Exclusive Interview: Neil Marshall


Previewing his latest film Doomsday

Somewhere around the mid-to-late ’90s, the grungy post-apocalyptic pictures that permeated theaters in the ’80s with an abundance of machismo dried up much like the sought after fuel in The Road Warrior. Not that the concept disappeared, it just gained a new visage as the action genre crept over the year 2000 mark, entering an age many of said films from the ’80s were often set. The gunplay was all the same but mohawks were traded for jet-black coiffures, blacktop vehicular battles were substituted for bullet-time ballets and arid, desolate landscapes that felt so epic on a forty-foot screen that you could practically taste the dirt on your tongue were replicated via intangible CGI.

If George Miller wasn’t going to go back to the George Miller days of futuristic ultra-violence and deliver a fourth “Mad Max” film, then someone was bound to. And that person is Neil Marshall, the soft-spoken, unassuming horror-action aficionado who took the werewolf film to new levels in Dog Soldiers and gave audiences something to fear in the dark in the vicious, unhinged The Descent. Those two films combined instantly made Marshall one of the most remarkable genre imports to watch next to High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes helmer Alexandre Aja.

In the spring of ’08, Rogue Pictures will release Marshall’s anticipated Doomsday, a film that is a slice of Miller’s The Road Warrior and “a bit of John Carpenter as well. The two main inspirations for this are ‘Warrior’ and ‘Escape from New York.’ It wears that on its sleeve quite blatantly,” says Marshall on an Omni Hotel terrace in San Diego where he and I are scarfing down some breakfast before leaping into the fray at the Comic-Con. There’s not a trace of weariness in him, especially coming from a man who stepped off an intercontinental flight the day prior to preview his actioner before a throng of fanboys later this afternoon; I, on the other hand, nurse a terrible headache from an evening of libations.

“The story came about six years ago, an amalgamation of ideas,” Marshall continues. “I grew up in Newcastle then I moved to Carlisle which is at opposite ends of Hadrian’s Wall in the UK. I used to drive along the ruins of it and it just occurred to me what situation would have to occur to have that wall rebuilt in the future. Then the virus thing came into it. And I had this vision, this image of these futuristic soldiers versus this knight in armor and what situation might allow that to happen without it being a time travel movie.”

These random swatches of inspiration are exactly what the Comic-Con crowd comes to witness in Rogue’s Doomsday presentation lightly touching on the fact that it’s a movie about a unit in search of a cure, led by actress Rhona Mitra, that infiltrates a virus-ravaged Scotland years after it is walled off from the rest of the UK. And as Marshall promises, it’s a bit of everything, from the Road Warrior-esque car chases to even a bit of John Boorman’s Excalibur? “Oh, completely. There’s a lot of ‘Excalibur’ in there, I’m a huge Gilliam fan and the Red King from ‘The Fisher King.’ I just threw that all into the mix. The world of ‘Doomsday’ just allowed us to go to town on everything and anything.” And it shows, Marshall has something radical on his hands unlike anything we’ve seen in many years. (It should be noted that Malcolm McDowell and Bob Hoskins co-star.)

It’s also his biggest project to date and embarking on something like Doomsday left no room for hesitation on his part. “It’s a massive film to pull off, huge scenes with extras, massive carnage, I loved it. I was just running with it and having a good time. When I went in I was just like, this is so daunting.” However, he was in good company, returning from The Descent are production designer Simon Bowles and director of photography Sam McCurdy. “Everybody was taking a really big step on the scale of everything which was so much bigger.”

Bigger meant gorier, apparently. “There’s definitely plenty of gore, it’s an action movie so when the gore happens, it’s brutal, this is an R-rated film for sure. Our makeup FX guy came up to me and said, ‘You realize there are more blood and guts in this film than there were in ‘The Descent?’ We’ve got severed heads, exploding heads, limbs being shot off.”

“The things that I thought would be the most challenging turned out to be the least challenging,” Marshall notes before we’re asked to wrap up our brief rendezvous. “In one of the biggest scenes we had 800 extras and it had this big song and dance number thing going on and I thought that was going to be a nightmare, but it was the easiest thing we shot. We had the lead villain Craig [Conway, the unfortunate camper of ‘Dog Soldiers’] doing his thing and all we had to do was just stand back and shoot it.”

This is most certainly not the end of our Doomsday coverage. Stay tuned for more in-depth interviews as we near the film’s release. And be sure to check out the film’s official site here.

Source: Ryan Rotten