28 Weeks Later
“Warning! Maintain the quarantine. Deadly force will be used to protect this area.”
This article contains background information on 28 Weeks Later, including Cast, Crew and production notes, and interviews with Robert Carlyle, Danny Boyle (Executive Producer), Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Director) and a whole host of other people involved in the project.
28 Weeks Later, the follow up to the hugely successful 28 Days Later, picks up six months after the rage virus has annihilated the Mainland Britain. The US army declares that the war against infection has been won, and that the reconstruction of the country can begin. As the first wave of refugees return, a family is reunited - but one of them unwittingly carries a terrible secret. The virus is not yet dead, and this time, it is more dangerous than ever.
How It All Started
28 Weeks Later is directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) and produced by Enrique López-Lavigne, Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich. 28 Weeks Later is an original screenplay by Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Enrique López-Lavigne, and Jesus Olmo; with Danny Boyle and Alex Garland serving as executive producers. The cast is led by Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, Trainspotting); Rose Byrne (Sunshine, Troy); Jeremy Renner (The Assassination of Jesse James, Dahmer); Harold Perrineau (The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Lost); Catherine McCormack (Braveheart, Spy Game); Imogen Poots (V For Vendetta) and Idris Elba (The Wire). Also joining the cast is a talented young newcomer, twelve year old Mackintosh Muggleton making his feature film debut.
Four years after the enormous international success of 28 Days Later, the director/producer/writer team of Danny Boyle, Andrew Macdonald and Alex Garland felt the time was right to make a sequel. “We were quite taken aback by the phenomenal success of the first film, particularly in America,” recalls producer Andrew Macdonald. “We saw an opportunity to make a second film that already had a built in audience. We thought it would be a great idea to try and satisfy that audience again. The hard bit was to try and find a story which would live up to the power and depth that Danny and Alex brought to the first film.”
The first decision the filmmakers had to make was when should the sequel be set. Should the film involve the original cast? Should it go further into the future? Should it be a prequel? 28 Days Later told the story of when the virus was first unleashed following a raid on a primate research facility by animal rights activists. Transmittable in a single drop of blood, the virus locks those infected into a permanent state of murderous rage. Within 28 days the country was overwhelmed and a handful of survivors desperately struggled to salvage a future.
“Alex came up with a lot of ideas and eventually we agreed upon a concept about what would happen to the UK after the disease had been eradicated and the quarantine was lifted,” explains Macdonald. “What would happen if there were only 500 people populating the UK? Who would be there to organize the survivors and refugees coming back from overseas, and what would happen to the Brits who survived? All those questions seemed interesting to us and it was out of them that the story evolved”.
Screenwriter Rowan Joffe, who had previously written Gas Attack and Last Resort, was hired to craft a first draft of the script. The search then began for a talented young director who would have the flare to follow in Boyle’s footsteps as well as be able to bring a fresh new perspective and their own unique vision to the film. “We were looking for a filmmaker of some individuality who could bring something different to the film,” says Boyle. “London was such a big part of the first film we thought that getting somebody from outside the UK to come in and direct would be an interesting approach as they would give the Capital a fresh look.”
Boyle had recently seen the provocative thriller Intacto, the feature film debut from Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo which had been a huge international and critical success. “I thought Intacto was amazing,” recalls Boyle. “A terrific thriller with tremendous flare and energy, as well as being a highly individual piece of filmmaking. I recommended [Producer] Andrew Macdonald and [Executive Producer] Alex Garland go and see it with Juan Carlos in mind for taking the helm on 28 Weeks Later.”
After seeing Intacto Macdonald and Garland were also convinced that Fresnadillo was the director they were looking for, and the filmmakers approached him to direct 28 Weeks Later.
They were thrilled when Fresnadillo and his Spanish producing partner Enrique López-Lavigne agreed to come on board. Producer Allon Reich explains, “Juan Carlos and López-Lavigne, they’re a fantastic double act. Juan Carlos is very thoughtful, very much about the detail… While Enrique is a ball of energy, a film geek, and he’s seen every film of this type. And I think there’s definitely a yin and yang in their energy, and the way they approach life that leads to a very kind of a creative whole.”
Fresnadillo recalls being approached by DNA, “I’m a big fan of 28 Days Later. It was such a big honor to receive the invitation to direct the second film, but at the same time it was something really scary. I didn’t understand what I could do, you know, to improve on the first one or to follow that landscape. But DNA chased me for one or two months… And from the first time we met I was very comfortable with them, because they were open to my ideas.”
Fresnadillo and López-Lavigne began working on the script with the help of Spanish screenwriter Jesus Olmo, developing the story around a family and what happened to them in the aftermath of the original film.
López-Lavigne explains, “The family was a good idea for us, and we wanted to develop this into something. But there is always a problem with this kind of structure in which you are looking at the new world through four different eyes, instead of one. That’s why we had to find a really strong concept for the actual storyline. And what we came up with is a storyline, that we really believe; it’s about the idea that no one is unaffected from his past.”
Fresnadillo tells about the process of writing the script, “We worked on the screenplay for almost one year, and at the end we reached a screenplay that I really love. But I was concerned about if the producers were going to like it because it was very special and different from the first one. Obviously following the same landscape and the same situation about this apocalyptic vision of the world, but to my surprise they liked it a lot.”
Boyle elaborates on working with Fresnadillo, “He’s got one foot in two cultures, so he was an interesting guy to get, you know, rather than just get another Brit who probably would [have made] it much as I’d made the first one. So you need a kind of different eye on it, really. And there’s a great tradition at the moment in our cinema of Latin American and Spanish directors, and it’s, I think, great to be able to be part of it.”