Alex Garland Interview
Alex Garland Interview
Can he be intimidating though?

Alex Garland

Kind of, but he’s actually a lovely man, you know, so he’s very like Dredd.
How far back does your love of the source material go?

Alex Garland

2000AD? I was trying to figure that out the other day. I think 10 or 11? I was born in 1970, at first I picked up a few comics here and there, dipping in and out. Partly just for simple reasons like your pocket money didn’t extend that far. But then I began to make a value judgment about my pocket money, thinking, ‘No, this is more important than crisps.’ If you know the comic book, it was during the Judge Child Quest: at that point I was hooked and became one of those kids who got very caught up in it, really looking forward to Saturday morning when I could walk to the newsagent and buy one. And also probably around 11, I guess, maybe 12, there was a comic book shop, still is, but it was then in Denmark Street: Forbidden Planet. It’s now just around the corner, so I then became one of those kids who thinks, ‘Now I want all the old ones.’ So I would go every Saturday to pick up a comic then I would go to Forbidden Planet and look through their boxes, trying to look for progs to make up the collection, which I never did actually.
Was it always UK comics you preferred?

Alex Garland

It was, actually. There were a few British people who went over, so when Alan Moore was doing his Swamp Thing run I was really into Swamp Thing, I bought all of them, from his first, the first time he wrote one, through to the last. I actually think that’s one of the great bits of comic book writing. I mean, there’s many great books of comic book writing, that’s one of them. But I was never into, honestly, never really into Batman and Superman. Also, comic fans get kind of pissed off if you say you didn’t read X-Men but I just wasn’t into it. Or I was a bit older, then it became stuff like Heavy Metal, I was really into Heavy Metal [the comic, not the music].
Are there any other comic projects you’ve got your eye on, like from 2000AD? Halo Jones maybe?

Alex Garland

Well, yeah of course. Halo Jones is another absolutely sensationally brilliant bit of comic book writing, and also drawing by the way, just to be clear about it. Alan Moore doesn’t want films made of his stuff, so I’d never do it. That would just be the end of the thought process, as far as I was concerned. I’ve worked on two adaptations and I’ve also had people adapt stuff that I’ve written and I’m not going to do something that the creator doesn’t want to do. I’m not built that way. And Halo Jones would be fantastic, it’s probably the thing he’s done that’s best suited for a film adaptation.
That’s what I think too.

Alex Garland

Or TV. But really, he’s not into it, that’s the end of it.
Are you, presumably, acquainted with Alan Moore?

Alex Garland

As a person? No. I don’t know anyone. I really don’t. I’m not sort of out there in the world, as it were. Sort of the opposite. I only know John Wagner because I contacted him to work on Dredd. I wanted him to be part of the team. It was important, that, for me.
Presumably that’s quite early on, when you were writing?

Alex Garland

He was the fourth person. I mean that is to say, in the very, very early stages it was Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich and me that were working on this. But within weeks of setting it up, me and Andrew were on a train to go and meet him.
Obviously you’ve got this very small scale Dredd story, and presumably that’s very much a budgetary constraint as much…

Alex Garland

No, it’s not. It really isn’t. The first story I wrote was Judge Death, with a big, supernatural battle for Dredd, and the second story I wrote was based around pro-democracy terrorists and Origins, which is a big epic in the comic. And on the third one it got this lockdown. But I didn’t not write huge battle sequences in the earlier drafts for budgetary reasons.

The first time I met John, one of the things I said to him, I wanted to be very clear with him, I didn’t want him to have an unpleasant surprise at the back end of this process really. I said, ‘Look, we’re a British independent film company and we have an aesthetic, and our aesthetic is about reality. It’ll get trippy and weird, if you look at Sunshine and 28 Days, it will put a big spin on reality and some weird stuff will happen, but it’s grounded in a real word, so Dredd’s uniform will reflect that and the city will reflect that.’ What I said to John, by way of illustration, is I said, ‘We will aim to shoot this on real locations, in tower blocks, 1950’s and ‘60’s brutalist concrete tower blocks, utilitarian, and then you CG to build that out into mega blocks. But basically we want to be shooting in real corridors, on real roads with real grime and stuff like that.’

It sounds like an excuse, there may be an excuse, I’ve been working in film long enough to know that budget is real, and a consideration, but honestly, you look at 28 Days, you look at Sunshine, they’re genre stories, they’ve got some trippy things, like some guy freaking out because he looks at the sun, but they’re also grounded with real people and real places, so…
Is that why the vehicles are all contemporary vehicles?

Alex Garland

No. The vehicles are the one exception. So that’s my Achilles Heel you walked straight into. Because actually, I would have loved in the effects, in post-production, to tweak some of those vehicles and make them a bit weirder, but that was not the intention, that was where we arrived at. I had to make a value judgment based on the plan for Slo-Mo, which was my focus, I would say, and vehicles and I chose Slo-Mo.
Did you cut anything out of the film that you hated to lose?

Alex Garland

Did I cut anything? No, not really. I mean, yes, but…the assembly cut of this film, which is basically everything, the editor does that on his own, and he just puts everything in there. The assembly cut was 97 minutes. That’s nothing. You want an assembly cut to be like two hours 20 minutes, because then you can cut, you can get rid of stuff and make it leaner and leaner and leaner, which just wasn’t an option. 97 minutes, every cut. What it meant was, you always have to cut, always, but when we cut then we’d look for ways to bring it back in. So some scenes are constructed out of the off-cuts of other scenes.

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Content updated: 19/10/2019 16:32

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