THE BEACH, Andrew Macdonald and Alex Garland talked about doing
another film together. "Alex is just a natural story teller
and I wanted to make a film that had the same energy and excitement
of reading one of his books," recounts Macdonald. "When
he said that he'd always wanted to do science fiction, I encouraged
him to look to H. G. Wells, The Time Machine, something set in Britain."
see it as a sort of oblique war film, relayed via seventies zombie
movies and British science fiction literature," says Garland,
"Particularly J.G. Ballard and John Wyndam."
"Alex delivered a 50-page script, which eventually formed the
basis for 28 DAYS LATER, it read very entertainingly and was a real
page turner," says Macdonald. "When he writes a screenplay
you can visualize it and you want to know what happens next - for
me, that's the absolute crucial thing in storytelling. Alex has
that in spades."
then sent the script to Danny Boyle, who had just completed two
digital films, STRUMPET and VACUUMING COMPLETELY NUDE IN PARADISE
for the BBC. "His visual strengths were what we needed to communicate
Alex's writing and energy of the film," says Macdonald. He
is very good at interpreting it in a different way that freshens
it up from the page."
was pleased to be collaborating with the team from THE BEACH once
again. "Danny is witty and amazingly inventive, so he makes
you laugh and always keeps you thinking. Andrew sees all the details,
but he also sees a bigger picture than anyone else. In conversation,
both deliver continuous insights into filmmaking and cinema in general.
I'm fortunate to have had the chance to work with them."
was taken by the script immediately but did not want to make a straight
genre movie. "I like zombie movies but they come out of a particular
period, a society paranoid about what might be the dirty result
of nuclear weapons and power. I'm not a big aficionado of the genre,
I like it a lot, but I love that Alex gave us a twist on the viral
apocalypse theme - that this is not a clinical virus but a psychological
one - so in the long run, I feel there was respect for the genre
but I hope that we freshened it up in some way."
"The premise of the film," explains Macdonald, "is
that scientists are trying to develop a cure for rage, a suppressant
drug similar to Valium in respect of depression. As part of the
research process chimps are infected with a virus that promotes
a permanent stage of psychotic rage."
a primate-based virus," says Boyle. "It's hideously virulent
and is spread by contact with the blood. It leads to an appalling
state of aggression, where even the simple sound of a human voice
makes you want to kill that person. It has a built-in obsolescence
though because they can't feed themselves, they don't understand
any process about living, other than killing."
idea of the psychological virus felt completely contemporary,"
Boyle continues. "Rather than being a physical infection, the
virus taps into the modern phenomenon of social rage. We see the
manifestation of it every day in road rage, air rage, hospital rage
even supermarket rage! It's great copy for newspapers but there's
a truly disconcerting side to it. When you talk to older generations
they say there was nothing like that at all in their time, there
was certainly violence and fighting but social rage is very much
a symptom of modern times."
"The actual story follows a group of survivors trying to make
their way to safety after the virus has broken out of the laboratory
and swept across Britain and possibly the world. Britain has been
largely evacuated which has lead to a kind of apocalyptic landscape,"
explains Boyle. "It was important to me to junk the idea of
civil contingencies. A virus is something that you cannot necessarily
put up a defense against. This particular virus was to be something
so virulent as to be uncontrollable, something that can't be defended
against because it's actually part of us - rage. At the present
moment there's no such thing as a psychological virus, but who knows
what can happen? Just recently two German scientists were able to
create a totally synthetic Polio virus within a matter of years
with materials bought over the Internet. While Polio has a relatively
simple genetic structure, the knowledge is there to be able to create
a more complex virus, smallpox for instance - it's more a matter
of time constraints rather than technical capability."
the film begins after the virus has ravaged Britain. Something that
appealed to director Danny Boyle, "The fact that the story
begins 28 days later, is that the audience starts to unravel things
in retrospect. There are physical bits of evidence and the audience
fills in with their own imagination as to the horrors that have
happened to get to this stage. It's a wonderful quality, saves millions
on the budget and it comes from Alex's gift as a writer."
percent of the funding came from the lottery through Andrew Macdonald
and Duncan Kenworthy's company DNA and fifty per cent from Fox Searchlight
Pictures. Peter Rice, President of Fox Searchlight, read the script
in Cannes in May 2001 and responded immediately with his interest.
"It was fantastic to get Fox involved as we have had a long
relationship with them and in particular with Peter Rice,"
says Boyle. "Peter has been very loyal and typically there
was no pressure about casting or content of the film, so it was
a very valuable relationship".
on in the development of the script was the idea of filming on digital
video. "We thought it would be the right decision to do it
on DV. It would make the film feel and look different in a way.
Our sort of realist science fiction would make it look very interesting
and also the flexibility of it would make it possible to do some
of the bigger scenes like street scenes where you have to clear
roads," says Macdonald.
had shot STRUMPET and VACUUMING on DV with Director of Photography
Anthony Dod Mantle and had many reasons why he wanted to shoot on
it again. "For me there has to be an organic reason to shoot
on DV," says Boyle. "The format felt appropriate to the
post-apocalyptic landscape. This is very much an urban film, with
the visit to the countryside aside, and I think DV has a grittiness
about it that's magnificent for 'city' movies. We're surrounded
in all major cities by CC cameras; they're recording our every motion.
This is now the way that we record our lives."
we wanted to make the world look different. Electricity and pollution
are no more, and a stillness has returned," continues Boyle.
"Digital cameras are much more responsive to low light levels
and the general idea was to try and shoot as though we were survivors
Andrew Macdonald maintains that on a practical level it would have
been virtually impossible to shoot the film unless it was on DV.
"The London scenes were key to the film. The police and the
local authorities were quite happy to assist us because we could
do it so quickly. We could literally be ready to shoot with a six-camera
set up within minutes and we were allowed to hold the traffic for
a minute or two at a time. This was repeated over a number of key
locations - something we would not realistically have been allowed
to do if shooting under the restrictions of 35mm which takes a good
deal more time to set up a single shot."