Aunty Donna Play Corpses in the New 'Dungeons & Dragons' Movie — and They Told Us All About It
How do you prepare for being revived from the dead by Chris Pine in ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves’? Visiting cemeteries, flatlining and getting buried alive all came up in our chat with the Aussie comedy troupe.
March 08, 2023
What do the Australian comedy scene, YouTube, international festivals, Netflix, wine and picture books all have in common? Aunty Donna have conquered them all. Here's another thing to add to that list: Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves. The Chris Pine (Don't Worry Darling)-, Regé-Jean Page (The Gray Man)-, Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious 9) -and Hugh Grant (Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre)-starring film doesn't just bring of Stranger Things' favourite role-playing game back to cinemas — it does so in Australia with Aunty Donna among the cast.
Since forming over a decade ago, the Aussie comedy troupe led by Zachary Ruane, Broden Kelly and Mark Samual Bonanno hasn't stopped making audiences laugh — in-person in Australia, online and around the world; while watching the side-splitting Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House of Fun; over a $30 bottle of wine literally called '$30 Bottle of Wine' and while flicking through Always Room for Christmas Pud. Later this year, they'll get folks giggling over their upcoming ABC sitcom Aunty Donna's Coffee Cafe, too. But for now, playing corpses revived by Pine, awakening from their eternal slumbers to talk about century-old battles and cats, does the trick first.
Aunty Donna are no strangers to Dungeons & Dragons. Back in 2017, on YouTube Channel Insert Coin, they gave D&D an Aunty Donna twist in a now-classic sketch — one that did for owlbears what 'Morning Brown' has for calling your wake-up cup of caffeine "morning brown". And, a couple of years back, they also endeavoured to create their own D&D monsters.
How did those comic ties to Dungeons & Dragons lead to Aunty Donna playing undead in Hollywood's latest D&D flick, and the latest movie based on Hasbro's toys and games after the Transformers series, the GI Joe films, Battleship, Power Rangers and more? We chatted to Ruane, Kelly and Bonanno about their new on-screen stint, comedy goals, D&D podcasts, missing out on the first Fast and the Furious movie, visiting cemeteries, flatlining and getting buried alive. So, just a normal Aunty Donna chat, then.
ON LIVING THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS DREAM
Zachary Ruane: "We'd talked about it at length. So, when we first got together as a comedy group, we made a list of goals. This was at a Starbucks in…"
Broden Kelly: "Melbourne."
Mark Samual Bonanno: "Southern Cross Station."
Zachary: "We sat down and we had a list of goals. One of them was a comedy festival show. And on that list was 'if Hollywood ever moves towards a more IP-dependent business structure and Paramount teams up with Hasbro to reboot the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, we' — and this is on the list — 'we would like to do voice work for the Australian release of that film'.
We didn't think it was going to happen. I'd pretty much given up on that dream. And then, when we got the call from Paramount, I wept."
Mark: "You wept for days."
Zachary: "I wept for days."
Mark: "It was too much."
Zachary: "It was a very emotional experience for me, because that was the final thing to cross off the list, you know — so a really big moment for me and for all of us in our careers."
ON COMEDY'S FONDNESS FOR DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
Broden: "When I started, I'd never played Dungeons & Dragons before. I only knew it as a board game from the 80s. But being in comedy, Dungeons & Dragons is constantly just adjacent to it. There's so many funny people doing podcasts about it.
So if you're in the comedy world — I'd never played it but I've been on every podcast about Dungeons & Dragons. And what it is, it seems to be just a community of people who are very warm and welcoming, and it's a world where you can do everything and nothing's wrong, which is just really fun and cool.
It nurtures creativity. It nurtures imagination. Even just from doing this, we've seen how warm that community is."
Zachary: "I should say, the film isn't just for those fans. It's really for everyone. It's a romp, it's an adventure."
