An interview with Anatoly Fradis

Interviewer: What first attracted you to this project and how did you get involved?

Anatoly: I was looking for projects with built-in instant appeal. I wanted to do a remake of a famous movie, or sequel to a successful franchise. At first, I went after the remake rights to The Amityville Horror and was near closing the deal when Miramax and MGM jumped on it instead. Since I wanted to stay with the Horror genre, I wondered what else was available. Zombie films have been doing well, so I called George Romero about doing something with his Dead trilogy. It was at that precise moment that my co-producing partner brought my attention to the two Living Dead scripts.

I: Tell us a little about director Ellory Elkayem, what did he bring to the films?

A: Ellory has a knack for horror films. You can look at his past credits like Eight Legged Freaks and tell that. But, in that type of film, there is also a comedy aspect and with that experience we figured he would be a great director for this series. He worked a lot on the balance between horror and comedy.

I: Tell us a bit about the casting process.

A: I was really delighted to find such great kids who were excited about the project. They all are good, hardworking actors and I am glad I got to know them. Peter Coyote is also a great pleasure to work with. He is a very professional veteran and he brought a lot to the films. In addition, his name has an instant recognition - he is extremely popular in Europe.

I: Now that you’ve seen the films put together, tell us what these actors bring to the films?

A: They are all good looking, fun loving kids and it reflects on their characters. They all had fun with it and I think it's evident on the screen.

Peter Coyote added some insanity to his character and made him more of a mad scientist than a nefarious bad guy and it comes across brilliantly. It's definitely a different Peter Coyote, who we haven't seen before.

I: The Return of the Living Dead films have been cult classics, how have you ensured that they remain that way, while drawing in a fresh new audience?

A: We’ve maintained the comedic tone and brought back some of the highlights from the original films. The draw for the old audience and the new as well is the amount of technology in effects that are available to us now, but have not been available before. We've done some great effects in these films that update and in many ways helped us to reinvent the Living Dead series.

I: Were there any particular challenges during shooting?

A: Unfortunately, there were many problems and difficulties, since we were shooting two films back-to-back and it required a lot of planning and mind bending. Therefore, the fact that we were able to overcome all of the obstacles and deliver two great looking films is really a testament to the cast and crew. They stepped up and were able to get the films done despite all of the difficulties of working in foreign country, with foreign crew, many locations, bad weather, etc.

I: How did you find it, shooting in Romania?

A: Working with Castel Film Studios made the experience easier. They are very professional, well trained and efficient. They understand how to work on "American productions".

I: You shot in Chernobyl which is a particular coup for this film, could you give us a little bit of background as to how that came about and what the results were?

A: I always wanted to film in Chernobyl and believed it should deliver a very special look to our picture. We scouted the area back in February 2004 and it was just incredibly creepy and spooky. I specifically asked the writers, William Butler and Aaron Strongoni, to add in the Chernobyl beginning because I thought it would make a powerfully strong opening. I was taking a chance at that time, because I had not received any permission to film in the area until the very last moment. No American crew was allowed to film a feature there before. It paid off. Filming in Chernobyl did wonders for the opening of the film.

I: How would you describe these films and their appeal?

A: A typical zombie is one of the most inept of the movie monsters. There isn't much that's all that scary about them when they are easily killed or escaped. In The Return of the Living dead series, we acknowledge that. These are not the typical zombies, and we do not take them or the subject matter seriously. There is a lot humor in the series and we stay true to that. There are some good scary moments but the tone of the films is just plain, good fun. I believe that this real "tongue-in-cheek" campy kind of fun will appeal to all generations and will drive viewers to see and enjoy these pictures.

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