WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Back in 2002, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later riffed on a lot of our old favourites, putting fast-moving zombies (okay, okay, the Infected ... jeez) into an eerily deserted London straight out of Day of the Triffids. A great film, it surprised us all when it was a big hit in the States.
Five years on, there’s a sequel, from the same producers. Danny Boyle had his hands full making Sunshine, so Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo took his place in the director’s chair.
One of the stars is Robert Carlyle, who plays Don, one of the few who survived the original outbreak of the rage virus, and is reunited with his children as the repopulation of Britain begins...
Tells us about Don
“He’s terrific. With him there are three moments that are sort of pivotal to the piece. It creates this fantastic moral dilemma. Particularly when he runs away and you think about what people are going to be talking about when they’ve seen the film – especially couples asking each other, ‘Would you stay?’
“You could argue that he does the right thing. You could argue he does the wrong thing, but that’s the whole essence of drama – having those conflicts. The lie is another moment where you wonder whether his kids are gonna buy this or not. He’s a sad character. He’s a very ordinary guy in a very extraordinary situation.”
He comes across as such as a nice guy...
“That’s me trying to cheat you! You kinda think he’s got to be the hero. I mean, he’s run away from his wife! The best cinematic moment is when the audience knows before he does that if he kisses her he’s a goner! That came true in the screening when 500 people went ‘Oh no!’
Speaking of that scene, you’ve played violent characters before, but that must have been one of the most intense to play. How did you get yourself in the space?
“It’s difficult to explain – it’s easier if you’ve got experience of something like a love scene, but the only thing you can go on in this is the rage and feeling enraged. If you’ve ever been involved in any kind of aggression or violence, there comes a moment where you just lose it and you’re not thinking about anything anymore and you just feel this white flash. I was trying to get to the white flash – that’s where I was going with it. I definitely got there, I think. There was terrible, terrible stuff in that scene. The most horrible bit was punching Catherine. I really hurt myself but I wanted to keep going and I smashed my head on that cabinet on the floor – that was all real and I had a headache for about two days and very severe pain… that was taking it a bit too far.”
The actors and actresses who play the Infected were coached by a movement coach. Did you have any of that?
“No. But I’ve done a lot of movement in my early career. The most important thing for me with Don was to try and add something different. The thing I really added was the sound… the growl, which wasn’t in 28 Days Later, and also the dripping blood all the time. I constantly filled up with blood as I moved.”
They’re zombie-like - did you draw on any old horror movies for that?
“I’ve seen that stuff over the years but I didn’t think about it. It’s dangerous to pick a style off a tree. It has to come from you.”
You do a lot of running away from the Infected too...
“By the time we got to take seven, I thought if they do another take they’re gonna catch me and the film’s over! It was really soft boggy ground as well and we did a lot of running from the beginning as we had this wee helicam and it took about 400 yards from the garden gate to the jetty and I was just thinking, ‘I’m too old for this!’”
You’re a long-time collaborator with Danny Boyle... what was it like working with Juan Carlos Fresnadillo as a director?
“Great. Absolutely. He’s a different kind of guy. Each director’s different. He was very quiet and would say the most curious things sometimes - I’d think, ‘Is this a language thing or is it really profound?’ - and that’s what I really liked about him. I remember the very first thing he actually said to me when we met… of all the things he could have said about the script, he said, ‘I really feel for the Infected’, and I really thought about it that night - ‘My God, this guy’s full of emotion - he empathises with the Infected!’. He’s very hot, passionate and emotional inside and his presence belies that, and that’s what I liked. Of course it’s horror and of course there are a lot of effects, but at the end of the day it’s character-driven. I like the fact that he empathised with the characters.”
Are you a fan of London and how it looks in this film?
“It looks great in this film – that’s how I’d like to see it all the time. You’d also get to the airport a lot quicker! It was amazing how they cleared the streets. It felt very weird having that small window of opportunity to shoot a scene. You’d have these wee guys on the crew in yellow fluorescent jackets trying to stop people going to work so we could shoot!”
How was it working with the kids?
“Good. They’re so honest. They don’t second guess. You spend hours preparing and they just walk on set and just say it. You can learn from them. They’re natural actors because acting is about playing. They love showing off. They work on instinct. You go to tell them something and they already know it and are already doing it.”
28 Weeks Later is available to buy on DVD now from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, RRP £19.99.