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Danny Boyle hired retired athletes to make 28 Days Later’s running zombies more terrifying

Boyle tore up the rule book when it came to depicting the undead

Jacob Stolworthy
Friday 24 April 2020 10:04 BST
Danny Boyle reveals how he made zombies in 28 Days Later so scary

The virus-riddled zombies in 28 Days Later rank as some of the scariest ever seen on screen.

In the world of Danny Boyle‘s film, being infected with Rage sees people reanimate into a far different version of the undead usually seen in popular culture, including George A Romero’s Living Dead films as well as TV show The Walking Dead.

These films and TV shows depict zombies as being slow and fairly escapable – it’s usually the quantity of them that puts people’s lives in danger.

However, Boyle and writer Alex Garland went for a different approach in 2002 horror film 28 Days Later by deciding to make their zombies really fast.

Speaking in a resurfaced interview from July 2019, Boyle told PeopleTV that his decision to make the zombies run as opposed to walk came from not knowing how the genre worked.

“I said to be really scary, they can’t just stumble around going ‘argh’, ‘cause otherwise you’d just walk away from them,” he explained.

To find the right people who could make the character’s lives feel endangered, Boyle put on his thinking cap and decided to go for the fastest people there are – athletes.

“There’s an agency where athletes, after they finish their careers – which is usually around 30, tragically – they go to this agency and they get hired to open supermarkets, turn tumbles, they find work like that,” he said. “We hired them to be the zombies, so when they ran at you, it was pretty scary.”

The result was repeated again with sequel 28 Weeks Later, which followed in 2007.

Speaking to The Independent, Boyle revealed he has a “wonderful” idea for 28 Months Later.

“Alex and I have a wonderful idea for the third part,” he said. “It’s properly good.”

Boyle continued: “The original film led to a bit of a resurgence in the zombie drama and it doesn’t reference any of that. It doesn’t feel stale at all. He’s concentrating on directing his own work at the moment, so it’s stood in abeyance really, but it’s a you-never-know.”

Garland’s TV series Devs is available to stream on BBC iPlayer while Boyle’s film Yesterday is on NOW TV.

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