Doomsday: Neil Marshall Interview
We caught up with British cinemas very own Quentin Tarentino, Mr Neil Marshall, as he gave us the low-down on post-apocalyptic movie Doomsday. Neil explains how he came upon the idea for the film, his wariness of CGI and his love for Scotland…
LOVEFiLM: Where did the idea for Doomsday come from?
Neil Marshall: It was a combination of a couple of ideas; one was an image of a knight facing off against these futuristic soldiers in body armour. The other was growing up in Newcastle. Living near Hadrian’s Wall I had this idea of what would happen if they rebuilt Hadrian’s Wall? And what would happen if a virus had infected Scotland and they had to quarantine the whole country and were literally left to die like Chernobyl? What if there were survivors? And what would happen then?
LF: Were you trying to blend many genres together?
NM: For me it all fits into the post-apocalyptic B-movie genre where kind of anything goes.
LF: This is a departure from horror, will you got back to the genre?
NM: Oh god yes I will, I love horror, but after making the Descent I didn’t really have anywhere to go within that genre immediately. I had this other story I wanted to tell and I concentrated on that but now I’m working on another horror project and getting back into it.
LF: It was your first time working with a major studio, was it difficult?
NM: No they were great. We had the authority as we were down in South Africa, so it was a bit of a trek for them to come and look over my shoulder; which they did for a bit. Though once they saw what I was doing with the movie they were very, very happy with it so they gave me a huge degree of freedom.
LF: Did you find a larger budget restrictive or did you find it liberating?
NM: I definitely loved having more money to spend but with it came more headaches, more stress. You know everything gets bigger including the headaches! I always try and push the envelope as far as the budgets concerned. With Dog Soldiers and Descent I had a 2-3 million dollar budget, and I wanted to make a movie that looked 10 million dollars. With this one I had a 28 million dollar budget and I wanted to make a movie that looked like 50-60 million dollars. I always want to get as much as humanly possible out of that money, so that does require an awful lot of creativity and hard work regardless of the scale or budget.
LF: What was the most challenging thing you had to do when making the film?
NM: Every aspect of it is hands on. I guess the one biggest sequence is the car chase at the end, which required an awful lot of planning. It was three weeks to film it, so that was the biggest single logistical sequence I’ve done. Other sequences like the Baroness cooking and eating Sean Pertwee, that was shot over the course of two nights, but that required nearly a thousand extras so it was complicated in a different kind of way. But I absolutely loved the scale of it.
NM: It was entirely deliberate. I was making homage to my favourite movies from the 80s and that whole feel of the movies in the 80s. They were very stunt lead, and very practically made; B-movies basically.
LF: Are you a fan of CGI?
NM: I think CGI is a brilliant tool, and when used sparingly, I think it really does enhance a movie, I think there’s stuff in this movie that we simply couldn’t have done any other way; so I think it’s great for that. I also think that a lot of directors just use it willy nilly and it becomes overkill and it draws attention to itself.
NM: No, they both read the script and they were both well up for it from the start. They loved the world that I’d created and they loved the two characters that I’d created for them and they were great. They were very enthusiastic and very supportive. They were thoroughly professional, made my job very easy and a joy to work with. If they hadn’t been I might not be so keen. But they were; I think that’s the reason they’ve been working that long in the industry. If they were a pain in the ass then nobody would work with them anymore but they’re not.
LF: Was there any injuries on set?
NM: We had a few kind of near catastrophes, but luckily no one got hurt. A few bike crashes and things like that. One of the Bentleys accidentally drove off a cliff; with three stunt people inside it but luckily the stunt driver managed to steer the car; he was very clever. Everybody walked away without a scratch. The car was a complete right off.
LF: What is it about filming in Scotland that attracts you, will this be your last?
NM: Well if I do the next one it may be the last ever one based in Scotland, kind of my swansong to Scotland. I haven’t really had the opportunity to film there properly; as Dog Soldiers was done in Luxembourg, Descent we did in Scotland but it’s set in America, and Doomsday we did a couple of weeks in Scotland but mostly in South Africa. So I’m still waiting to shoot properly in Scotland. It’s an untapped wilderness that’s hugely cinematic and I just want to put it up there on screen.
LF: You resisted the temptation to add a monster or two, as common in this kind of genre, into the film?
NM: For me I wanted to make a virus movie. But the biggest problem I had - especially coming from horror background - is that as soon as I said that I was making a virus movie everybody assumed I was making a zombie movie! It’s kind of an unwritten cinema law at the moment; virus equals zombies, or virus equals rage, or virus equals the un-dead. I was at pains to point out that this was a real virus, that you catch and it kills you; that’s what it does.
In a way it’s more akin to something like Outbreak than it is to anything like 28 Days Later. It kills you [the virus] in a horrible way but it still kills you. I was heavily inspired when I was making the film as there was a new outbreak everyday – bird flu, avian flu or you know there was the SARS scare a few years ago. I think that’s real and horribly scary; the potential for that kind of thing.
LF: What are you up to next?
NM: It’s top secret! It’s from the people who made Descent, and it’s kind of a historical action-adventure movie.
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