Escape The Undertaker: Ben Simms Interview
Escape The Undertaker is a chance for WWE fans to explore another side of the WWE legend and it’s done in a way that’s never been done before. Director Ben Simms recently spoke to WrestleZone and detailed how he balanced making the new Netflix film authentic to WWE while putting his own twist on it. Simms previously worked with Netflix for its You vs. Wild series starring Bear Grylls, with the latest episode, “Out Cold” being released on September 14. His latest interactive movie effort, Escape The Undertaker, sees Simms direct a story about The New Day trying to make their way through The Undertaker’s haunted mansion to retrieve the prize they’re after.
“As far as it goes with The Undertaker, I know that he’s had a very long and rich history, the biggest thing I wanted to do was bring something new to the WWE or perhaps or show him in a different light that he hasn’t been seen,” Simms explained, “but at the same time have that balancing act of making sure that I’m true to the lore and history that he has as a character already. It sounds like [based on feedback] hopefully, I got close with that, and if there’s a new take on him or a new side that’s what we built with this but it still has some of his authenticity.”
Fans might note that The Undertaker is a little more sinister in the film than the way he’s been portrayed on WWE TV in recent years, but the film reaches a nice balance when it still allows The New Day to lean into their own comedic background. Simms spoke about how he worked to achieve that balance and said some of what was filmed was allowing The New Day to improvise and react to the environment around them.
“The one thing I like about horror and suspense is being able to release the pressure valve just for a moment in situations like that. A lot of times when people are uncomfortable or afraid, they’ll laugh. It’s on the spectrum of emotion, laughter’s been pretty close to being scared out of your mind. Those guys, they’re awesome performers and that’s the type of stuff that it was very easy to find those moments for them, and they would present them most of the time because they’re an amazing set of characters. It was fun to see that play out once we actually started shooting because sure, some aspects of it were planned but one of my goals going in, especially because they’re just so used to [a live environment],” he noted, “was to essentially set up a playground for them and turn them loose and see what would come of that. I think a lot of the better moments came just from the spontaneity of them interacting with what was happening.”
It’s up to you to make their choices in ESCAPE THE UNDERTAKER, a new interactive WWE-themed film now on Netflix! pic.twitter.com/77xyeDL2xs
— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) October 5, 2021
Asked if there were any challenges or advantages to working with established WWE characters on Escape The Undertaker, Simms said one thing he wanted to do was fill in some storyline gaps without straying too far from what The Undertaker has done in WWE. He said the same was true of New Day, and explained how this project was different than the Bear Grylls series that is largely based in reality.
“There were certainly different types of challenges, as you mentioned with the You vs. Wild stuff, there’s complications with just the environment and actual danger from where we’re shooting and stuff, so that’s something that’s managed a certain way when I’m shooting win Bear. With [Undertaker and New Day], the challenge was how to we squeeze every ounce of production value and time to really make this thing sing and because of the interactivity,” he noted, “make sure it’s consistent as well because there’s so many different version on how you can watch it.
“I think what was interesting with having the characters, there’s certain things you can scour online that I was surprised that were still a mystery, especially with The Undertaker. That’s, to me, what’s so fascinating about the character. He’s a man of few words and there’s so much that’s seemingly known about him but really, there’s a lot that’s sort of just shrouded in mystery and that’s what made challenging in that aspect of it, was just kind of inching closer to filling in those gaps without making it seem too ridiculous or just too outside of the world that WWE’s already created. Same goes with the New Day, everybody on the project just wanted to make sure that it stayed within the world of WWE and the characters that already exist,” Simms explained, “but maybe nudging it a little bit further and just gives a little more depth to everything, which by the end, I felt pretty good about.”
Simms said they might be on different ends of the personality spectrum, but the Undertaker and New Day were a “good match” for the film. Asked if he had any other WWE-related stories he’d like to tell, Simms said the WWE Universe allows for countless stories to be told, adding that it might be a good way to reintroduce some Legends via cinema instead of trying to revisit their in-ring days in the traditional sense.
“I think there’s, just as a whole, they have such an expansive roster of characters and talent. There could be so many different iterations I think of this, whether it’s a continuation of this or something entirely new within the same world of characters. Even retired superstars from the past could be interesting to bring back into the fold in this way. I think another thing that was most interesting about a lot of it is, anybody who’s been a part of the WWE family and has gone on to do other stuff, for the most part, to my knowledge, they’re generally not the same character, they’re not the persona they were when they were in the ring. That’s another thing that drew me to this,” Simms said, “it was an opportunity to do something that was adjacent to that and make it cinematic and big and just a much different look but still within that world. I think that’ll be the fun part, I think fans that are fans of obviously the live shows and stuff will feel at home watching this.”
Escape The Undertaker is available now on Netflix.
Escape The Undertaker: Ben Simms Interview – Wrestlezone