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Feature: 28 Weeks Later

Angry youg men

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo discusses the challenge of making the sequel to 28 Days Later

The Rage virus mutates in 28 Weeks Later, the highly anticipated sequel to Danny Boyle’s hit zombie Horror 28 Days Later. As survivors are herded up by the US military and kept in a sealed-off community named District 1 on London’s Isle of Dogs, the infection starts again with even more devastating results. The choice of director to continue the fear franchise might seem an unusual one at first glance. But not to anyone who has seen Canary Islands born Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s début feature Intacto. It not only won him the Best Newcomer Goya (the Spanish Oscar) in 2001, it impressed executive producers Andrew Macdonald and Boyle so much that no one else was considered to helm 28 Weeks Later.

Intacto dealt with the idea of good luck being a commodity you could trade, gamble or even steal. I put it to the engaging Fresnadillo that he must have done all three to land such a prime assignment when I met him at the DNA Films office in central London. “It sure does look that way,” he laughs. “And the funny thing is I had to be forced to go and see 28 Days Later. Friends kept telling me it was a new concept in terms of zombie films. I’ve heard that one before! But they were right; the moment it started you could tell it was something different thanks to Danny’s unique apocalyptic vision of our contemporary world. It was an art movie masquerading as Horror to my mind. I did think Danny had made a work of genius from the bare bones of a gore genre landscape.”

So it was a surprise when a 28 Weeks Later screenplay arrived in the post with a directing proposal. “My first shocked reaction was why me,” he recalls. “I wasn’t a Londoner, English is not my first language and it just didn’t make sense to me that that some Spanish guy should take over a very British franchise. Then I met Danny and Andrew and they explained how they wanted a proper film-maker with their own individual vision to come on board, someone who could introduce a new perspective through their own distinctive eyes. I understood that and excitedly accepted the challenge.”

The first thing Fresnadillo did was fine tune the existing screenplay (by Rowan Joffe, writer of the Tale of Two Sisters Hollywood remake). “I haven’t had a long film career, I know, but I must be involved in the writing process or else I don’t feel a part of the project,” he explains. “The story always took place six months after events in the first film but I wanted to add extra layers. With my long time working partner [executive producer] Enrique Lopez Lavigne and Jesus Olmos [writer of Fresnadillo’s 1996 Oscar nominated short Esposados], we brainstormed ideas.

“The main one to surface was about how the Rage virus is invisible yet it can destroy everything you know and love. So it was decided to track a family unit who are trying to start over after the first outbreak and see what happens. From both inside them emotionally and outside forces impacting on their actions, the family are trying to come to terms with their own losses while the infection breaks out again. It was the clash of both those worlds I found most thrilling and the rebuilding into another family unit altogether, although I’m giving far too much away about the story there.”

by Alan Jones

Read the full interview in
Starburst #350

Photo © 20th Century Fox
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #350
June (Star Wars cover) 2007
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