Entertainment Magazine

Dawn of the Dead

Production Information

Why it started...where it started—NOT KNOWN.

Whatever happened, however it started, overnight, the world has become a living nightmare of surreal proportions, with the planet’s population hit by an inexplicable, unfathomable and lethal plague—and the dead aren’t staying dead.

Corpses yearning for their next meal are now stalking the few remaining survivors, driven by their insatiable hunger to feed upon the flesh of the living.

After a terrifying escape from her suburban Wisconsin home on the morning after, Ana Clark (SARAH POLLEY) runs into a small group of the still-living, including: a stoic police officer, Kenneth (VING RHAMES); Michael, an unassuming electronics salesman (JAKE WEBER); a street- rough Andre (MEKHI PHIFER) and his pregnant wife. This ragtag group seeks refuge in a fortress of the late 20 th Century—an abandoned, upscale suburban mall. As the world outside grows more hellish, as the ever-increasing army of decomposing zombies tirelessly strive to infiltrate the mall, the survivors battle the undead, each other and their own fears and suspicions.

Sealed off from the rest of what used to be the world, the mall’s inhabitants—now one of the last bastions of humanity— must learn to co-exist with each other and use every available resource in their fight to remain alive, and more importantly, human.

Dawn of the Dead – Production Information

When there is no room in hell, the dead will walk the earth...

A re-envisioning of George A. Romero’s apocalyptic horror classic 25 years later, Dawn of the Dead marks the directorial debut of award-winning commercial director/cinematographer ZACK SNYDER, from an adapted screenplay by JAMES GUNN (Tromeo & Juliet). RICHARD P. RUBINSTEIN (Pet Sematary), MARC ABRAHAM (The Rundown) and ERIC NEWMAN (The Emperor’s Club) produce, with THOMAS A. BLISS (Bring It On), DENNIS E. JONES (Outbreak) and ARMYAN BERNSTEIN (Open Range) serving as executive producers. MICHAEL MESSINA is co-producer.

Joining Polley, Rhames, Weber and Phifer in the cast are an ensemble of acting veterans as well as fresh faces, including TY BURRELL (Black Hawk Down), MICHAEL KELLY (Unbreakable), KEVIN ZEGERS (Air Bud franchise) and LINDY BOOTH (Wrong Turn).

Behind-the-camera talent includes director of photography MATTHEW F. LEONETTI, A.S.C. (2 Fast 2 Furious), production designer ANDREW NESKOROMNY (Seabiscuit) and editor NIVEN HOWIE (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), along with two-time Oscar®-winning makeup artist DAVID LeROY ANDERSON (Men in Black) providing the look for this new breed of zombies. The music supervisor is G. MARQ ROSWELL (Spy Game) and the music is by TYLER BATES (You Got Served). http://www.dawnofthedeadmovie.net


For the most part, the filmmakers and many of the talent behind Dawn of the Dead shared the same kind of single-minded drive as the ever-growing horde of living corpses at the center of their film.

The zombies on-screen just want to feed; those involved in this Dawn just wanted to make a zombie movie.

A longtime fan of horror films and the “not-quite-dead” sub-genre, producer Eric Newman remembers, “Growing up, I had always loved those movies, but Dawn of the Dead was my favorite. There were always other zombie movies around, but Dawn felt to me like the one movie that stood out from the rest. I feel that the genre has not received the attention it deserves in this generation.” What Newman wanted to do was bring the zombie movie into the 21 st Century with a quality script, a talented and respected cast and up-to-date production values provided by a Hollywood studio. Commenting on the unkillable nature of the genre, Newman observes, “Zombie myths are thousands of years old. It’s almost a vampire thing. Plus, zombies were also, for me, the perfect villains because they were fearless, tireless and ubiquitous. They were singular of purpose—to stalk, kill and eat you. You can’t reason with a zombie. People have always struggled to maintain their individuality against those who strive to crush it. Zombies are the mindless masses who forcibly convert you to their way of life.” Newman’s zombie fever quickly spread to respected, veteran producer, Strike Entertainment’s Marc Abraham. It was then that Newman (on behalf of Strike) approached New Amsterdam Entertainment CEO Richard P. Rubinstein, who was the producer of the 1979 original, George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and controlled the remake rights.

