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Andrew Macdonald

DNA Films co-founder Andrew Macdonald has just completed one of his most ambitious films yet, Dredd 3D.

The Scottish producer of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later has ventured into 3D with the new version of Dredd, which has already made £2.7m in the UK and opens in the US on Friday. Directed by Pete Travis and shot in 3D in Cape Town’s new studios, this is a DNA production that was made without the backing of the company’s US usual studio partner Fox. Macdonald spoke to Screen about why he decided to revive the Dredd film franchise and his hopes of making a full blown Dredd trilogy.

Why did you make Dredd in 3D?

When we started thinking about Dredd, which was an improbably long time ago, five or six years ago, the idea of 3D was just starting. When the project really got going, it was the year of Alice in Wonderland and Avatar. 3D was generating incredible excitement in audiences and distributors. It was a decision that when we made this type of sci-fi action film that was never going to have big stars in it, that 3D was what everybody was going to want it to be. It was a natural thing to want to do.

Then there was a backlash against 3D.

Yes, 3D is not seen so much as a special thing. I think the biggest problem, which is not Dredd’s problem, is the offering of everything that is in 3D on 2D as well. What I found by making the film is that if you’re making a 3D movie, you should make a 3D movie and if you’re making a 2D movie, you should make a 2D movie.

Why did you go for Anthony Dod Mantle (Festen, Slumdog Millionaire) as cinematographer?

I had known Anthony for a long time. He is one of the great European cameraman. He hadn’t really done this type of film before - a pure genre film. He hadn’t done 3D and that was what really interested him. When you make a film like this, you have to push all the elements - the directing, the acting, the visual effects - to be as good as they can be, even though you’re making a genre film. Somebody like Anthony is the real deal…he has never made a bad looking film!

What is this Slo Mo idea?

It was a very clever idea by Alex Garland. It wasn’t in the comic. It’s a visual idea. You see slow motion in lots of action movies. In this film, the slow motion is an incredible 2000 or 3000 frames (a second). You can see liquid still. The central idea is that this drug gang have manufactured this new drug in this futuristic city called Slo Mo. Take a hit of this drug and it’s like crack. What it does is turn a shitty, horrible experience into a beautiful slowed down experience. We see this through the eyes of the drug takers. We experience what they experience first hand. There are particularly amazing sequences when people are falling hundreds of metres. It works fantastically well in 3D.

How easy for a UK independent producer to put together a 3D action movie on this scale?

It was a South African-British coproduction. It was financed independently but Reliance provided equity through IM Global, which is a a Reliance company. They did a number of pre-sales and there was also a banking element in terms of finance and cash flow. Technically, this was something that had never been done in the UK. There had been some films but not with this level of visual effects. None of the post houses in the UK had done a whole film (like this) from camera to a digital print. We picked some Germans who had worked on StreetDance and set up our own digital laboratory in South Africa. We did all the on-lining there. We basically created a visual effects company. Prime Focus, which had an establishment in London, worked on it. We brought on board our executive producer Michael Elson, who used to run the Moving Picture Company. He went into this company, which was basically a post house without a visual effects side. He created (one) and they hired 250 people from all over the world. We had a visual effects supervisor Jon Thum who worked a little bit on some 3D sequences on Avatar at Framestore. If you’re doing all this without a (US) studio - and this was the first time I had worked without Fox for a while - you are really flying on your own. 

How easy to exorcise memories of the Stallone Judge Dredd?

We wanted to make him (Dredd) a real person in a real world that felt in some funny way something we could understand and was relevant. That was something Spiderman and Batman did. They took them (the superheroes) out of campy kid movies and made them real men in a real tough world. It’s the same idea, really. That’s standard fare for graphic novels now. They’re not really aimed at kids. Dredd’s main audience is an older audience. We then also decided because we were making the movie for $30m to $35m, we couldn’t cater in the way those other movies do for the whole four quadrants. We didn’t have the resources. So we had to decide we were going to really target that male odler audience. That was why we then made it extreme and edgy and violent and tough. Those people seem to really like the film. That’s what they responded to and that’s what the original film lacked.

Why South Africa?

I knew we couldn’t set the film in the UK because we couldn’t afford to do it at a UK studio and the location wasn’t right. We wanted to find a city that could be Mega city, this overcrowded, crime-ridden city. I had become friends with Sharlto Copley (the District 9 actor) and he convinced me that South Africa was the place to make it. 

There were reports of some disagreements with director Pete Travis during post-production

There is always a lot of that in any film. It’s a very difficult thing to make a film. This film was always going to be writer-producer driven. We are trying to make a trilogy. It is Alex Garland’s and DNA’s vision of how to do that. We developed it, we made a lot of choices. You hire the director on that type of film. I don’t think there was any real disagreement. We’re all still friends and I think Peter has done a fantastic job!

Will you definitely make the trilogy?

We have to wait to see if people want it. Alex has a very good idea for Dredd’s journey in this world. It would be an exciting thing to be done. We’ve nailed a style and found in Karl Urban an absolutely magic Judge Dredd…if it happens, it will be Alex Garland writing the trilogy and Karl Urban playing the lead. It will be something that we will do again in partnership with IM Global. I am sure that, if it works, it’s something that all the distributors will want to do again. It’s just a case of waiting till the end of September.

You’ve got an R rating

I am not ashamed of the violence. I am surprised by how it is rated when I see what else can be a 15 and how The Dark Knight can be a 12A.

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