The Ford Brothers traded in Africa for India for their sequel to The Dead and after the near-death experiences they had filming the first movie, we don't blame them. The Dead 2: India recently premiered at FrightFest and we caught up with the directors for our latest Q&A feature. Continue reading to learn about the change of scenery for The Dead 2, funding the movie independently, their interest in The Dead 3, and much more:
When we talked shortly after the US release of The Dead, you mentioned that you were considering heading back to Africa to film the sequel. That you two had a difficult shoot in Africa is an understatement. Was that why you decided to take the story to India instead?
We decided to shoot in India instead of Africa for several reasons. India is just the most stunningly beautiful place with a long history of legends, spirituality and religion. It allowed us to delve deeper into the religious angle and work on a bigger scale, with a 1.2 billion population where better to have a zombie outbreak! We also wanted the film to have a different look and feel to the first one but still have the elements that the fans would recognize as a Ford brothers Dead movie.
George A. Romero has said that it's tough to get his movies funded these days and that everyone is looking for fast zombies. Is that part of the reason you decided to fund The Dead 2 independently?
I think it's always tough to get an independent film funded unless you've been born into a film connected family, which we haven't. The film industry is very much "who you know and not what you know". With out a huge Hollywood budget it would be almost impossible to finance a film like The Dead India in a traditional way. When your out in the wilderness being attacked by local thugs your location, times and even scenario are going to change which isn't possible if the script has been signed off on by the money men. To change things with out written approval forfeits your contract......your fired! To make a film like this. is an organic process that requires total trust in the filmmakers to really deliver in harsh conditions and come back with a good movie no matter what. That sort of thing is just never going to be allowed. In a lot of cases I can understand why. I wouldn't want some dopey Herbert with Spielberg delusions running off into the wilderness with large sums of my money!
Was the story for The Dead 2 something you came up with back when you created the first movie? Can you tell our readers about the two of you working together on the script?
The story was written in a surprisingly short time. We sat down and put pen to paper with a slightly halfhearted feeling, but the moment we started writing it just exploded, we could not type quick enough! Many of the scenes we were unable to do the first film due to the hellish nature of shooting in dangerous parts of west Africa were happily slotted into place in our new story. We'd both fire off ideas and dialogue and if it survived the others scrutiny it stayed in. It was very much a joint effort and one of the more enjoyable parts of the process.
The Dead 2 includes more stunts than it's predecessor (including a scene with a hang-glider, cars crashing off cliff sides, etc.) What new challenges did making a more action-oriented film present?
The Dead India does have a lot more action than the previous film partly because we were able to finally shoot some of the scenes that we had originally planned for Africa but had been unable to because of the hellish nature of the shoot. Ramping up the action when your shooting in a remote part of the world, where the words "Health and safety" don't even exist makes for some hair raising moments. You don't have the back up that a normal shoot would have, so It's really hands on for us and the actors. It was sometimes a case of, "Joeseph, you just do the stunts and we'll film it as best we can". The paragliding scene was one those sequences that we have been talking about for years but gets deleted from the script as a logistical nightmare. In the end we just decided to go for everything we wanted no matter what odds were against us. Just like Nicholas's character we approached each stunt as a logistical challenge and tried to figure out the best way of shooting each shot as they came.
Hindu beliefs in reincarnation, karma and fate play quite an important part in The Dead 2, especially when characters are confronted with feelings of despair as they watch the world around them dissolve into chaos... Aside from the India location, made you decide to include these elements in the film?
We're fascinated by how other cultures would see and deal with the concept of the dead returning to life. We researched the Hindu religion and found it's beliefs translated perfectly into our story. They believe in reincarnation which if you think about it is just what's going on in The Dead India but in a physical, crude kind of way. As in all cultures and religions that we know of, the living dead do exist. In Hindi they call it Zinda Lash, which roughly translates as living corpse. We really wanted to delve deep into India and make it become the very fabric of our story. As in the first film, we wanted total authenticity in every way possible.
In The Dead, two men team up, both of them motivated by the hope eventually reuniting with their families. But in The Dead 2, the protagonist Nicholas teams up with a young street-orphan named Javed. What made this pairing interesting to you? And what was it like working with a child-actor (Anand Goyal) in a major role?
The Nicholas and Javed pairing came about as a sort of follow on from the first film, when Murphy finally finds Daniels son. It gives a taster of what might have happened with them trying to survive together. Nicholas is running away from his past and having a child as the other character allowed Javed to ask Nicholas some very straight forward questions which really gets to the root of things. Nicholas learns about himself when he tries to explain things to Javed. He can't beat about the bush, he has to keep things as simple as possible, which can be a revelation, even to himself. Anand Goyal who plays Javed is a fantastic actor and a wonderful person to work with. The Javed character has a lot of screen time, we were both worried about working with a child actor in such a major roll. After a few really worrying auditions with other actors we began to have serious doubts, We even considered using a real street kid for the part. Then in walks Anand, a true professional. He looks great has a fantastic voice and really got into the character. Joeseph Millson took him under his wing and really helped him through.
