Now playing in theaters is Dredd 3D. As most of you know, Dredd is an adaption of the 2000AD comics character Judge Dredd, and it stars Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey. The film follows Dredd (Urban) and rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (Thirlby) fighting through a tower that’s crawling with thugs in their attempt to bring down drug overlord Ma-ma (Headey). Unlike the Stallone version from the 90′s, this version of Dredd is gritty, ultra-violent, and really worth your time. For more on the film, here’s Matt’s review, a featurette, a TV spot, and all our previous coverage.
At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, I was able to speak with screenwriter Alex Garland before the premiere. We talked about putting Dredd 3D together, how things changed along the way, the SLO-MO effects, the gritty violence, deleted scenes, the necessity of the reshoots and which scenes were added in later, and more. In addition, with Garland having written drafts of Logan’s Run and Halo, we talked about what happened on both of those projects and what it will take to make a great video game movie. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Note: This was a TV interview that due to audio problems had to be transcribed. Sorry I can’t provide the video.
ALEX GARLAND: I’m good.
As I was saying off camera to you, we ran into each other two years ago, where you were talking about Dredd. This was at like TIFF 2010 for Never Let Me Go.
GARLAND: Yeah, that’s right. We were there to take Never Let Me Go to the Toronto Film Festival and we were just starting sort of active, real pre-production on Dredd at that point. Dredd had actually been in development, in many respects, for years. While we were shooting Never Let Me Go, for example, we were doing pre-vis, sort of quite detailed computer animations of the – specifically the drug SLO-MO sequences. So we’d been doing that for a long time, concept art and trying to put that together. But at the point we met, it was all go, the money was in place and it was actually happening.
I’m always curious about when you’re putting together a project, and you’re writing it and you’re getting everything together, often times on set things change, for whatever reason a lot can change on set and during the post production process. How close to what is being released is to what you originally anticipated you were going to make?
GARLAND: I never really know how to answer that question, actually, because it’s easy to lie, because retrospectively you sort of fit things together in a different way in your head, you know what I mean? I would say broadly speaking, the basics are all there. I mean, for example, the drug SLO-MO and why that’s in the film, and how it works, and the look of the city, and the brutalism, and I guess the kind of grittier approach and stuff. But, that said, my approach to scripts is that they’re a blueprint. They’re not the thing, they’re a blueprint. And I always approach the edit, more than the shoot in a way, the edit as a point where you can be very fluid and you can start chopping stuff up and changing things around. And there was a lot of that on Dredd, just as there has been on any other film I’ve worked on. We cut scenes in half, take a bit from one scene, put it in another, construct new stuff. Actually, in Dredd there’s more of that than any film I’ve ever worked on. Even thought it was really a very simple, linear script, we did a lot of work in the edit.
One of the things I really dig about the movie is that it doesn’t shy away from the violence and you never see his face, it’s basically the Dredd movie I’ve always wanted. Did you have to fight for that position to make that happen?
GARLAND: Actually, both in terms of the helmet and the violence there was never any fight, it was all laid out quite clearly that these were our intentions. None of the distributors asked for the violence to get toned down, none of them said, “Can you take his helmet off?” Karl Urban, incidentally anyway, would have refused to do it, so it was neither here nor there. And in fact, when we were acquiring the license rights from the guys that own the comic, “2000 AD” that Dredd appears in, it was written into the contract that he couldn’t take his helmet off. So things like that were never up for grabs. One of the things we tried to do with Dredd, which hurt us in some respects, was to keep the cost as low as possible so that you’ve got freedom to show some quite extreme drug images and violent images, and drug and then violent images put together. So the freedom came from the budget, and the people who signed on had signed up to the budget and the script, so there were no arguments.
I usually ask this question further down the line, but I’m going to ask it now. I really dug the movie a lot, and this is one of those films – often times people talk about sequels and I’m like, I could give a shit if I see a sequel to this movie. But this is the kind of movie that I actually would like to see a sequel to. Have you guys had any sort of conversations, or in the back of your brain have you had any ideas while you’ve been on vacation? Like, oh man I could see that, or you know what I mean?
