After ten weeks of being chased by rage-infected zombies, Total Film are expecting a slightly battered, war-torn lot to walk through the door. So we’re pleasantly surprised when director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Robert Carlyle, Harold Perrineau, Jeremy Renner, Mackintosh Muggleton, Imogen Poots and Catherine McCormack look fresh faced and ready to answer questions on eye gouging, corpses and punching dummies…
Juan, you’re a big fan of the original movie, did you consider what you were taking on to be a dilemma for you. What made you think, yes I can do it and make it fresh?
Juan: When I received the message from DNA, I had not been here more than two weeks, so yes it was a big dilemma. It was definitely a challenge filming in English. I had a meeting with Andy McDonald , we talked a lot about the movie and about me and they said they were looking for something fresh and new. They gave me the opportunity and the freedom to make it my movie, with my point of view of the landscape, which is something very useful if you think that we are making a sequel. This journey for me was special - working with them and the landscape. It was the best conditions I could have to make this movie.
Harold, you had to go out and learn how to fly a helicopter, which is taking method acting to the extreme. Why was this necessary when it’s not you flying the thing?
Harold: It was actually Juan’s idea – instead of having all these computerised images, he wanted it to look like I was really in the air, like I was really flying the plane and to have the camera really close up. So it was his idea to have it all really real, if you see me in the air, it’s really me in the air. I had to take some flying lessons so I looked as if I knew what I was doing it’s very difficult to operate because you have to use your hands and feet at the same time, the movement is really quick and there are no doors, so I was constantly just trying not to fall out!
Jeremy, what about your boot camp? Or have you had enough practice from other films?
Jeremy: No, I was just in the pub - that was my boot camp! Yeah, I’d had a lot of training on other films and used the same weapons as in other movies and I was given the opportunity to shoot and I can’t turn that down!
Imogen, this is your biggest role to date, were you nervous that you had more lines and more emotion to portray than you ever had before onscreen?
Imogen: Well sure, I’m in the middle of doing my A levels and luckily I was able to combine the film with school work, but I was just so grateful when this opportunity came up. It was such a brilliant cast and crew, so even though I was nervous at first they it made so easy for me to sink it to it. Everyone was so willing to give me advice and help me relax.
Mackintosh, is it true that no one was more surprised than you when they said do you want to be in this?
Mackintosh: Well firstly when they were having the auditions, I thought I might as well go and try and then as I got to the third audition, I thought well maybe I am going to get this. I did have doubts though because there were about 500 people trying for it, so it was a real shock. Before I started I just thought it was all glamour. Now I’ve seen how much hard work is involved.
Catherine, this is another genre to add to the list of films that you’ve already tackled. Why did you think the time is right to do this kind of movie?
Catherine: Well the reason I wanted to do it was because I wanted to work with Juan Carlos. I was a big fan of Intacto, so I went and met with him and got the part and I had only just seen 28 Days Later and I loved it I thought it was fantastic. So it was less about the genre and more about wanting to be part of the experience and this particular movie.
Robert, you said what swung it for you was that Juan Carlos swept all the way up to Glasgow to meet you and said that he felt for the infected.
Robert: Yeah, that was the first time that Juan said “I feel for the infected”, I just thought oh my God, of all the things you could have said! That was extraordinary and it really stayed with me. That’s coming from a man who’s obviously incredibly sympathetic and empathetic and it means that the piece contains human feeling - not just about the gore and the blood and all that, which there was quite a bit of. But it is character driven and I think that that’s what makes it work, for these people, even when they’re dropping off one by one, you feel for them.
Don is a really conflicted man, he doesn’t do that heroic thing that people are supposed to do in the movies and save his wife, he does what most people would probably do and saves himself and there’s that terrible guilt that he carries with him.
Robert: Yeah, that stuff is just gold dust for an actor. I think that’s what people are going to go home talking about, especially couples, you know: “would you save me?”
So it could lead to lots of domestic disputes?
Robert: Yes! I went to a screening with my wife ten days ago and she said, “Well, how scared were you to leave her?”
Juan, how did they feel about you clearing out Wembley stadium to film there?
Juan: Well, when we were shooting the movie, Wembley was in a re-building process so that’s why we decided to shoot the stadium from the outside and the inside is another stadium. Our special effects team helped us create the look and feel of Wembley stadium. But that’s why in the end we couldn’t work inside Wembley stadium. When you see the inside it is actually in Cardiff.
Robert, over the years you’ve played some varied characters, how does gouging out your wife’s eyes compare to other things your characters have done?
Robert: You know it’s horrible that stuff. The sequence where the transformation takes place, what it says in the script is ‘Don transforms’ – that could be anything! But Juan said, well I just want you to go crazy. The bit that sickened me the most when I watch that back was the punching of my wife, I hated that – the dummy was lying there and it was so realistic. And we get on so well off screen! These guys that make the dummies, they’re the sick ones!
Juan, Jeremy and Harold, what aspects of filming here did you find to be different from filming in your own country?
Harold: Well there weren’t really any differences. It was really a very professional crew and Juan Carlos was fantastic, it was really just a joy for me to be in London and go and see some great plays and stuff. But as far as the work goes, pretty similar. Everyone works hard and they work fast. The language differences weren’t too bad; there are only a few words with English and American that are different.
Jeremy: Yeah it was a really solid and tight crew and everyone had interpreters. There was a force behind this thing. When it rained it was a challenge to be outside and we were on the move all the time, which made it harder.
Juan: Well, for me, obviously the language differences. I felt there was an extra pressure on me; it’s so difficult to film in London. In this movie, London is a character. We had to have London completely empty, which means extra work. We would shoot really early in the morning maybe only for 15 minutes, running the whole time. So that was really hard. But I think in the end it has worked because I think it is very impressive when you see the final thing on the big screen.
Was the romance of 28 Days Later taken away when you were all up really early running around the streets of London at three in the morning?
Imogen: It was especially weird for me because I’m used to going around at rush hour, going to school, so somewhere like Shaftsbury Avenue is always so bustling with life so to see it derelict was very odd. But Canary Wharf looked quite beautiful when the bridge was completely empty and we were looking across the water.
Mackintosh: what I found most weird was that you just wouldn’t see London in such a state where there is rubbish and you know, a few corpses lying around. It was just so different from your normal day and you just have to get used to it but it was quite exciting to see all the rubbish flying around.
Robert, in terms of gore and blood and things repulsive, how does it relate to your other roles, particularly in Ravenous?
Robert: Ravenous is a slightly different thing; it’s more psychological stuff going on in that film and that was I think one of the hardest shoots I’ve ever been involved in. This was a pleasure to be in and everything is always OK if you are enjoying it. The biggest problem was the contact lenses because I don’t wear them normally so it’s like having a fist in your eye.