INT: Neil Marshall
I really enjoy Neil Marshall as a director. I loved DOG SOLDIERS, and THE DESCENT was such a fantastic horror film, that he quickly became one to watch in my eyes. When I last talked to him he was talking DOOMSDAY, and now, it is finally here. What could be taken by any other director as another 28 DAYS LATER, looks to be something quite different with Neil at the helm. He knows horror and he knows suspense. He has a knack for creating edge of your seat entertainment.
When I sat down with him at the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles, I was excited to speak with him again. I respect the guy for what he is, a wonderful director. But I like him even more because he is quite simply a very cool gentleman. He seems to have a whole lot of faith in DOOMSDAY, and Im glad to hear it. Well see how the weekend box office shapes up, but if you are looking for The Reaper check out DOOMSDAY, this Friday at a theatre near you.
Neil, obviously you are dealing with a much grander scale than before, compared to THE DESCENT and DOG SOLDIERS, this looks huge.
Certainly compared to my previous films it was huge. It was like, ten times bigger, well, budget wise its ten times bigger.
How much of a challenge was it?
Well, initially going in I thought it would be more difficult. I thought it would be quite daunting. But once I actually got into it, the process is exactly the same, its just that the numbers are bigger, thats all. So I absolutely loved it and by the end of it, I just couldnt get enough of the sheer scale of it. Having all the gear, all the toys.
Dealing with all the extras, right?
Yeah, dealing with the extras which again, I thought would be a pain, but it was great. They were excellent. In one scene we had a thousand extras, which is, you know, I only ever used like three before [Laughing]. It was great, I loved it. I couldn't get enough of the scale of it. We had this huge it was actually part of a theme park, it was this huge auditorium. And we dressed the whole thing. We had fire and amazing props all over the place. And thousands of extras and a stage show going on with pole dancers and this hero guy who is like giving this speech. It was just epic and I really got into it.
In one sequence you are dealing with an on-screen, ten minute stunt. No CGI, it was all the real thing. Was there ever a fight with the studio about going more towards CGI?
It was always in the cards from the beginning. I always said to everybody that this is the film I want to make. So I want to do it with stunts, I want to do it with real stunt guys doing really dangerous stuff. I dont want to use green screen, I dont want to use CG. We did use a little CG throughout the film, just to enhance the world and expand the world with matte paintings and a couple composites, stuff like that. But certainly no animation because its just never going to look as good as reality. And when youve got people who are willing to do this kind of stuff, then Id rather do that.
When CG is used solely to enhance it, you dont notice it as much.
CGI enhancing reality works, but CGI replacing reality does not. And the human eye can tell the difference. Very easily. You know, you can just see when something is not right. I think the only time that I actually got into a bit of an argument was when we were doing a scene on a train. It was just a dialogue scene on board a moving steam train on a baggage car with the doors open. And they were saying, I dont know how were going to light the scene. Sounds going to be impossible. Just do it green screen, just do in a studio with full control. Just do green screen. and I said no, I want to shoot it on a real train cause its going to look better. You know, its going to look so much better. I want to shoot it with the doors open and take a train through the wilderness and shoot. And here we had to ADR the sound which I knew we were going to have to do anyway. But it was absolutely worth it. It looked so much better. You know, these people really are on a train going somewhere. So that was the big difference.
And you worked with a lot of the same people this time.
Obviously youve added a few different actors including Rhona Mitra. How did you work with her to prepare her for the role?
She did like, aside from just talking about the character and working with her on that, she did like eleven weeks of preparation. She went to the gym, she did stunt driving and fight choreography all kinds of stunt [work], you know, for eleven weeks prior to the shoot. So she was in great shape by the time we shot it and prepared for what she was going to have to undergo. And I knew that there was going to be a few cuts and bruises along the way and there was, but she was into that.
I read in the press notes that you both were trying to find really strong female action heroes, and you basically came up with Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver.
Yeah, I was trying to find the ones that are tough but also have a humanity about them. Its trying to make them strong but never lose the femininity. And you know, Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton, for all their toughness and their ruggedness, you never doubt for a moment that theyre women.
Especially Linda Hamilton because you never doubt that she is a mother doing this for her child in T2. And I do think that comes across in your films, especially in THE DESCENT.
Yeah, that was a bit different because it wasnt so much a strong female role, but an entire cast of strong female roles [Laughing]. I consulted an awful lot of my friends, family, you know, any women I could get a hold of just to say, is this right, is this convincing, does this ring true to you? cause I wanted it to be real. I wanted those characters to be authentic. And the same with Eden Sinclair, Rhona Mitra, she has her main story element, she has a strong emotional thread and around this is this tough shell that shes built up over the years.
