Director Danny Boyle is to re-team with Alex Garland, writer of the cult book which spawned The Beach, for British sci-fi film 28 Days Later.
Boyle is to start shooting in August on the $15m project for DNA Films, the UK National Lottery franchise which his regular producer Andrew Macdonald heads with Duncan Kenworthy. The project will mark the first Boyle film to go through the franchise, which is backed by Universal Pictures.
Set in London in the near future, 28 Days follows what happens after an apocalyptic virus has killed most of the world's population. "A sci-fi film that is not to do with aliens has not been done for a while," said Macdonald, who will produce. "The story is key. It is not star led."
Macdonald expects the special effects-laden project, based on an original idea by Garland and himself, to go ahead regardless of the threatened US actors' strike.
Boyle was reported in March as dropping out of Columbia Pictures' action thriller Tick-Tock. The director of A Life Less Ordinary, Trainspotting and Shallow Grave has recently teamed with UK broadcaster the BBC on two small-scale TV projects - Vacuuming Nude In Paradise and Strumpet.
The presence of such a high profile title on DNA's slate is expected to be seen as a firm signal of Macdonald and Kenworthy's commitment to making the franchise work as a long-term business. Macdonald noted that The Beach was in the works long before his and Kenworthy's lottery franchise was confirmed. "The idea is to make things through DNA as a financing company," he said.
But he added that putting films budgeted much higher than $15m through the franchise "doesn't make much sense" because of the limit on the amount of lottery cash allowed per film. "It doesn't make much difference to the deal, " he said. "It can get in the way."
DNA and UIP are now readying a major 200-print UK release in the summer for DNA's The Probation Officer, starring well-known local TV comedian Steve Coogan. While Probation Officer will premiere in the UK, positioned as "a commercial British movie", DNA will give Cocozza's Way, formerly titled Strictly Sinatra, and Final Curtain more targeted openings in the US first after the roasting UK critics gave the franchise's debut title, Beautiful Creatures.
Macdonald and Kenworthy each aim to produce one film a year for DNA, with a third project from an outside producer.