There's a particularly effective, very shocking sequence in the film in which the main character, Nicholas, encounters a woman and child trapped in a car. Do you feel The Dead 2 is perhaps an even darker film than The Dead? Or do you think that both films can be seen as bleakly hopeful?
In a way The Dead India is both darker and lighter than the first Dead. We tried to ramp every element up, the good and the bad. The scene in the car is pretty horrific, we were trying to out do the woman and baby scene from the first film which is always a bit of a jaw dropping moment for audiences. The feeling for us is that story represent life in the way we go through tackling moment by moment issues with a sense of hope for the future but ultimately we are all doomed. The scene in the car is one of those horrific conundrums. There is no easy choice to make, Nicholas is damned either way, It's a no win situation. The scene was shot just moments after a near violent struggle with local thugs, so emotions were running very high.
Nicholas's girlfriend Ishani finds out that she's pregnant at the start of The Dead 2. Fatherhood and family seems to be a key theme in both this film and The Dead... do you think horror films work better when they contain a strong 'human' element?
Absolutely, I think all films, not just horror, work better with a strong human element, It's the life blood of any engaging story. As I'm sure people have noticed by now, what attracts us as filmmakers is that human story, the zombies are almost just the back ground to it. However there is always a balance to be found between the two.
If you had to compare The Dead 2 to a successful sequel from another franchise, what would you say it's similar to? What films or filmmakers inspired your approach to this sequel?
I know it's not even vaguely similar but as an approach I would say The Dead India is our Mad Max 2. We're not really fans of sequels but if the original filmmakers/writers are involved then it is possible to make something good. Mad Max 2 just ramped up everything yet kept the essential elements that made the first one work, which is essentially what we tried to do.
Can you tell us about the specific area in India that you filmed in?
We filmed predominantly in Rajathan and some parts of Mumbai and Delhi. Rajasthan is known as land of the kings and they say is the place of one of the worlds first and oldest civilizations. It's a jaw droppingly beautiful, yet dangerous place. It contains ancient temples and rugged landscapes that disappear into the horizon. It was the perfect place to set the film. We always said if we do another film this might be impossible to beat. We also shot in the old fort that was used in The Dark Night. It's the place where Christian Bale has to climb out of the prison. Some of these places are so unbelievable that they almost look like special effects.....which of course they are not.
After filming in Africa , this shoot must have seemed like a breeze. What challenges, if any, did you run into?
Relatively speaking it was much easier than the first film but that is a big relatively. Filming any film is hard but going out into the back of beyond and making a film like this is a whole new world of pain. I don't think there are any filmmakers on the planet doing what Howard and myself are doing and I can see why! It's a daily battle of endurance tenacity and brute force! Not the type of conditions that one can concentrate on making a film in really. We had local thugs threatening to stone us to death and rape our line producer, then we actually got stoned by villagers in a small town on the edge of the desert, One of our actresses was sexually molested on the way to our auditions. We got into violent scuffles with some local gangs. This sort of extreme adrenaline filmmaking is not for everyone.
When it comes to action, zombie effects, and gore, would you say that everything has been enhanced from the original? Can you tease any of the practical effects used in this movie?
We always tried to use as many practical effects as possible. The running over of a zombie, which is a nod to the first film, is a full sized dummy with a hollowed out head filled with blood and brain matter, which is designed to explode on impact. So Joseph Millson just drives into it. We used a lot of bullet head hits which does tend to cover the entire cast crew and locations in blood. The woman and child in car scene, head shots were designed around the footage of JFK being shot. If anyone has seen the footage they'll know what we mean.
Are you already thinking about The Dead 3? Do you have any idea when you'd like to get started with it if The Dead 2 is successful?
We are poised over movement on the next Dead installment as we want to see if there is enough support and enthusiasm for 'The Dead, India', it's really up to you. Right now, we are doing an interview for you, as you post out the interview, that's a brick for the wall of The Dead 3 you have just built. It's this kind of support/interest and those that take the time to go and see it or buy a DVD/Blue Ray etc that's going to make it happen. In the meantime there are other projects we want to pursue. Having said that whenever we are exploring some far flung part of the planet we can't help but say "can you imagine this happening there" etc etc so who knows it's down to the fans now!
Howard, it was previously mentioned that you would be directing Indelible in September? Is that project still moving froward? What can you tell us about it?
Well it was moving until we had to go and do The Dead 2 and that stalled it a bit timing-wise but I'll be in LA for meetings about next moves as 'The Dead, India' has it's US premiere at Scream Fest LA, 7.30PM Wednesday 9th October (Exclusive info!) Indelible was something I developed over many years and a story I really want to see out there. I am also attached to direct another film and have a personal project bubbling up that you might hear of soon.. Jon has written a great revenge movie that I know he can't wait to get his teeth into too and knowing Jon if he does it the way he wants to it will deliver the goods for sure and be something no one has seen before. That's what we try and do, like or hate our films, you won't have seen much like them before.. We try to literally go to different places and weave elements in that you might not expect to see in the type of film you think you've just sat down to watch... Going forward, we don't just want to make films for the sake of making them. If it doesn't fascinate us, it's simply not worth it, life is too short...