Alex Garland Interview
Alex Garland Interview
Alex Garland, writer of Dredd 3D - the bold new big screen incarnation of Judge Dredd - talks with View’s Matthew Turner about bringing the character to life in the most fan-friendly and visceral way possible.
How did you get involved in the project first of all?

Alex Garland

Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich are the two producers of DNA, the film company that I’ve worked with a lot, almost exclusively, really, over the years and they got the rights; they negotiated with Rebellion, who’s a video games company that owns 2000AD and they got the rights and then approached me and said, ‘Are you interested in working on this?’, so my involvement really, it stems from these two other guys.
You said something at the FrightFest Q&A that was very interesting. You were talking about the previous movie and how that related to this getting made?

Alex Garland

The previous movie, and I should say, which I rather brilliantly didn’t say in that Q&A, that this is nothing about the film itself. I’m not talking about the intrinsic qualities of that film, but the way the film was perceived by the general public and the industry at large. It was not as a kind of white hot license. At the time Andrew and Allon decided to get the license, the trajectory of comic book movies was nothing like at the place it is now, but it was still existing.

And if we had tried to go after Batman, clearly we wouldn’t have got it, so if you’re an independent British film company you have to be smart about it. What the previous film did, in effect, was take everyone’s eye off the ball, because really Dredd is a fantastic character with an enormous amount of material and, within this country particularly, [Dredd] is not defined by that previous film, it’s defined by the comic and the writers and artists who worked on it, principally John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon, a whole raft of them, and the end result of all that was that Andrew and Allon were able to acquire the rights, that was the plus.

The negative was, when you then went to, I won’t name names obviously, but if you went to a certain kind of studio or financier and said, 'Are you interested in this?', their knowledge, conversely, was not of the comic, it was of the film, so then you had more of a perception problem to overcome. If I’d been less terrified and more considered in my response of the Q&A, that’s what I would have said, but as it was I was standing in front of a thousand people and I was shitting myself, so it didn’t come out like that.
Karl was just saying you’re the prime creative force in this…

Alex Garland

He’s being very generous. The prime creative force is clearly the comic, the people that made the comic. But anyway…
But this film particularly, modesty aside, you seem to have had a lot more influence than a writer normally would. Presumably that’s quite enjoyable, if not daunting?

Alex Garland

The way I see it is I’m just working on the films I’m working on and my only focus is trying to make that film as good as possible. And I don’t really question anything apart from that, everything flows from that premise. I’m aware that there is a public perception about the relative roles of all sorts of different people that are credited at the front or end of a film, I understand that, I’m just going to tell you, flat out, there’s a reality gap between the public and, frankly, the press perception of how films are made and the reality of how films are made.

There is no across the board cookie-cutter that can apply to every film. There are, without question, films that are completely director-led and conceptualised and they're auteur films in that way. I don’t really have that experience working in film, I work on collaborations and I really do see film as collaborative, I'm not joking. I can be very clear that someone like Anthony Dod Mantle, the DP, on a film like this, is at least as important as I am in terms of what the film comes out looking like and feeling like and a lot of the things you might attribute to the script are not in there.

One of my favourite moments in the film is a shot of Ma-Ma in the bath, high on drugs, leaning back, pulling her arm back and this veil of water passes over her face, it’s really beautiful. That scene comes as a result of Michelle, who works with Marco, the production designer, saying, ‘In this scene why don’t we have Ma-Ma in the bath? Wouldn’t it be great if she was getting stoned in the bath instead of as it was written, which was on a sofa?’ That’s not me, that’s not Anthony, that’s not Marco, that’s not Pete, that’s Michelle. Now, when you watch a film you can’t unravel the means by which all these shots arrived. It’s very generous what Karl says, I really just want to be clear: collaborative movie. That’s how I work, I wouldn’t want to work on a film any other way than that.
A group effort really, everyone had their say?

Alex Garland

Absolutely, categorically yes. It’s a team, it’s a team of people who are working hard with a common goal.
What was John Wagner like?

Alex Garland

Very like Dredd.
Does he smile a lot?

Alex Garland

It cracks sometimes and then he laughs. Tough bloke. I really like him, really like him a lot. He’s a fantastic guy. He doesn’t bullshit at all. I’ve got to say actually, you know this thing about film, typically people do a lot of lying on films. Because it’s collaborative they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, it’s really true. People will internally think, ‘That’s crap. That thing going on over there is crap. But I won’t say it’, for just human interaction reasons. John doesn’t do that. He says it like it is, and that’s an asset. He’ll say, ‘Ah, it’s wrong.’
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Content updated: 19/10/2019 16:30

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