Exclusive: Writer Alex Garland Discusses Dredd 3D, the Future of the 28 Days Later Franchise and More
This Friday, September 21st, Lionsgate is set to release Pete Travis' face-smashingly fun Dredd (review) in theaters everywhere, reintroducing the iconic character in a far more befitting manner than a certain Sly Stallone flick did back in 1995.
Tasked with the mighty duty of serving justice to the original Judge Dredd character (who was first introduced to back in the 2000 A.D. comic series some 35 years ago now) was screenwriter Alex Garland, whose previous writing credits include films like 28 Days Later, Sunshine and the indie drama Never Let Me Go.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat briefly with Garland about his experiences working on Dredd 3D, his thoughts on collaborating with star Karl Urban and why fans shouldn't get their hopes up for another 28 Weeks… flick anytime soon.
Check out our exclusive interview with Garland below, and look for Dredd 3D in theaters everywhere this Friday!
Dread Central: Can you start off talking about how you got involved with Dredd 3D and what approach you took when adapting the stories from the comic series? Did you reach out to the Dredd creators when you were working on the script?
Alex Garland: I originally came onto the project through the producers, Andrew McDonald and Allon Reich, who I worked alongside with at the start about what they wanted to do with this character, how we could make the fact that we didn't have a $200 million budget work to our advantage, what Dredd's story should be- some initial preparation and things of that sort.
Thankfully, I had been reading the comics since I was a kid so I knew I could handle the character, but I knew that I couldn't go forward without talking to one of the men behind the character so I contacted John Wagner and brought him in to work on the script. Not as someone who would give character notes, but I wanted him to actually work on the film as a part of the team because I knew his involvement was essential to getting this world and getting Dredd right.
Dread Central: When you were working on the script, what kind of details did you always have to keep in the back of your mind that you knew were essential to the character of Judge Dredd?
Alex Garland: Every detail was important; every single one. From his helmet to his suit to the way he walked to the look of Mega-City One to the way that we handled the Slo-Mo drug…everything mattered to us. It was all stuff that mattered to us as filmmakers and fans, and ultimately, it was all about how to best serve the character of Dredd. He's not going to be the guy who finds redemption in the end, and he's not going to be guy who gets the girl; he's just a tough bastard, and that purity of character is what has made the character of Dredd endure over the years.
Dread Central: When I spoke to Karl [Urban] earlier, he mentioned how he actually cut out his own dialogue in Dredd; that must have been unusual to experience as a writer when most actors want you to give them more lines so they get more screen time.
Alex Garland: Karl really embodied that character, and because he'd been a lifelong fan, too, he understood Dredd in a very deep way, maybe even deeper than I did. But we were always in constant communication throughout production about the script, Dredd and what his performance should be. Karl had a lot of ideas, including cutting Dredd's dialogue, and I totally got it- it was more true to the character so I embraced that. We were just so in sync about how to approach Dredd, and I don't think anyone but Karl could have worn the helmet.
Dread Central: I don't generally say this about these gritty, sort of dystopic kind of action movies, but Dredd was actually quite a beautiful film because of the slo-mo scenes even though it has a dingy and grimy aesthetic as a whole and really elevated this world. Can you talk about the decision to use these super slow-motion sequences in Dredd and how difficult it was for you to trying and write these really unusual scenes?
Alex Garland: You know, the slo-mo scenes were really easy to write and lay out in the script despite the fact that they're more of a visual element. It was shooting those scenes that ended up being the single biggest challenge we faced while working on Dredd; we knew they'd be cool and would serve those drug-induced scenes really well, but we didn't know if we'd be able to pull it off originally. We started working on the slo-mo VFX about three and a half, maybe four years before we even started pre-production just by testing everything out in animated sequences so we could get everything right. It was so hard but so worth it because it was a really important element to translating this story visually.
From the start I wanted Dredd 3D just to be very hard; of course there's that hazy softness that happens during those drug-induced moments when people are using slo-mo, but the movie had to have a relentless hardness to its momentum. Dredd maintained the hardness of the film, and the slo-mo drug scenes became a sort of counterbalance to all that.
Dread Central: Since this is my last question and I'm such a huge fan of the original film and the sequel, I wanted to ask you whether or not there's any chance that fans will ever see the rumored about third 28 Weeks movie? I know there was talk about it some time ago, but then it just sort of disappeared.
Alex Garland: Thank you so much; I'm still so proud of 28 Days Later and how well it's been received over the years so I appreciate that. But in regards to another movie, no- there are no plans for a 28 Months Later or whatever they were calling it. This is a series I've always been heavily involved with between the original and the sequel so if there were plans for another movie, I would absolutely know about it.
Karl Urban stars in the Dredd 3D title role along with Lena Headey, Olivia Thirlby, and Domhnall Gleeson. The flick is directed by Pete Travis and based on the acclaimed comic series by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. Look for it in theatres on September 21st.
The future America is an irradiated wasteland. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington, DC, lies Mega City One- a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury, and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture: a 200-story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival.
The endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland and director Pete Travis bring Dredd to life as a futuristic neo-noir action film. Filmed in 3D with stunning slow-motion photography sequences, the film returns the celebrated character to the dark, visceral incarnation from John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra's revered comic strip.
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