Craig Fairbrass Interview

Craig FairbrassCraig Fairbrass is a veteran British actor with a huge range of experience; three years on Eastenders, a memorable role in Cliffhanger, a Uwe Boll film, roles in Stargate SG-1 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and even voicing major characters in the Call of Duty franchise. Being involved in over 12 films in 2010 / 2011 and currently working on his own project “Gunned Down”, the future is looking even brighter for Craig Fairbrass.

Gorepress’s Boston Haverhill caught up with him on the media trail, celebrating the release of free-running zombie horror Devil’s Playground. Chatting over the phone-waves of London, Craig comes across as a smart, thoughtful, horror enthusiast and a true gent – a real pleasure to talk to.

See below as Craig discusses zombies, Danny Dyer, the film industry, action-horror and his surprising choice of favourite horror film…

Gorepress : Tell me a little about Devil’s Playground?

Craig Fairbrass : You haven’t seen it?!

GP : No, I haven’t seen it yet.

CF : Oh no, you’re joking.

GP : I’ve seen the extended trailer, if that helps…

CF : Devil’s Playground is an action-horror with a real emotional story running through it. It’s not just your bog standard shoot ‘em up and bash ‘em up and kill ‘em type film. Mark McQueen, who directed it, made sure there was a real human story running alongside of it. You can perceive that anyway you like, but there’s a real story there, about a group of people really trying to survive. My character Karl, who’s head of security for Newgen Industries, who’s been working for this company and no longer wants to be there because he’s done too many bad things for them. All this goes a bit weird for them. They’ve got this new drink out, which has massive side effects, and starts making people turn into zombies. So Newgen brings my character Karl back, to help track down the one person who’s not had any side effects –

GP : That’s Myanna Buring, right?

CF : Yeah. But at the same time I’ve already been bitten myself, in the laboratory, when one of the test subjects goes berserk. Then I only have one day – I have three suppressants that suppress the virus – so I’m like a ticking time bomb, where I’ve got to track her down and get her out of the country to do some tests, to find an anti-virus.

GP : That’s actually a genuinely good premise, especially for a zombie film.

CF : It is. And along the way we’re attacked at every turning point and every place they can hide.

GP : The zombies are free-running, Parkour zombies, right?

CF : They are, yeah. Mark McQueen, Bart [Ruspoli] and Steve [Matthews] and Jonathan [Sothcott] decided to give the zombies an edge, because they’re usually slow and lumbering. They’re all free-runners, and they were absolutely amazing, and without them the film would’ve been nothing, as far as I’m concerned. Absolutely breathtaking, what they do – the way they move and jump and run. It really gave them an edge.

GP : Are you a fan of zombie movies?

CF : Yeah, I am. I’m a big horror fan. I always remember watching George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead when I was a kid. I just loved it. And then I find myself at four o’clock in the morning, it’s snowing, and I’m fighting zombies. It was a lot of fun.

GP : Do you prefer the slower moving zombies or the fast ones?

CF : It all depends. I’ve just been approached to do another zombie film, which is filming in Serbia, towards the end of the year. And that’s more “blow their heads off with a pump-action shotgun” type film, but this is much more different with jumping and trying to bite you and you’re wrestling them, and the only way you can kill them is by smashing their brains in with a hammer!

GP : Well, with it being set in London there’s not a huge access to guns, I suppose.

CF : Exactly, yeah. I’ve got a gun, but it don’t do much damage. You’ve really gotta get to grips with them and kill them that way. A bit more hand-to-hand combat.

Craig Fairbrass in Dead Cert

GP : How’d you get involved with Devil’s Playground?

CF : I’d come back from the States and I was offered a sort of – I had done this film called Freight, which was an action movie that’s coming out shortly – and then I was offered Dead Cert. Then the producer saw me in a film called Rise of the Footsoldier. Have you seen that?

