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28 Days Later (2002)

The days are numbered.

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Old Jul 8, 2006, 05:46 PM   #1
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28 Days Later: Interviews

Articles. Of course.
Naomi Harris

By Thomas Chau in New York City

Already being dubbed the “sleeper” hit of the summer, the British horror/drama, “28 Days Later” has garnered unprecedented critical and financial success.

“It’s really amazing,” comments Naomie Harris on the film’s success. One of the stars of director Danny Boyle’s (“Trainspotting”) post-apocalyptic UK vision, Harris is quickly taking notice for her breakthrough role in the movie. Written by author Alex Garland (“The Beach”), “28 Days Later” tells the story of a man named Jim who wakes up from a coma after 28 days. He walks the streets of London, England, only to find that this once bustling city has now become abandoned and deserted. A plague has overcome the city, with anyone infected from the virus becoming a flesh eating zombie. Jim meets one of the few human survivors in London, with one of them including Harris’ character, Selena. Together, this small group of survivors must band together and figure out how to combat the zombies. But as they begin to unravel the mystery, they find that zombies aren’t the only things they need to worry about…

After the movie’s surprising support in the United States, Harris was invited to do a press tour in the U.S. She sat down with us in New York City and talked about what it was like shooting the movie, as well as working with director Danny Boyle.

How did this project come to you?

I just auditioned really and it was as simple as that, which was really amazing because I was only nine months out of drama school when I got the role. I spent pretty much, most of my time out of drama school, unemployed so once you get started it’s really tough. Over here, I’m sure as in England, it’s about people being able to take a risk on a newcomer. Nobody really wants to do that because everybody’s job is on the line. The great thing about someone like Danny Boyle is that he has the guts to take a risk on a newcomer. He was like, “I know she hasn’t done anything basically but I like her, and want her in my movie.” What he did after my second audition was that he coached me for my final audition, which was amazing because he just rang me at home and gave me all of this advice.

Did you partake in any of these zombie workshops that he set up?

Yeah, we did all together, actually, and we all kind of ran around and did different body states. We then came up with the final idea as to what ended up being the kind of the movement. We all had to be zombies, which was really fun actually, and really kind of liberating, especially for my character because she’s such a long way from who I really am. She’s such a strong kind of character. To find that strength is a physical thing really and a lot of what it entails is what it is to be a zombie.

How was filming in London with the streets blocked off? Was it weird to have such a wide-open space to shoot?

It was fun, actually. But it was kind of bizarre, as well. London is like New York; it’s a 24-hour city and the streets are always packed full of people. To see these really important landmarks, which are normally rammed full of people, completely deserted is really eerie.

Did you guys do anything to keep the mood more intense?

We didn’t really have to try to keep the mood really intense, it just was. It was a really tough shoot. And the people who’ve been involved in the business for 20, 30 years said that making “28 Days Later” was one of the toughest experiences they’ve ever had. We did a month of night shoot, and we’d try to sleep in the day when everybody else was awake. Not having sunlight for a month also does weird things to you. It was really very physically demanding as well, especially for my character, since I did stunts and I didn’t realize that when you do stunts, you actually do get damaged. You do get hurt. There’s no way of being thrown to the floor without getting some bruises. We were also filming in November at night, with rain machines and wind machines, and rats, and covered in blood so all of it was really grueling, so we didn’t have to work really hard on imaging that we were in a tough situation.

Did you watch any zombie movies for research?

No, what we did for research was that we had soldiers who came in and talked to us from the Bosnian war and so forth. They talked about what it’s like to survive in a war torn country and what that does to your psyche. They told us really horrific stories about people being killed and children being murdered. We also watched footage of riots and things like that.

What was the most fascinating thing you found about Danny Boyle?

His energy. His energy and his willingness to allow everybody to take a part in contributing to the film. Directors can get very egotistical and they can say, “This is my vision. This is my picture and I’m going to protect it, and everybody’s going to do what I say.” Danny’s not like that at all. Everybody contributes and he normally works with the same team. He had the same makeup artist, the same costume lady – and that’s because he really likes for everybody to work together and contribute. It’s fantastic, especially as an actor or performer, because normally you’re just a pawn. But Danny allows you to have a real voice in the process.

What would you like people to walk away from this film?

Well Danny talks a lot about it being a sort of reflection of social rage – the rage that we’re all experiencing. It’s a reflection back on where we’re going. I look at it as an exploration on what happens when you remove the social structures on man as an individual, and what’s left of that. I think you’re left with quite a base individual who is lost and quite destructive, really. That’s what I find the movie’s about.

So you would rather it not be labeled as a zombie movie?

I think it’s much more than a zombie movie. I think it’s much more interesting and it’s got a lot more to say. I think the characters have a hell of a lot more depth than a typical zombie movie. And also, the so-called zombie themselves who are infected are much more interesting. With zombies, they’re almost non-humans. With our infected, they’re still a human being in there. It’s just that they’ve been consumed by this rage. They’re a lot quicker, and they’re thinking beings as well. So I wouldn’t call it a zombie movie.
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