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Filmmakers Chat: Henry Hobson talks “Maggie”

July 24, 2015

Film + EntertainmentInterview | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Maggie is an unusual film in a lot of ways. For one thing, it’s a zombie flick that’s light on the horror and high on the personal drama, swapping jump scares and gore for a slow reflection on fatherhood, illness and euthanasia. Second, it’s a low-budget indie drama starring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, better known for nonchalantly slinging grenades and one-liners than sombre reflection. Finally, it’s the striking and accomplished directorial debut of Henry Hobson, before now best known for directing title sequences and the odd advert.

We spoke to the British director from his L.A. studio to find out how it all happened.

How did you first get attached to Maggie?

It first came about five years ago now, and it was a script that was sent to me alongside a ton of other zombie projects. It kind of sat in this pile of zombie things, and after reading scripts with zombies underwater, zombies that can’t survive above the treeline, and all these kind of other takes on it, then I realised I was blown away by the simplicity and the humanity of it. There’s a real artistic pacing to it that lends itself to a style of film that I wanted to make, a more lo-fi, indie drama that had a performance-related core. It spoke to me from that moment. That’s why I toiled and tossed and turned to get the financing together, and eventually, a few years later, it all came together.

Did you have much input on the script after you came on board, or was the version you shot pretty much unchanged?

The script was on the Black List, which means it was one of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood, so it was pretty much filmed as is. I think in the intervening period The Walking Dead started and got five seasons, and then Warm Bodies and Life After Beth and various other zombie genre films. But the script was always in its own world, at the very human end of the genre.

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One of the most discussed elements of the film is the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger against type. What was it that made you think he’d be a good fit?

I’ve seen a lot… most of his work. I do think I’ve probably seen every one of his projects. If you look past the explosions, if you look past the comedy, if you look past the one-liners and stuff like that, you see these fragments, that all together you can find a real performer in there. So I was cognizant of his ability, almost to the point of not wanting to spread the word before the film had started, in case someone else found this untapped gem.

For Wade I wanted to have an actor who epitomised strength, who had this sense of utter power and control over any situation. And the reason I wanted that is because I found fascinating the idea of that being stripped away. What makes the character of Wade that much more heartbreaking is that he’s someone who could control any situation… and then the zombie outbreak happens, and his world turns upside down. He manages to protect his family, until his daughter is infected, and that’s when he has no idea what to do. He has no plan, he has no strength. He’s been stripped of that power. What I wanted was an actor who could contribute that power, but then by adding the vulnerability of Wade it could make the character even stronger.

That was my feeling, and when his name came up I thought that he was a really great choice, and you can see in his other roles these snippets – even in The Last Stand you see moments of real acting chops, and I thought he’d be perfect.

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Was there any additional pressure on the film once Schwarzenegger was attached?

There was a lot of talk about the direction of the film and whether there would be more action moments. At one point there was going to be a truck flip sequence. But I think we all felt that we were making something different, and that the film would lose something if it lost that simplicity.

And presumably that was part of what made Maggie appeal to him as an actor?

Definitely, and I think that he brought a real quiet side of himself to the part. I think for him it was a chance to do something different, away from that whole genre.

Finally, what are you working on next?

I’ve got a few projects going, but there’s not too much I can say. There’s a robot project and a spy movie, but they’re all too early to really say anything about.

Maggie is released in UK cinemas on July 24th

Dominic Preston