The original Dawn was nationally distributed in 1979 without an MPAA rating by a small independent distributor, earned over $20 million at the U.S. box office and was highly praised by many critics, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert, who gave the film four stars. Rubinstein had previously been approached over many years by filmmakers wanting to secure the rights for a remake, but it wasn’t until Newman approached him that he began to consider granting the rights...and even then, not at first.

Rubinstein comments, “I believed that George’s film was successful critically and financially partially because it was written, directed, produced and distributed outside of the major studio system of moviemaking. I was concerned that somewhere along the way a studio would sanitize Newman’s vision for producing a version with ‘attitude.’

Ultimately, it was Marc Abraham’s long track record in keeping the creative integrity of the studio distributed films he has produced intact that gave me reason to say ‘yes’ and agree to turning the Strike team loose.” Eric Newman adds, “I would like to see this movie make the old fans happy and make a lot of new fans. Because that’s the only reason we are doing it.”

One idea proved to be the cornerstone for all, an overall dictum the production would follow in every aspect of the project.

“This is a re-envisioning of a classic. There was not, is not, a valid reason to ‘remake’ Dawn of the Dead. That’s not what we set out to do, not what any of us wanted. There are some amazing updates on some great films—I love Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Carpenter’s The Thing, Cronenberg’s The Fly. They’re great movies that add to rather than diminish the original films. We really saw this as a chance to continue the zombie genre for a new audience,” offers Newman. Producer Abraham says, “The 1979 Dawn is obviously a cult film, revered by its fans and rightly viewed as a landmark in horror films. We believed we could bring the same intense kind of motion picture experience to a whole new audience of young moviegoers who probably hadn’t seen the original, and we would use all of the prevailing technology to do so.”

Rubinstein agreed with Newman and Abraham that a new Dawn would benefit from a more expansive production, utilizing the latest film technology and special effects makeup. “We all agreed that several of the underlying themes of the original movie, such as the group-versus-the-individual and rampant consumerism, still had substantial relevance in today’s world. The question for the screenwriter was how he could keep certain original elements, while updating them for today’s audiences.”

With Rubinstein onboard as producer, the team turned to another zombie movie fan to adapt the screenplay, screenwriter James Gunn, who had risen through the ranks of famed low-budget studio Troma Entertainment and had previously penned the cult hit Tromeo & Juliet.

“James had approached me early when I was researching the project, and was chomping at the bit to write the script,” recalls Newman. With Rubinstein’s approval, Gunn was onboard. “I was an enormous fan,” enthuses Gunn. “I’ve seen the original many times. For me, it was the first time a horror movie addressed social concerns and still was a kickass horror movie. Aside from that, after having written comedies for the last few years, I wanted to shift from making people laugh to making them scream, cry and get queasy.”

Producers Newman and Abraham had put Dawn of the Dead on Universal Pictures’ radar and it was with Gunn’s draft that cemented the studio’s interest. With a completed script and an eager studio, the producing team’s next job was to find a director that best suited the project. Currently one of the commercial industry’s hottest director/cinematographers, Zack Snyder was looking for the right script to make his feature film debut. When Dawn of the Dead crossed his desk, Snyder knew he had found his film.

A fan of the original movie as well as a comic book and horror film enthusiast in his youth, Snyder could imagine nothing better than having zombies starring in his first feature film. He explains, “I’d been looking for a project to direct as my first feature film, and I wanted something that gave me a reason to care about every shot. Dawn did that.

“The most important aspect for me was that this movie had to be as serious as a heart attack. It needed to be played straight—I mean, we do have some dark humor and some veiled references to the original. Don’t get me wrong, this is a frightening film, but it also has some really funny stuff...some sick humor, if you will,” comments the director with a smile. The filmmakers’ respect for the original also extended beyond the visual references and led to cameo appearances by original Dawn cast members Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger and makeup effects man and cast member Tom Savini. “Zack’s enthusiasm for the project was infectious—sorry for the pun,” says Newman.

In particular, Synder’s detail-oriented preparation scored high with producer Abraham, who observes, “Zack had a very specific vision of the film and storyboarded the complete picture himself. We wouldn’t have landed our great cast if he hadn’t been able to talk about the movie in such a confident and original way.”

Synder echoes the producers when he explains, “I had no desire to remake the picture. A remake, to me, is you take the script and you shoot it again. And that can be cool, but you don’t mess with it. A re-filming of the original version was so not needed. Reinterpretation is what we wanted to do. Re-envision it. We put some steroids into it. I don’t want to have this film compared to any other—our Dawn is it’s own thing with it’s own personality, voice and experience.”

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