedy. Saturday Night Live and all that.
Well, speaking of Saturday Night Live, you worked with Lorne Michaels when you had been a part of the series Sons and Daughters, which like Matt’s show opened to really strong buzz but then got pulled after only like ten episodes. Were you disappointed it did not get more of a chance?
Amanda Walsh: Oh, yes! It broke my heart. (chuckles) It was amazing. Like I said, growing up, having so much awe and respect for Lorne Michaels – that was the job that brought me down to Los Angeles. I’d been coming back and forth from Canada. That was the job that I moved down to do. It was a dream come true. My first sort of quote-unquote “big American job” – to be working for Lorne Michaels. It was such an amazing process to work on that show, because all the dialogue was improvised. We would have outlines for what needed to happen in each scene. Then they would just kind of let us go and they’d shoot with three cameras at once. Then they’d edit it down. So, no two takes were the same. You never really knew what anyone else was going to say. It really felt like acting in its purest form. You’re forced to really be on your toes. Then it’s always a surprise what makes it in the edit. Also the cast – we were a pretty big ensemble. Everyone I worked with was just amazing, so it was a really good time.
Matt, your next movie Disaster Movie is a real change of pace for you. You’ve mostly done drama in the past. Do you enjoy comedy? Which one is easier or harder for you?
Matt Lanter: Yeah. Well, the funny thing is, I feel more natural at comedy. Just with comedic timing and everything. My mom’s family is a really goofy family and I kind of grew up in that environment. I love laughing and I love comedy. I think I have a knack for comedy – just the timing of it and the naturalness of comedy. Ironically, I haven’t booked any comedy. Coincidentally, it’s been a lot of drama. I was so excited to get this. I mean, this is like the stupidest of all comedies. When you’re doing this, we obviously aren’t taking ourselves seriously. Just go out, have a good time and make a stupid movie for people to kind of zone out, relax and have a couple laughs. Man, we had a great time filming it. I’m really excited for it to come out. I can’t wait to see the jokes and – you’re right, it was certainly a change of pace. I went down to Louisiana and filmed for – what was it? – like six or seven weeks and just goofed off. It was great. It was a fun time.
Amanda, you have a movie coming out next year called The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – what is that going to be like?
Amanda Walsh: Yes. It stars Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner and Michael Douglas. It’s a big romantic comedy, where Matthew plays this incorrigible bachelor.
Okay. He never plays those…
Amanda Walsh: Yeah. (laughs) So, he ends up being haunted by the ghosts of his girlfriends past – a little bit of a play on A Christmas Carol. It’s all set at a wedding, so I play one of the crazy bridesmaids running around.
Matt, you are also doing the voice of Anakin Skywalker in the movie and series of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. What is it like to be part of such a legendary series?
Matt Lanter: It’s really just hitting me in the last several weeks about how large the Star Wars universe is. Literally, my name is going down in history now as being associated with Star Wars. We’ve had to be so secretive about it over the last two years. We’ve been working on it, but just haven’t been able to tell anyone. Now that things are finally coming out, it’s just really fun to me to see the Star Wars stuff everywhere. The internet and it’s at COMIC-CON – there are fifteen foot tall posters. The buzz is really starting. It’s such a blast to watch and see fan reaction. I think people are going to love it.
Are you doing COMIC-CON for WarGames? What is that like?
Matt Lanter: Yeah, we went to COMIC-CON yesterday and did some signing for WarGames. It was great. It was really nice to be face to face with people who are fans of the franchise and who are going to go out and see WarGames 2. It was really cool to see people excited and talk about the original stuff.
Amanda Walsh: Yeah, I just got back last night, actually. It was sensory overload. (laughs) I’d never been before. We were actually – first thing, we missed our panel getting down because of the traffic. A lot of things had to get cancelled yesterday because of traffic. We got to do a signing and it’s remarkable, the speed of the internet, because a lot of people had already heard about the movie and were lining up to have posters signed. It was cool. I thought it was really nice. I got quite startled, because there was a bus going around – one of the buses that brings people from the hotel to the convention – and it was a WarGamesbus. There’s something extremely surreal to have your face on the side of a bus when you aren’t expecting to see it. It was pretty funny.
Matt, there is a rumor out there that you may be on Gossip Girl. Any truth to that?
Matt Lanter: (chuckles) You know, as of right now, it’s just a rumor.
What about you, Amanda? What else is on the horizon for you?
Amanda Walsh: Well, I just actually got back from vacation like two days ago. Readjusting, getting back into work mode. I just got back; I’ve been doing this whole COMIC-CON thing.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Amanda Walsh: Oh, gosh. (laughs) I’m always bad at these questions. I feel that nothing would be that surprising – but maybe that’s because I already know it. I really like taking hip-hop dance class. I don’t know if that is surprising. Mildly, mildly surprising.
Matt Lanter: I don’t know. I guess now I’m a hardcore Star Wars geek. I really am. (laughs) Since I started doing this role, I’ve really fallen in love with the story that George [Lucas] created and the whole world. I was telling someone else the other day that as soon as these toys come out… I don’t know if you’ve heard the whole midnight madness thing with the toys that are coming out. At midnight Toys’R’Us are opening to start selling the Clone Wars toys. I think that I might go stand in line with all the other fans and buy some Anakin toys tomorrow night.
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Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 27, 2008.