GP : Yeah. You play that real-life gangster –

CF : Pat Tate. They saw me in the that, I had a meeting with them, and I was about to do another sort of gangstery type film, which I really wasn’t too keen on doing, and then this script came along from Jonathan SothcottThe Devil’s Playground – and I read it as soon as it arrived, and I said I would absolutely kill to play this role. Because what’s interesting about Karl is he’s searching and hunting for redemption. He’s done so many bad things in his life, and if he can do one good thing before he dies it’d make him happy. He was a tough character, but with an Achilles heel, with a little bit of empathy. I found him interesting and not just a geezer who goes around smashing people up. There’s a lot more going on, and I thought I’d like to play a part like that.

GP : He’s not your average hero, is he?

CF : No, no he’s not. It just made him interesting.

GP : What was it like working alongside other British horror pros, like Colin Salmon, Myanna Buring and Danny Dyer?

CF : Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. You know, Danny Dyer said to me, “I’ve not been on a film like this for a long time”. He said “there’s not one weak link in this chain. It’s amazing”. Because everybody was on their game – especially Dyer. Because it’s five or six people, it’s a tough shoot, it’s five weeks – snow, freezing cold – all sorts of logistical nightmares, big outdoor lighting shots, action, explosions. In amongst all that was this emotional turmoil, and all this frenetic activity between the group, and conflict. And if you weren’t on your game, and you weren’t on the material – you only had two or three times to shoot it, because of the weather conditions. But everyone was brilliant – Jamie Murray, Lisa McAllister, Craig Conway, Dyer, Colin – everyone was just faultless. If you see the film – I am really, really genuinely proud of it. 100%. It’s the best work I’ve done for a long time, outside of Rise of the Footsoldier. I’m really proud of it.

GP : At Gorepress we love our zombie films, me especially, so I’ll have to watch it as soon as I can.

CF : Yeah, you should. You should. Production value wise, for a British film, we were very very lucky. Mark McQueen is an extraordinarily talented kid, he’s got a huge future ahead of him, you’ll see what I mean when you watch it. He’s got a real edge, the way he’s shot it. I just looks and sounds perfect – it all came together at the right time.

GP : Mark McQueen previously did documentaries, like The 5th Gear and a Guinness World Records piece.

CF : Yeah. A couple of pop things, a couple of commercials, like a lot of these new directors. He’s an editor, which solved a lot of problems, when we went down to the set in the morning and you’ve got so much stuff to do – you really need that to be done, someone who’s ahead of the game.

GP : You’ve done such a huge range of work. Eastenders on TV and even voiceovers on the Call of Duty computer game franchise. What sort of work do you prefer?

CF : I like action, I like TV, but film is really where I enjoy myself. Because it’s forever. There’s something special about it. You watch it on the big screen, and then you’ve got your little collection. It’s funny, because it’s opened up another avenue of work for me – in the action-horror arena – which I’m looking forward to doing more of.

GP : Yeah, well you’ve got a lot on in 2010 and 2011, haven’t you?

CF : I’m just about to go to the States to do an actiony-gangster film, then come back. I’ve got my script at the moment – which I’m producing – a film called Gunned Down, which we’re finally got the last chunk of finance for. And I’ve got a couple of action-horrors that are kicking around. You jump on what goes. I know The Devil’s Playground jumped straight in at number 4 on the DVD chart, which is great.

GP : That’s excellent for a British horror film.

CF : Everyone who’s seen it has said to me “Craig, it really is head and shoulders above anything that’s around like that. It really is a cool film”. And it’s nice when people genuinely like it.

GP : You’ve done your zombie film now – is there anything you still want to do, that you haven’t?

CF : Well, I get all these e-mails, and one said to me “You’ve done the vampires, you’ve done the zombies – you gotta do a werewolf one!” I’d love to. I’d play a werewolf or I’d kill a werewolf – anything!

GP : I’m sure there’s someone out there reading this and desperately thinking “I better get a script knocked out – werewolves and Craig Fairbrass!”

CF : Yeah, we’ll see.

GP : You’ve worked in film and TV for nearly 30 years now – how’ve you found the film industry’s changed in all those years?

