George A. Romero Approved! A Lengthy Chat with Director and Cast of ‘The Crazies’

In three days Ogden Marsh is in a heap of trouble when a government virus turns its residents into The Crazies. To gear up for Overture Films’ pre-apocalypse party, Bloody Disgusting sat down with director Breck Eisner, along with stars Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell and Danielle Panabaker to chat about the remake of the classic George A. Romero thriller.
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The Crazies

CRAZIES remake director Breck Eisner has shown the film to horror godfather George Romero, who directed the original 1973 CRAZIES, and the prognosis is positive.

Talk about nerve wracking call, wow,” Eisner told Bloody-Disgusting during an exclusive interview. Romero recently checked out the film in his hometown of Toronto and the two men later spoke by phone. “He was quite positive,” beamed Eisner. “It was a really fantastic conversation. It took a lot of weight off my shoulders.

That’s good to hear,” offered star Timothy Olyphant when told of Romero’s reaction. “What else can you want?

I’m sure he had some [criticisms],” says Eisner, humbly, “[but] he thought it was a true interpretation and thought it was well-acted and he enjoyed the movie.

So now that Romero is pleased, the next vote of approval must come from audiences. So far the reaction to trailers and clips has been positive. The recently-released scene in which Olyphant’s character, Sheriff Dutton, goes to battle with a table saw, drew very positive response from the horror community at large.

If I’m not mistaken, that was day one on the set,” Olyphant told BD. “Yeah, that was a good one. We kind of started getting our hands dirty right off the bat. Oftentimes those first days are just about the beginning of a new relationship. It’s always good to be back on the set and this was a fun way to start it off.

Due to the bloody good nature of CRAZIES, one obstacle for Eisner and co. has just been getting the film out there in for audiences to see what it’s all about. “In terms of the rating, we weren’t forced to tone anything down,” says Eisner, “[but] it’s been very difficult to get ads on TV. It’s been a real challenge. There’s a lot of imagery that the networks have balked at and most of our buys had to be on late night cable because no one would air anything.

The Crazies

The promotional spots during the Super Bowl had to be pushed until later in the broadcast. Lucky for Eisner, the big game went down to the wire. “That was a real stroke of luck, I tell ya,” laughs Eisner.

Although CRAZIES has plenty of gore, the director clarifies that it’s not done to a gratuitous level. “There’s definitely violence and gore, but it’s all in the service of the movie. It’s not overdone, I don’t think.

Co-star Danielle Panabaker, who plays Becca Darling in the film, went straight from battling Jason Voorhees to taking on the Trixie Virus in CRAZIES. But the young actress says she still doesn’t feel overloaded on the blood and guts. “Well, after THE CRAZIES I did [THE WARD] with John Carpenter, so I don’t think I’ve quite had my fill yet,” Panabaker laughs.

In the trailer for CRAZIES, it looks like Panabaker meets her end by being ripped out of the back of a car window in a car wash. “I can’t tell you that,” the actress says playfully. “You’re going to have to go see the movie.

The car wash scene is one of THE CRAZIES’ biggest and most intense sequences, shot in multiple locations over three days. “That scene seemed to take forever to shoot,” says Panabaker. “It’s a combination of working in really wet circumstances, wet and cold and soapy and a lot of moving pieces, particularly being inside the car wash. We were shooting in an actual car wash so things break and you have to watch where you step and it’s slippery. It was quite an undertaking, but I think the ultimate result is it’s a really scary, terrifying scene.

Panabaker adds that the car wash scene was far from the only intense moment she had on set. “The whole film is really filled with them. There’s a scene where my character’s strapped to a gurney and that was really difficult. You feel very vulnerable. You can’t go anywhere and everyone’s just moving around you. There’s a scene where our characters are hiding in a barn that was quite intense and frightening. There was plenty to go around.

Towards the end of the shoot I think we were getting a bit hysterical with what was going on,” adds Radha Mitchell, who portrays town doctor Judy Dutton and wife to the Sheriff.

The Crazies

Mitchell says that Eisner provided a great on-set atmosphere that was fun for the cast and crew, but he was also determined to stay as long as it took to get the right shot. “ He’s the kind of guy that will just keep shooting until he’s happy with what he’s got, says Mitchell. “But he definitely has a sense of humor and we had a lot of fun with some of the things we were shooting.

The actress says the events of the film also made her think about how she might handle a similar situation in real life, especially after a case of food poisoning recently broke out at a friend’s party. “In this case it’s obviously a life-threatening disease, but you can imagine how quickly viruses can spread,” says Mitchell. “It’s scary to think about everybody on planes and how quickly something like this could become global. The possibility of that is very real. How would one handle it? I don’t know. I don’t think we really have an infrastructure for that as yet. I don’t think society is prepared for that kind of disaster.

To add to the fun, Romero fanatics should find plenty of nods to the original sprinkled through the new version. “There are a bunch that I through in,” Eisner told BD. “Obviously it’s in the advertising that Lynn Lowry is riding a bike in one of the scenes. That was one of the big nods. There are a couple other audio nods in the movie. There are some music cues that Romero used.

And for those that just can’t get enough CRAZIES after seeing the film, Eisner collaborated with a group of comic writers and artists to develop a four-part series through American Original. Each comic will off a unique perspective of one of the film’s secondary characters. “The great thing about that was I kind of treated it the way Romero did the movie,” says Eisner. “We gave the authors and artists the script and they read it. We gave them each characters to focus on and gave them free reign to do what they wanted to do. Each came out different and they each came out really interesting. I was quite happy with that whole process.

Wait until you see part four, the hunters,” adds Eisner. “That one is really brutal, wow. It’s really well drawn. Beautiful illustrations, but incredibly brutal.

THE CRAZIES opens nationwide this Friday, February 26th.