Now lets talk about the disease. The Reaper. How did you envision it?
I wanted it to be a real virus. When I was writing this thing and certainly when we were filming it, everyday there was reports about the Avian flu or SARS virus or whatever. Thats been throughout the course of this movie. Ive lived with it. So what I created was just the worst possible realistic virus. It doesnt turn people into zombies or anything like that. And after that, it was something that I kind of struggled with all the time, making a political apocalyptic movie. Its cinema law at the moment, that a virus equals zombie. Every film that features a virus turns people into mutant zombies or something else, or rage infected, whatever. And this film is not about that. In this film, the virus isnt the star of the movie. And this virus kills people. You catch it, you start getting the sores and the pustules and your face breaks out into a huge disgusting mess, and you bleed from every orifice, and your internal organs liquidize, and you die. I mean, its not good and it happens in twenty four hours. And it spreads as soon as, you know, you have it for twelve hours and its already contagious. By the time you realize youve got it, youve already given it to fifty more people. So its the worst kind of virus.
Scary thought. Like you said, every day in the news how close are we to this, you know?
Well, you just need to look at the history books. The influenza virus of 1918 or something like that, wiped out a core population of the earth. And that was the flu. And I figure that its not far off that this is going to happen, you know, at some point. And with international travel being so easy now, it will spread like that [snaps his fingers]. And with things like Avian flu, the whole point of them is that nobody knows where they really came from. They just appeared. Its a mutant gene or whatever that suddenly becomes a virus. And there is no explanation for it. I think that with this virus, I didnt want to provide an explanation for it. It just happens. It just occurs.
No scientists working in labs
Yeah, certainly not mentioned in this. There might be something thats revealed in a sequel or something like that, something man made. But I kind of liked that its just a freak of nature like a real virus is.
Now speaking of sequels, what is your involvement in the next Descent 2, is it happening soon?
It is happening. Its happening in the summer.
Are you happy about it?
I don't mind. Im not directly involved but I think its in good hands. The production company is the same. I know that they wont make something shit. And the guy thats directing it edited the first, I couldn't think of a better person to do it myself.
So at least it is still in the family?
Its very much in the family. I think they are going to be getting the same production designer and pretty much the same crew. I really dont know much more about it. Ive kind of kept it on the sidelines and I dont want to hassle them about it. Theyre going to do it anyways so
Have you thought about that with DOOMSDAY? Did you think when you were writing this about a possible sequel?
Well I had ideas for a sequel for DOG SOLDIERS and none of that came to fruition. And if DOG SOLDIERS 2 ever does happen, it wont have anything to do with me and it wont be any of my ideas. And I was kind of burned by that a little because I did have a really good idea for a sequel for that film and the producers just werent interested. So with THE DESCENT, I never even thought about it. I had no concept of a sequel. I actually wanted to have the film with a succinct ending. But with DOOMSDAY, as I get a little more open minded that Ive created a big world and theres more stories out there, Im sure. There is probably a continuation of the story that Ive created, definitely.
Cause Ive also done something kind of weird which is, there are three major bad guys in the story, but only one of them dies in the end. So there's two kind of still left alive.
We have talked about working with some of the same people in the cast, but what about working with Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell. How did that come about?
Well Bob was first choice for that role and we just approached him and he said yeah. It was just amazing. Fortuitous luck or what ever you want to call it, or he just really liked the part. So we got him on board and I never thought of anybody else for that part. I wanted this kind of grizzled, London cop who is pissed off at the world. In a way, his character is the most significant in the film because he contrives or manipulates events from the start, to achieve his end, which is just to kind of usurp the government. And he does it in such a way that people dont even notice that he is doing it. But he makes these things happen, he knows exactly what he is doing. And he chooses the right people for the job. So that was great, and I really enjoyed working with him.
And then Malcolm came in just for a week when we were filming in Scotland. With this King Lear type of character he plays. He is governing this castle in the islands of Scotland, living this medieval lifestyle because its pure and its built to last, and that is kind of his ethos throughout the whole thing. Its just a great character and Malcolm was just such a laugh. I couldnt wait to just get the shooting over with so I could just sit down and talk stories with him about Kubrick and working with amazing people all the time. So it was a pleasure and these guys love their job so much. You know the reason theyve been working so long is because they love making movies. So it was great.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@joblo.com.
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