CF : Well I started in 1986 – so that’s nearly 25 years, yeah – I was in For Queen & Country, opposite Denzel Washington. I can remember that a low budget British film then was about two n’ a half million quid, but a low budget British movie now is about one million quid. It’s like everything’s doubled the price but film budgets have gone down even further, because it’s just impossible to get them off the ground. With the big American movies that come here – and most of them aren’t very good anyway – you know what I mean? I watch a lot of films and think “There’s no excuse when you’ve got thirty million dollars”.

GP : The film industry is saturated with some utter bollocks, it’s true.

CF : Completely. I’m so glad you said that – completely that. How many times in the past year – apart from Inglorious Bastards – have I sat down and watched a film and really enjoyed it.

GP : As we’re talking zombies and big films – did you see Resident Evil: Afterlife?

CF : No, but I tell you what I did see – The Crazies. I thought it was brilliant.

GP : That was surprisingly good, especially for a remake.

CF : What was Resident Evil like?

GP : It’s the fourth Resident Evil film, and it’s appalling. It’s a joke, it’s a mess – there’s hardly any zombies in it, for a start.

CF : It’s action.

GP : Yeah. I don’t mind action, as long as it makes sense. Anyway, talking of the film industry in regards to budgets, you’ve done a couple of movies with Black and Blue Films – you mentioned Jonathan Sothcott earlier – it must be nice to have a British production company actually pumping out films. They’re a prolific company.

CF : Yeah, well Jonathan’s a very smart, shrewd guy. I met him, and he said to me “You’re quite unique. Your age, your look, your physicality, your acting ability. There’s a real brand that I could really do with you – there’s a market for these films now – “It does what it says on the tin” films.” And it’s something he’s aggressively pushed me into, in a nice way, he said “Listen, we’ve gotta do this, we’ve gotta do that – we look at the figures, we go back” and he’s recognized that, which is great. And we try and use the same people, and try and make it like a family unit. Getting the money, and getting everybody back on board, just pushing forward and try to make more films.

GP : Like Hammer Studios, back when it was a smaller studio.

CF : Exactly.

GP : Passion and commitment for the same goals.

CF : Yeah, and trying to do contained, clever-budgeted films that get investors a return. So many films are made where they don’t get a return, and what we’re trying to do is set up quality films, with quality directors and quality actors, where that private chunk of equity that you bring in actually gets you a return on your money, which is great. Once you start that, you can keep going back and back and back.

GP : I think investors have got to the point where they expect to lose money. It’s rare an investor actually makes something.

CF : Yeah, I’m amazed what people put money into. I met two people last week, who’d both put 800 grand each into some sort of rom-com – I’m just amazed. It’s horrible for me to say, but it’s got to be the commercial gear that sells the planet.

GP : Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to work with and haven’t had the chance yet?

CF : Not really, no. I was just about to do a film out in New Orleans, which has just been pushed back a couple of weeks, and Ray Liotta was gonna be in it. But they’ve recast him with someone else. I was quite excited about that. You know, Goodfellas, “he’s a funny guy”. It would’ve been nice. All the actors you meet – I’ve worked with big stars – it’s nice to work with big actors, it does you the world of good, standing and sharing the screen with some of them people. It’s been fun – I did a film with Steven Berkoff recently – Dead Cert. I’ve always been in awe of him and he was a really nice, down-to-earth, good fella who’s been through the mill. I think the ones who’s done it all, they’re a bit more secure – in their head – they’re a lot more better behaved.

GP : Finally, what’s your favourite horror film of all time (apart from The Devil’s Playground, of course).

CF : For me – you’re gonna laugh – Jeepers Creepers.

GP : Really? – Wow.

CF : I do like the monster ones. That and The Thing.

GP : A great choice. Have you seen Jeepers Creepers 2?

CF : Yeah, I didn’t think it was that good.

GP : It was a mess.

CF : Yeah, it was. Did you like the original?

GP : I did – I know of lot of people panned it. The start was brilliant and suddenly, out of nowhere, this monster appears.

CF : It was so original. And when a creature is done well – and so violent and gruesome – it’s great.

GP : Yeah, the ending was especially grim. Brilliant. Well, Craig, thanks for talking to Gorepress.

CF : Thank you.

Devil’s Playground is out on DVD now released by Entertainment One.

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