24 June 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTN Caught Up With David Freyne & Sam Keeley Ahead Of 'The Cured' Irish Cinema Release - Friday, April 20th
20 Apr 2018 : Nathan Griffin
IFTN Journalist Nathan Griffin caught up with Irish writer/director David Freyne (‘The First Wave’) & actor Sam Keeley (‘The Siege of Jadotville’) about their new highly anticipated post-apocalyptic zombie film, ‘The Cured’, ahead of its national release this Friday, April 20th.

The film boasts an excellent cast that includes Sam Keeley (‘Burnt’, ‘Anthropoid’), IFTA winning actor Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (‘Love/Hate’, ‘The Infiltrator’) & Academy Award nominated actress Ellen Page (‘Juno’, ‘Inception’)..

‘The Cured’, which is Irish writer/director David Freyne’s feature debut, is set in the aftermath of a world ravaged for years with a devastating virus that turned the infected into zombie-like cannibals.  While a cure is found, the wrenching process of reintegrating the survivors back into society begins.  Among the formerly afflicted is Senan (Keeley), a young man haunted by the horrific acts he committed while infected. Welcomed back into the family of his widowed sister-in-law (Page) he attempts to restart his life - but is society ready to forgive him and those like him? Or will fear and prejudice once again tear the world apart?

Since its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, ‘The Cured’ has gone on to win the Best Horror award at Fantastic Fest and screen at the BFI London Film Festival and Glasgow Film Festival.

The film was produced by Rachael O’Kane, Rory Dungan and Ellen Page for Tilted Pictures, Bac Films Production and Bounder And Cad in association with Savage Productions and Yellow Moon Post Production with funding from The Irish Film Board / Bord Scannán na hÉireann, The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Northern Ireland Screen.

Wildcard Distribution will be releasing ‘The Cured’ in cinemas across Ireland on behalf of Arrow Films from Friday 20th April.

IFTN: ‘The First Wave’ was your short film that ‘The Cured’ originated from, can you tell me a little bit about the journey from ‘The First Wave’ to ‘The Cured’?

David: “Sure, well the feature in a way came first because I began writing the feature script back in 2012/3, and obviously making your first feature is very tough so we decided to make a proof of concept short film to get it off the ground and help with the financing process so we then decided to make ‘The First Wave’ as a prequel to show how the cure began. So then once we made the short film, it did really well online and attracted attention and then started getting us the financing and getting that process in play. So from there it has just been a slow up and down journey to get the different moving parts together to make the film.”

IFTN: And was Tilted Pictures onboard from the beginning of the short film?

David: “Yes, it has always been Tilted Pictures. I have made almost all of my short films with Tilted Pictures, Rachel and Rory there so this has been a passion project for all of us.”

IFTN: And how did you find the experience of making your first feature film?

David: “Yeah it was good, it’s a daunting process because it is a big leap from shorts to features, but I think I went into it just determined to have a good time. It would be horrible to come out of that process realising you were too scared and petrified to have a good time and enjoy it, so yeah I loved every day of it, it was great. We had a great team, we had a great cast, and we had a great crew. Everyone just put their hearts and souls into it, it was mental but we had a lot of fun.”

IFTN: And for you Sam, it was great seeing you in a lead role after a number of great supporting performances, how did you find the experience of playing the lead in the movie?

Sam: “I loved it, it was great. Very stressful, and it was very challenging but that’s all the stuff I love to do, you know if it was easy I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I think it was a big challenge leading up to it, there was a lot of prep time in terms of meeting David beforehand , and discussing where my head was at, and where it should be at. Then with the physical side of it, where I had to get down in weight, and get to that gaunt face that we wanted to reach. So there were a lot of challenges like that, and also keeping in that headspace, it was a challenge but it was really rewarding. Because I didn’t have a lot of lines to play with, I needed to be in a headspace that could project how I was feeling.”

IFTN: And also be a zombie as well..

Sam: “Yeah, exactly! (laughs) That was a lot of fun..”

IFTN: Can you tell me about how you got involved in the project?

Sam: “Yeah sure, I think it was well over a year before we shot it. I got a script from my agent with an offer to play it, no audition, no nothing, which is a really flattering thing but it is also a huge amount of pressure because in an audition you sort of earn it, maybe it’s just bullshit actor insecurity but you feel like you have earned your way into the part where as with this, I was like ok how do I pull this off.. I said yes immediately because the script was amazing, it was a fresh take on something that we all know so well and is such a huge part of pop culture. And then when I met Dave as well, I just knew it was going to be good. You just know, when the captain of your ship is solid and knows what he is talking about.”

IFTN: It is such a unique take on the genre so I can completely understand how captivating it must have been reading the script for the first time. Was this the same for Ellen & Tom and can you tell me a little bit about how they got involved?

David: “It was similar; Sam came on board first which was incredible. Then Ellen came shortly afterward, I had always wanted Ellen for the role, I was a huge fan, and I had never seen her play a mother so I just thought it would be an incredibly meaty part for her so we decided on a whim to just email her agent and give it a go and heard nothing back, probably went into a junk folder.. So we tried again, and kind of persisted for a while until we slowly realised we may need to move on and before we did, I decided we should just give it one more go. We emailed her manager instead of her agent and I wrote her a very fondly letter telling her how much I loved her and how I thought she would be great for the role. So that was that, and we were thinking about who else we could go to and then we got a phone call out of the blue saying that Ellen loved the script and would like to chat.”

