Why does director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo hate London? In 2007’s horror sequel 28 Weeks Later the Spanish filmmaker (re)populated Britain’s capital with bloodthirsty, rage-virus-infested maniacs and then napalmed it back to the Stone Age. Now, in Fresnadillo’s atmospheric Intruders, Hollow Face, a featureless monster, terrorizes Clive Owen’s London-dwelling family. Did the director once eat a bad portion of fish and chips? “I’ve had fish and chips,” laughs Fresnadillo. “I’m not a fan, to be honest. But the Indian food in England is the best I’ve ever had!”
Below, Fresnadillo talks about Intruders — which hits cinemas today — his aborted Crow remake, and his plans for a reboot of the Highlander franchise.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Intruders doesn’t fit into an obvious film genre. Would you call it a horror movie?
JUAN CARLOS FRESNADILLO: I would say it is a psychological thriller about the original fear or how we fill our first nightmares. I wouldn’t say this is a horror movie because my intention wasn’t to describe and to explore the horror. I did that in 28 Weeks Later. When I say “horror,” I mean that feeling we have when we confront a real danger. But this movie is more about that previous moment — it’s a preliminary feeling before the horror.
But it is a scary film.
It’s disturbing. Spooky. Creepy. But I wouldn’t say horror. Horror is another pace and another intensity.
I don’t know if you’ve seen The Orphanage…
I know that’s more of an out-and-out horror film, but it’s another movie where, at the end, you think that it’s really a film about family and relationships.
I would say that’s a movie about loss and how you fight against the loss and how you accept the loss. In this, I was trying to explore what happens when you hide something very important, very crucial to your kids.
Intruders certainly deals with family secrets. You’re not one of the movie’s credited screenwriters, but is that something which was partly inspired by your own experiences?
Absolutely. When I was a kid and when I was having those first nightmares, I realized that they were connected with some secrets in my family. There were many things my parents didn’t tell me because they thought it was too ugly or too tough for me as a kid. But when you don’t know something about your family, your imagination becomes crazy and you figure that things are worse than the reality itself. So that was an experience I was inspired to work into this movie. Sometimes it’s good to confront the reality and to face the truth to avoid those feelings passing on to the next generation. Fear is a legacy.
In the film, Hollow Face stalks two children, played by Izan Corchero and Ella Purnell. What was it like working with such young actors?
Working with kids is tricky. This is my second movie with kids and after my experience of 28 Weeks Later, which was very tough and very physical, I learned a lot about the way to play with them, to put them in a very real environment but at the same time trying to get from them the best that they can do without hurting them. I realized the way to work with them is to try to be light. Make them feel that this is not about working the whole time. They work, then they rest, then they play. I was so concerned about the boy. He was 8 years old. He’s a kid. The girl is very mature. But the boy, it was a big concern for me. I remember in the first sequence, when he was waking up in the middle of the night he had to scream a lot and he didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to go to that place, to express that kind of fear.
You should have hidden behind a couch and then jumped out when walked by.
[Laughs] No. Finally he delivered what we need.
I would watch Clive Owen in anything. The strange thing is that he’s only four years older than me but I kept on thinking how great it would be to have him as your dad.
[Laughs] Yeah, he represents the kind of father figure that everybody would love to have in his family. But at the same time my [desire] to work with him was related to work against that. Because the movie is a very dark journey for his character and I think as the movie’s going you’re noticing that behind his eyes he’s really scared about something. I love actors that have the ability to show whatever they need to with one single look and Clive is one of those.
It’s so difficult to tell you it’s going to be the next one. But I’m so keen and passionate about the project, and I’m working on that. Again, there is a scenario I really love which is the connection between the supernatural and the human side. And in his particular case, immortality as a curse is something I really love. But when you’re developing projects, you’re not certain if it’s going to be the next one. Things happen, things that you can’t control. So I’m putting all my efforts to that, but it’s a movie than depends on many things, especially financial stuff.
Were you a fan of the original Highlander films?
Especially the first one. The first one is a very iconic movie that I watched when I was young. It’s one of those movies that you don’t forget. I think it used very well the fantasy and the realism. It’s a very worthwhile reboot to make.
Over the last few years you’ve developed a few projects, including Bioshock and the Crow remake, which have then not happened. That must be heartbreaking.
Let me tell you this, it’s usual. In every interview people ask me about this. This is something all directors in Hollywood usually do. Maybe my projects are more famous or something. But it is the normal thing to do — to deal with five, six projects at the same time. Because you never know which one is going to be the proper one at the end. It’s something you have to do. The crazy thing is that you develop something and then all the newspapers are reacting.
But you did come close to making the Crow, which was going to star Bradley Cooper.
Yes. We had a lot of discussions with Bradley. It was a very interesting project. But finally, because of his schedule, my schedule, it didn’t work. It was not for me.
Do you think there will be another 28 Days movie?
There are some rumors about that. I’ve heard Danny (Boyle, who directed 28 Days Later) is interested in making that new chapter. Let’s see!
You can check out the Intruders trailer below.