GARLAND: Yeah, this is exactly the kind of area where I get very stuck in interviews. Because yeah, I’ve thought about sequels a lot. There are in some respects three scripts already written which loosely form a trilogy, and I’d have to do a lot of work to get them right, but they’re there. What that can sound like, is like its some cynical master plan; it’s really not, at all. I’m a fan of the comic. There’s a lot of other stories I was really into telling. I tried to tell some of them earlier, and I screwed up the script one way or another so I had to start again and I ended up with the script that we shot. So yeah, but it’s me – and even this I can sort of second guess myself and I it sounds like I’m trying to name check being fan for the sake of comic book fans, and I’m really not. I’m a fan of the comic book, I’d like to make more, I’ve got more ideas. But I have no sense of entitlement or expectation that will happen. This is an R-rated film in the states; it’s an 18 back home. We’ve got to make a lot of money before anyone’s going gives us a chance to do it again. Honestly, I’m happy with this one and sequels are like a daydream, that’s really what they are, they’re just a daydream.
It’s funny because so many conversations come up about that, but the truth is as you said, the film has to be very successful to get the financing together to make another one.
Talk a little about deleted scenes and stuff like that.
I was going to ask you, with being an indie, you know-
GARLAND: Yeah, no deleted scenes. I mean- Sorry I should let you finish that question.
Oh no, no. By all means.
GARLAND: We had a ninety-seven minute assembly cut, all right? We could not delete any scenes. One of the real challenges in the edit was how to do a proper job editing the movie, whilst not really letting anything hit the cutting room floor. So that’s why scenes were repurposed, and shots were repurposed, and sometimes flopped and flipped, and played backwards or re-sped and put in different places. So, I don’t think there will be another cut of the movie. This is it. In fact, in the end we did re-shoots because we needed, we kind of needed some more material, so we did some re-shoots like a year later. And that helped us turn a corner in the edit, I think.
Was there like one sequence you can mention that you shot that really helped?
GARLAND: Yeah, I really, I don’t understand why people are kind of jumpy about re-shoots, it’s a perfectly legitimate thing to do-
No, it’s a part of the process.
GARLAND: And a hell of a lot of films do it. Yeah. I wish we could do them more often, because you get to see a film and you think wow, we missed this, this, this, and this. And then if you’re lucky you get a chance to go back and get it. There were two extended scenes that were re-shot, that were not in the main body of the shoot. One was the introduction to Dredd, really, where he corners a guy in a shopping mall and uses a kind of incendiary bullet to take him down. That was a completely different new scene that didn’t exist before. And the other was at the final moments of the film when Dredd and his antagonist Ma-Ma, played by the incredible Lena Headey, finally come face to face. We stretched that scene quite considerably, because it needed it. We were lucky that Lionsgate and IM Global were willing to back the movie sufficiently to give us more money to get some more stuff.
Before I run out of time with you, I definitely want to ask– on the always accurate IMDB.
GARLAND: Yeah, absolutely.
You’ve written, you were involved with the Logan’s Run screenplay, and way back with the Halo movie. I’m curious, do you think Logan’s Run is ever going to get made, number one? And what is it going to take to see a really kick-ass videogame movie get made?
GARLAND: Logan’s Run I have no idea. I was hired to write a script, I did the best I could, handed it in, and that’s that. I got sacked, you know?
Well, you’re not the first one.
Well, videogames are a huge business and Hollywood keeps on trying to crack them, but they never do.
GARLAND: They’re not just a huge business; they are an incredibly important part of the future of storytelling.
GARLAND: Like, they’re going to be doing amazing – they already are amazing stuff in video games, but it’s just going to be getting better and better. And more and more interesting, and you can see that quite clearly. Part of me is thinking video games should not concern themselves with how to get a successful film adaptation; they should be focused on their own gain. Less interested in cinema in some respects, and just keeping their eye on their own goal. That would be like film, at a certain point, becoming too beholden to theater, say, in the 1930’s. It’s a good thing to find your own language, and I think you can see video games are doing that. I am more interested in the best video game narratives than I am in a good film of a video game, I would say.
I know I’ve got to wrap with you, but I know you just, you wrote a video game back in 2010, or co-wrote a game?
GARLAND: Yeah, I co-wrote it with a guy called Tameem Antionades, who really came up with the story. I was helping out from, in a way, a dialogue and scene construction point of view, I guess. And I was using it just as a way in. I’m dead keen to work on games. I keep knocking on the door; the door remains closed. I don’t really know what I’ve got to – I’ve got to be a better writer, I guess. Yeah, I’m not kidding, I mean I think they’re super interesting and I’d love to work in that medium.
Cool, I’ve got to wrap with you. Congratulations on this.