Susie Allnutt
May 09, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

There was no shortage of casualties in 2002’s 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle’s surprise hit about a plague-stricken Britain where almost the entire population had been transformed into blood-soaked psychopaths — or been chewed to death by them. But producer Andrew Macdonald was the one who found himself a victim when it came time to plan a sequel. Why? Well, Cillian Murphy had become so in demand after his breakthrough performance in the first film that the Batman Begins and Red Eye star refused to take even a small role in 28 Weeks Later. ”I was going to have him play one of the infected,” says Macdonald. ”I said, ‘I’ll buy you a trip to Barbados if you appear in the film for 10 minutes.’ But I couldn’t persuade him.”

Macdonald doesn’t sound particularly irked by the snub — maybe because Murphy will star in the producer’s forthcoming sci-fi epic Sunshine. Plus, his absence allowed new director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo to take the franchise in a fresh direction. 28 Weeks Later takes place six months after the last of the ”infected” have died off and stars Robert Carlyle as a survivor who is reunited with his two children in London as the city is repopulated with the help of U.S. troops. ”The approach of the movie is to look at one family and all the problems around it,” says Fresnadillo. Wait a minute. An intimate family drama with zombies? ”Well, what happens, of course, is the disease comes back,” says Macdonald. ”And it gets out of control, and the Americans just say, ‘Kill everybody.’ First of all they shoot the infected, then they shoot everybody, and then they firebomb them with napalm, and then gas them with chemical weapons.” Ahh. Always nice to see our global image in such good shape. But at least the cast had a blast. ”It was a lot of fun because you’re acting with people who are in full-on blood and gore,” says Harold Perrineau (Lost), who plays a downed U.S. helicopter pilot. ”But in truth, it’s a little weird eating lunch with people who are, like, bleeding from the eyes.” (May 11)

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