Mark: "Well, it's not about people playing D&D, is it? It's a fun…"
Zachary: "It's a romp."
Mark: "It's a fun romp set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Owlbears..."
Broden: "I didn't know an owlbear until I did that sketch, and now I feel ashamed that I didn't know an owlbear before."
Mark: "Don't be ashamed!"
Zachary: "We watched the film with a big Dungeons & Dragons fan, and she was telling us all the little references. She was saying 'oh, they got perfect and that right'. And then I was like 'that's so crazy' because that was her experience, but then for me who hasn't played it that much, I just had a great time. It's really funny and fun."
ON HOW AUNTY DONNA CAME TO BE IN A DUNGEONS & DRAGONS MOVIE
Mark: "Well, they just kept knocking at our door until we said yes.
[To Zachary and Broden] How many times did we turn them down?"
Zachary: "We were initially offered the part of — Broden was offered the part that Chris Pine plays in the film, I was offered the Michelle Rodriguez part. Which is funny because I was also offered that part in the first Fast and the Furious film, and I turned it down. And if I had known what franchise would become — oh my goodness!"
Mark: "Sometimes you just miss your shot with those kinds of things."
Zachary: "Yeah, absolutely.
[To Mark] And then you were up for which part?"
Mark: "For every other part in the film."
Zachary: "So it was going to be a three-hander."
Mark: "Originally it was going to be a vehicle for Aunty Donna to promote our YouTube channel — and we were just like, 'we're so busy'. We were so busy.
[To Zachary and Broden] What did we have on?"
Broden: "A birthday party or something."
Mark: "Yeah, we had a party, and we were going to do half a run at Edinburgh Fringe. A two-week run at Edinburgh Fringe."
Zachary: "And then when they folded in the Dungeons & Dragons layer to it, because originally it was just a sketch series of ours, it just became a little too big for us. And we said 'you know what, I'm going to handball this to the real professionals over at Hollywood'. And you'll see the film, you'll see — you're going to have a great time."
ON PREPARING TO PLAY CORPSES REVIVED BY CHRIS PINE
Broden: "I went to a lot of cemeteries, and it didn't do the trick. So I went back with a shovel, and someone stopped me — but I was going to get in there and really…"
Mark: "That was me. I was like 'Broden, if you start digging up corpses to play this role, for this role, even though I know that's under false pretences...'.
[To Broden] Because you love robbing graves, don't you?"
Broden: "Yeah. Yeah. You can't go back from that."
Zachary: "We call him da Vinci. He loves robbing graves and drawing really intricate drawings of the bodies."
Mark: "Oh and of flight machines."
Zachary: "Like Leonardo da Vinci.
Me, I flatlined. I did some flatlining, like the movie Flatliners starring Kiefer Sutherland. So I stopped my heart until I was through the tunnel, and then I was reanimated. So I was able to experience death and coming out of it.
And I think you'll see that with the corpse when I go [groans and gasps loudly]. That's from a real place."
Mark: "Perfectly recreated."
Mark: "Broden and I ended up — I just buried myself in my backyard, Broden came and dug me up. It was kind of like a role play."
Zachary: "How apropos."
Mark: "How apropos!
[To Broden] And then did you get enough out of that Broden, that experience?"
Broden: "Yeah, so we do that every Saturday morning now, where we…"
Mark: "Chuck on Cheez TV."
Broden: "Yeah, I'll bury Mark in a garden with a little straw out for air."
Broden: "And then I'll dig him up."
Mark: "It's just for lunch."
Broden: "And then we'll go have lunch at a cafe, or…"
Mark: "That's what Hollywood is so great for: bringing friends closer together."
Zachary: "I don't flatline anymore. I discovered that there's a darkness in the other realm and I realised that I had to stop."
Sarah Ward: "Just like the movie."
Aunty Donna [in unison]: "Just like the movie."
Check out the new Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves trailer below:
Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves opens in cinemas Down Under on March 30.
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