By Neil Davey
Whatever you may feel about 28 Weeks Later, whether it’s a ‘zombie’ classic or utter nonsense, it is undeniably exciting. For director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, it was also a rather daunting experience. As a fan of the original film, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, he was rather surprised to get a chance to direct this sequel. "To be honest, when I received the message, and Danny Boyle telling me he’d love me to make this movie, it was quite a shock," reveals Juan Carlos. ‘I thought “wait a minute, I’m not from there, I’m not English” because in the first movie London is a bit character. I’ve never been here more than two weeks as a tourist, so it was a big dilemma when I got the message.
‘We had a meeting with [producer] Andrew McDonald and we talked about the movie they were thinking about and I understood in that moment that they were looking for something fresh, and they gave me the freedom to make my movie from my point of view. From that moment, the journey has been such a big experience.’ It was also a big experience for the youngest members of the cast, Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton, the kids who become the focus of the film. Poots, 17 and currently studying for three A Levels, managed to combine studying with this, her biggest acting role to date. The biggest surprise for Imogen, perhaps, was the early morning shooting. Not because she’s a lazy student, of course, more because she’s a native Londoner who travels to school through the rush hour.
‘Shaftesbury Avenue, which is usually bustling, was really quite strange,’ she admits. ‘But Canary Wharf was beautiful.’ For Mackintosh, 12, one of the main surprises was the state of the streets. ‘You just wouldn’t see London in such a state, with so much rubbish around and corpses,’ he explains. There’s a laugh from the end of the table. ‘Sounds like any Saturday night to me,’ says Harold Perrineau. Perrineau, one of the stars of Lost, plays a helicopter pilot in the film. In preparation for the role, the director sent Perrineau off to learn how to fly the machine. Is that a little method work? Or is that really you flying? ‘It is me flying,’ says Perrineau with a grin. ‘Yes it is...’ He laughs, shaking his head. ‘It was Juan Carlos’ idea. In this day and age when we can use lots of computer images, he wanted it to look like I was really in the air. Of course, there’s someone next to me, but it is me in the air, so I had to take flying lessons so it at least looked like I knew what I was doing.’
Playing the kids’ father Don is Robert Carlyle, whose reason for signing on was a surprising comment by the director. Having travelled to Glasgow to see Robert, Juan Carlos explained how he felt sorry for the Infected. ‘That was the first thing he said,’ says Robert. ‘”I really feel for the Infected…”’ Carlye shakes his head, recalling the shock. ‘ I thought my god, of all the things he could have said… It was extraordinary and really stayed with me. That’s coming from a man who’s obviously incredibly sympathetic and understands that this piece contains human feelings, it’s not just about the gore and the blood –which, let’s face it, there’s quite a bit of. But it’s character driven, that’s what makes it work, that you feel for these people.’ You even feel for Don which is remarkable in the circumstances. At the start of the film, Don has abandoned his wife as the Infected attack, and saved himself instead. ‘That moment is gold dust for an actor. That’s what people are going to go home talking about.’ Carlyle grins. ‘Especially couples…’