“I did assume it was a friend pranking me... I remember one of my worst experiences when I was in my early twenties, there were those big deal Filmbase awards and I remember my mates pranking me once and ringing me saying “David, you have won the Filmbase Award!” and I was like “This is the best moment of my life, my career is going to change!” and then suddenly being told “we are just joking Dave..”


Sam: “Oh man that is grim..”

David: “It was heartbreaking, it was just a joke gone wrong..”

IFTN: Still friends?

David: “They are still friends.. (laughs) So I assumed it was just them playing a big prank on me because they knew I wanted Ellen for the role so I assumed it was just them putting on an American accent. So anyway, she responded to the script and loved it, and said she would do what she could to help us make it. As well as being an incredible actor, what is also lovely is that she is such a great person and just mucks in and had a great chemistry with the guys, so it was wonderful. “

“With Tom, he was the last of the trio to join, again, a huge fan, he is a national treasure, he is incredible and nobody can go from charming to menacing quite like him so he was the perfect fit for the character. He was in a play in London at the time and I met up with him and chatted with him, he really liked it so he came onboard. I mean, I am still pinching myself, it was a dream cast, I got really, really lucky. I kind of got spoilt first time out on a date; I am going to have three crap divas in the next one!”

IFTN: And Sam, how did you find playing alongside Tom and Ellen, it must have been a great experience?

Sam: “Great, you know with Tom it’s interesting because we all know him so well, we know him for his work, we know his face, very identifiable guy, with Irish people in particular, and it was a joy to meet him and see that he is just a really wonderful person. The idea of working with Ellen scared me a little bit because I was a fan of her work and ‘Juno’ helped me through a couple of different scares of pregnancy as a young man, and stuff like that so you know, it is really bizarre when you are thrust into a position where you have to work with some people that you really admire and it causes you to up your game. It was just such a relief that, not to say that she or anyone you would admire would be a bad person but she was just so lovely, and just so into the work, and of course why wouldn’t she, it’s a brilliant script and she was just a joy, a wonderfully person and a really talented actor. “

David: “I think when you are making a film like this, a low budget pretty much, there is a very tight shoot and every minute counts. It really helps when you are surrounded by nice people and the actors are being really positive and I think when there is that positive energy coming from the top it just trickles down and makes a joyful set, and I think you have to have that when you are working on the schedule that independent films may need to have so I can’t imagine having done that with a difficult element or a difficult person.”

Sam: “Especially the subject matter of the film as well..”

David: “You have to approach it with a smile.”

Sam: “Yeah you do, otherwise, Jesus, I don’t know where you’d be..”

David: “So yeah it all worked out great!”

IFTN: And in relation to rehearsals and preparation, was there space to mess about with a few scenes or did it predominantly stick to the script?

David: “We had a rehearsal week beforehand, which was great and the guys had been living with their roles for a long time at that point so they knew what they wanted, so that was a great place to build chemistry and work stuff out. I am always open to a line change if it works, so there was an element then where I might have an idea, like my favourite joke in it, The Interior Designer joke that was just on the day, I came up to you and was like ‘I have a great idea!’ and you were like ‘Ok..’

Sam: “Yeah I was a little bit like ‘Ok I don’t know about that..’ but it turns out to be a hilarious moment, it gets a laugh everywhere.”

David: “So yeah I think when you have actors of that calibre you need to know what they are bringing to it, and you have to be open to them and it has to be believable to them so yeah it was definitely collaborative and a lot of playing around. You have to build in that time on the day to make sure we’ve nailed it and then we can say ‘ok what do we do now that is a bit different’.”

IFTN: The film takes on a huge task of depicting the truly lifelike aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, an area of the zombie genre that hasn’t really been touched upon yet. Can you tell me a little bit about the creative process behind developing such a detailed and complex concept?

David: “I suppose the core of the story came in a flash but then developing it, it was about being the film that begins where other films end and it’s about these three broken characters and how they pick up the pieces in this world. There are a lot of moving parts and I wanted to make sure that it was a complicated picture and that there was no good and bad. That there are points that you can agree and disagree with both Sam’s character or Tom’s character and you know points where you feel they are being selfish, or you can agree with Tom before you realise there might be ulterior motive behind his actions. So yeah it was slow building up that world and building up that quite complicated plot and a lot of research went into various other things like PTSD and soldiers, and how refugees had been treated as a parallel to how the cured are being treated. So the broad strokes came in one quick draft and then that was slowly chipped away and rebuilt over the course of a few years. Of course a part of that is forced because it takes a few years to finance a film but you make it a virtue and keep working on the script.”

Freyne is currently working on a new comedy called ‘Beards’ set in Kildare in the 1990s, which begins production later this year while Keeley can next be seen in ‘Peace’ directed by Oscar-winning documentarian Robert Port, which tells the story of four American soldier who get lost in the Italian Alps during the war in 1944. Sam will also be filming in New Mexico in June on the upcoming film ‘The Adventures of a Mathematician’, which follows the true story of the group of young scientists in Los Alamos who were brought together during the Second World War to work on the theory that eventually produced the Hydrogen bomb.

‘The Cured’ is releasing in Irish cinemas nationwide Friday, April 20th.  

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