Alice in 28 WEEKS LATER

Born in Alton, Hampshire in England, Catherine McCormack graduated from the Oxford School of Drama and was first brought to the attention of international audiences when she was cast as William Wallace’s childhood sweetheart in Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning film Braveheart.

Now an accomplished film, TV and stage actress McCormack was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category at the 2001 Olivier Awards for her role in the National Theatre production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons opposite Julie Walters and Ben Daniels.

Following Braveheart, McCormack was cast in the World War II drama The Land Girls opposite Rachel Weisz and Anna Friel and went on to star in Dancing at Lughnasa with Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon, Dangerous Beauty opposite Rufus Sewell, the British comedy This Year’s Love with Dougray Scott, The Debtors with Michael Caine and Randy Quaid, Tony Scott’s Spy Game with Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, John Irvin’s The Moon and the Stars, The Tailor of Panama with Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis, Shadow of the Vampire opposite John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Weight of Water with Sean Penn and A Rumor of Angels with Vanessa Redgrave and Ray Liotta.

As well as TV roles such as the three-part British TV drama Armadillo by William Boyd, McCormack’s wealth of stage experience has included The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, Kiss Me Like You Mean It at the Soho Theatre, Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind, Roger Michell’s Honour and White Horse for director Neil Jordan, Anna Weiss and more recently the National Theatre production of Simon Bowen’s Free.

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was attracted to McCormack’s incredible on screen presence “It was a kind of love at first sight – I watched all her movies and thought she was amazing. The role of Alice the mother in 28 WEEKS LATER is limited, so we needed somebody you can’t forget. Alice is a menace but at the same time she’s a mother” explains Fresnadillo “and I think Catherine played both sides and introduced something into the story that was really real and really honest”

Alice’s role is integral to the story – her eyes have different coloured irises which the audience later finds out, denotes a genetic immunity to the rage virus. We later discover that her son Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) has also inherited her unusual eye pigmentation. When her husband Don (Robert Carlyle) leaves her behind in the cottage they’ve been taking refuge in, he assumes she’s been killed as it is infiltrated by the infected as he flees, but it transpires that she has survived.

You’ve got a small but very pivotal role. Do you like that?
I really don’t mind. The choice is always about the director. I don’t view it in that way. It’s always nice if you are killed off early that there’s a presence of you around.

What attracted you to the project and do you like the horror genre?

I thought it had a great creative team as Danny Boyle was involved too. I don’t know anything about the horror genre. It’s not something I’m drawn to. I don’t go the cinema to watch horror films. It was the fact that 28 Days Later had been directed by Danny Boyle that attracted me. I was pleased when I met with Juan Carlos as I thought he was fantastic. Working with Bobby Carlyle and working with Juan Carlos attracted me to the project, knowing that visually it would look extraordinary and watching it I was really bowled over, so it really lived up to my expectations.

What was the most interesting scene to play?
The most interesting moment was the big scene between Bobby Carlyle and I. Juan Carlos got me to play it in two different ways – on one take it was about revenge. He’s mixed a bit of the two together. One you see a slight smile on my face.
That’s a really powerful scene. What was it like for you lying there strapped up while Robert Carlyle is going mad?
Terrifying. When we heard “action” Bobby just went crazy and fortunately what you don’t see is that Juan Carlos got very excited watching the monitor in the other room and just screamed “Jump on her, run, run…keep going”. The gurney that I was lying on wasn’t actually attached to the floor so he leapt on me and I ended up hanging upside down! It was genuinely quite scary and the moment where the infected all burst into the house was too – the guys who play the infected are all dancers and the way they move their bodies is quite extraordinary

What did you think of the film when you saw it?
Because I only have a small role I felt quite distant from it, when we saw the film last night me and my boyfriend were just leaping out of our seats!

Can you tell us about the make-up and the how they created the unusual look with your eyes?
It was just contact lenses and when I saw what I looked like for the first time I thought I looked like I was looking in two different directions and I actually laughed at that moment as I looked boss-eyed! A dummy was used for my dead body but it was quite life-like. I walked in and saw my body lying there with a head on it and it just looked like “dead Cath” – not something you should witness really!

Had you worked with Robert Carlyle before?
We knew each other a little before and both worked on two halves of a Gillies Mackinnon project. We knew each other through mutual friends. He’s lovely to work with.

How did you approach this as it’s so action packed ?
I do a lot of theatre these days and my heart is there and I really loved to sit down for four or five weeks and really analyze a script and really get under the skin of the character. There was no choice in the direction when I’m running and screaming because as an actor you just have to react in the moment. It was interesting to do something new and you’d want to be as good as you could even in scenes where you’re just running, so that’s quite a challenge to make that interesting. The screaming took its toll on me and being on a set where the infected look quite terrifying because of the movement they employed. Your performance is quite high-pitched all the time – working yourself up into this state.

You don’t get a lot of character development here?
I only do that if the part requires it and this part was only quite small.

Do you prefer film or theatre?
I don’t like to be on anything for too long. I actually did a play for five months recently and working at the National Theatre I’ve done plays for that long, so it’s great to do a film after that because it feels fresh. After this play that I’m doing I don’t want to go anything else too quickly, I want to do my own thing and spend some time having a life. I’ve been lucky for fifteen years with the roles and I’m lucky because I have other things in my life too.

Click below for 28 Days Later review