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Doomsday - Neil Marshall interview

Neil Marshall directs Doomsday

Interview by Rob Carnevale

NEIL Marshall talks about directing action-thriller Doomsday, which follows the aftermath of The Reaper Virus in Scotland, reuniting with former cast members and why he felt some of the criticisms surrounding the film during the time of its cinematic release were a little unjust…

Q. How difficult was it to make a film that looks and feels like a Hollywood blockbuster using a modest UK budget?
Neil Marshall: It’s never easy. It’s a lot of work. But I think we managed to pull it off. There was a lot of creative budgeting and shooting the majority of it in South Africa helped because you get three times the bang for your bucks. We also just used some very, very creative collaborators.

Q. I guess shooting in South Africa also helped weather-wise…
Neil Marshall: Well, the locations were brilliant because they allowed us to do things we could never do in the UK, such as closing down a city centre in the middle of the afternoon!

Q. Which city centre?
Neil Marshall: Capetown.

Q. How easy was it attracting such a strong cast – Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Adrian Lester?
Neil Marshall: Both Bob Hoskins and Malcom McDowell loved the script and the characters, so they came on board pretty easily. And it was a pleasure working with them after that.

Q. Was Rhona Mitra always a first choice for Eden Sinclair? And what appealed to you about her?
Neil Marshall: Yes, she was always first choice. She has that kind of cold look about her [laughs]. It’s not apparent to everyone but she had a tough look and you believed she was capable of killing all these people. That was one of the most important things – it had to be plausible. We couldn’t have a glamour puss running around and Rhona has a hardness about her.

Q. You put her through the ringer as well. Did she do most of her own stunts?
Neil Marshall: She did as many as she could. We had her working out for 11 weeks prior to the movie doing stunt training, horse riding, car driving and stuff like that. But she really threw herself into it and, yes, we put her through the ringer after that [laughs].

Q. I imagine it was also fun reuniting with several cast members from both Dog Soldiers and The Descent?
Neil Marshall: Oh, it was a blast getting the gang together again. There were quite a few faces from Dog Soldiers – Sean Pertwee, Chris Robson – as well as some of the girls from The Descent. But we also got some new faces, such as Adrian Lester and David O’Hara. They were all lovely people to work with and such talented actors.

Q. The film drew a mixed response from critics upon its cinematic release. Did some of the more scathing reviews surprise you?
Neil Marshall: Not really. It’s a full on B-movie style piece, as well as an homage to my favourite movies. If you do it as a comedy, like Hot Fuzz, it’s deemed acceptable. But if you do it as a loving tribute – such as Doomsday – everyone cries “rip off”. There were four key films I wanted to reference: Escape From New York, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, The Warriors and Excalibur. Now they may seem like odd choices to put together but they were all kind of in there. I just tried to take the best bits of each film. But it’s bizarre in this culture of remakes that people are happy to accept the next remake but suddenly this was some crime. It’s daft. The idea was to make a really fun ride and to give people the kind of movie that doesn’t get made any more – a stunt-led, action-led adventure, with no CGI and no wires. It was just real stuntmen doing it for real.

Q. It’s been said that people learn more from the harder times than the good ones? So did you learn more from this experience?
Neil Marshall: Maybe. I’m not quite sure what I learned. But you can never please all the fans. Half want you to do something different, but if you do that, they slag you off. But if you do the same thing, you get criticised. So, you have to ultimately do what you want to do. I was really proud of my achievements with The Descent but I wanted to make other kinds of movies. I wanted to make more of an action movie, so I went off in that direction. I just took elements of what I’d learned from my horror movie days and applied them to Doomsday. I kept it dark and violent. I haven’t left horror movies behind – I just wanted to go off in a different direction.

Q. What other genres would you like to tackle?
Neil Marshall: The film that made me want to make movies was Raiders of the Lost Ark and I still think there’s room for another one in the style of the first Indiana Jones adventure.

Q. Do you have anything in the works along that theme?
Neil Marshall: I’ve got a project called Eagle’s Nest, which is my dream project. But it’s a long way off, so we’ll see.

Q. How involved in The Descent 2 are you?
Neil Marshall: Not much. I have an executive producer credit, which means that I’m overseeing it from a distance. But I didn’t want to get too involved because I want to enjoy this in a way that I couldn’t enjoy it the first time around. I’m curious to see what they come up with.

Q. Was there any trepidation about handing it to someone else, though?
Neil Marshall: A bit. If it had been entirely up to me – and it wasn’t – I wouldn’t have made a sequel. But if one is to be made it’s better to be able to oversee it in some way.

Q. What do you think of the current state of horror? You mentioned the remake culture earlier… Do you think it’s in a healthy state and are there any horror taboos for you – areas where you wouldn’t go?
Neil Marshall: At the moment horror seems to be riding quite a popular wave. And that’s good, just as long as the quality remains high. I’m only interested in them if they’re good quality and scary. I look at all horror movies and judge them individually. As for any taboos, I think it’s a pretty open field. I don’t want it to be too exploitative and I’m not into torture porn.

Q. Are you currently working with Hugh Jackman on Drive? And will that mark your Hollywood debut?
Neil Marshall: I’m developing the project with his production company, yes. But it’s a long way off. If it goes ahead, then yes it’ll most likely mark my Hollywood debut because the whole thing is set in LA. But it’s not my next movie.

Q. What is?
Neil Marshall: I don’t know [laughs]. But there are a couple of other possibilities.

Q. Which filmmakers influenced you? Who would you like to be able to take a look over the shoulder of?
Neil Marshall: Ridley Scott, James Cameron, John Carptener, Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi. And people lile John Ford, Howard Hawkes, John Boorman and Sam Peckinpah. But Spielberg and Ridley Scott are key influences for me.

Q. And which actors would be near the top of your wish-list to work with. Who would you most like to direct if given the opportunity?
Neil Marshall: At the moment, I think Christian Bale is a phenomenal actor… and people like Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. But Christian Bale is just brilliant.

Read our review of Doomsday or view photos

Doomsday is out to buy on DVD and Blu-ray on September 1, 2008