Though I’ve briefly been to London before, I never really got a chance to enjoy the city the way I did when Fox Atomic flew myself and five other reporters there last October to visit the set of 28 Weeks Later. After a hard day on set, watching scene after scene being shot, chatting and eating lunch with the infected and basically just living the hard life that is being an internet journalist, it was nice to be able to got out and see what the London nightlife was all about.
Which means, of course, that we drank a lot. And it was all thanks to FA rep and all around Texas-born and bred badass Eric Lieb, who made sure no one got left behind and no one stayed sober for too long. Good times!
But that’s neither here nor there. What’s here is my first report from the set of 28 Weeks Later, specifically pieces of our on-set chat with producer Allon Reich, who worked with Danny Boyle on 28 Days Later and came back to make sure that the sequel was a worthy follow-up to the first.
The plot of 28 Weeks has always made perfect sense; it’s a few months on, the infection has died out of its own accord and now the attempt is made to re-populate England. Believe it or not, though, that wasn’t the first idea the producers had when they decided a sequel was needed.
“The first idea was 29 Days Later,” Reich explained between producerly duties. “It would have taken place right as Cillian Murphy’s character was leaving London. I think at one point it involved U.S. Marines arriving to get ahold of the virus as a kind of weapon. In that one we had a great scene at Buckingham Palace with The Queen, with her legs being dragged away from off screen and guards running all around acting crazed. But that just didn’t seem right, so we moved on.”
Though I’m sure some of that had to do with Cillian becoming more in demand after the first film as well, it does make sense to move the story to a bigger place. You couldn’t just show the infected running around an abandoned London again, since the audience has already seen it once. They wanted something unexpected. “Of course one of the key things in that idea was that we had to reintroduce the virus in a different way,” Reich acknowledged. “With Aliens, which we’re borrowing from in a ‘we’re not worthy’ sort of way, you can’t have the alien be a surprise in the second time out. The infected can’t be a surprise for the same reasons and we were looking at how we were going to make that all work.”
Their solution? We’ll have to wait for May 11th to find out. For me it was encouraging that they realized right out of the gate that they would have to do something different to keep the audience interested. The fact that Danny Boyle wouldn’t be able to return for the sequel meant they had to pay extra attention to give the film a different feel from the first while staying true to it at the same time. That’s something only a talented director can really do, so the search was on.
“Danny Boyle was the first to bring us Intacto [director Juan Carlos Frensadillo’s first film], with a recommendation to consider its director for 28 Weeks,” said Reich, demonstrating just how involved Boyle was in making sure the sequel was done right from the get-go. “So we went to Madrid to discuss the screenplay with Juan Carlos and after some discussion they were certainly key to try it out, so we just got it together and got it working.”
And work it did, with Juan Carlos and producing partner Enrique Lopez Lavigne diving headfirst into the script once they saw the potential of the idea. Luckily for Fox Atomic, and us, both men were huge fans of the first film and horror in general so they were able to bring a lot to it.
The story, which finds American forces coming in to re-populate Britan once they have proven that the infected have all died out, is bound to have some reflections to our current situation in Iraq, though Reich assures us there’s nothing blatant about it. “Though I wouldn’t say the political commentary is overt, you’ve still got the UK effectively being occupied by the US, “ he said. “I think the very fact of the US army in the streets of London keeping order does have parallels to what’s going on in Iraq. No characters stop and go, “Hey, this is like that time in Iraq” (laughs). The army is there for a very good reason so there’s no suggestion that there’s a malign force or anything.” Because really, the last thing I want in my psuedo zombie sequel is political commentary being shoved down my throat; I don’t know about you guys.
Of course since we’re dealing with a sequel the gore content had to be ramped up; thankfully the story lent itself very well to more mayhem, according to Reich. “There’s a great sequence we did last week after the infection breaks out. Our heroes are being hunted by infected and by the authorities, because the authorities just want to wipe everyone out.” A dash of this is seen in the film’s trailer, and it looks like a nasty situation. “So our renegade US Delta force soldier manages to contact his mate, helicopter pilot Flynn (Harold Perrineau of ‘Lost’). Flynn shows up in his helicopter in the middle of a London park, and he sees his friend with all these other civilians and effectively refuses to pick them all up. Meanwhile the infected have seen our guys, drawn by the sound of the helicopter, so one of our guys panics and jumps on the runner of the helicopter. So as they’re trying to right the helicopter and get it back up in the air, the helicopter basically plows into the infected and slices them all to pieces! So that scene’s going to have some great gore!”
So the bottom line is what can we expect from 28 Weeks Later when it hits theaters on May 11th? From the sounds of it a bigger overall scope with the same kind of personal, human story that made the first film work so well. And of course, if it does well, we might be able to expect another…
“I think that if we did ever do a third film that it wouldn’t be in London,” Allon revealed as our interview wound down. “The end of 28 Weeks does move out of London, so we’d definitely do something different elsewhere.”
I would love to see what the Rage Virus could do in a bigger setting, though I almost hope they avoid the thought of bringing it to the US; there are so many other iconic places in the world that would look fantastic as decimated shells filled with raging infected, don’t you think?
Click here to check out the official site for 28 Weeks Later at Fox Atomic, which is full of video clips, trailers, pictures and a lot more. Be sure you get your ass to the theater on May 11th to support the sequel, and look for more from the set of 28 Weeks Later soon!
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