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AICN HORROR: Ambush Bug talks with actor Rob Freeman about surviving malaria and zombies in THE DEAD!

Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with a special AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS interview. THE DEAD is about the harrowing journey of one American officer across a zombie-infested African landscape. Actor Rob Freeman had his own harrowing journey in making this film. Here’s what Freeman had to say about the film when I caught up with him last week…

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi Rob, how are you doing today?

ROB FREEMAN (RF): Terrific, Mark--how are you?

BUG: Great. I had seen THE DEAD a while back, but I saw it again just recently and both times the film has blown me away. I wanted to first just commend you on your performance in the movie. I think it was a really great role in a great film. How did you first find out about the film?

RF: Thank you very much for the compliment. I’ll accept that. (laughs) Being kind of a bad boy I had decided that I was going to abscond from the television industry where I was playing superman on couch and flying to cities in Europe for a bit and while I was doing that I met up with a producer that I had done a film with in Greece and we were doing a bit of bar hopping out on the south coast of England and we ran into the Ford brothers and started talking about the story and I said, “Let’s have a sit down and do a read through and see what we can do with this.” That’s where it started.

BUG: I talked with the Ford brothers a couple of months ago and they said you almost really…you got really sick in this and you almost died in this film. Can you talk a little bit about that?

RF: Yeah, just because they’re pussies. (laughs) Yeah, I collapsed on set.

BUG: Okay.

RF: The first time I got malaria and they took me to a clinic and there were no rooms in the clinic. They were all booked up with malaria patients, so I was put in a storage room and left there overnight with things sticking in my arms. I got up and I felt good in the morning and I thought “Well,t,hat was a pretty horrible experience”, but it was nothing compared to what would happen. I went shooting for the next month thinking that I needed to train more and that I wasn’t in good enough shape. I would go for runs and do push ups and chin ups with the Ford brothers and Prince and we had competitions working out hard and the whole time I was developing a very bad case of malaria. We were in the middle of the outback and I collapsed at the feet of a whole bunch of tribesmen. Then I was rushed across the savannah out the back of our five hundred dollar Range Rover being rushed to some concrete block, moldy infested building. It had mold on the walls and I woke up there and the doctor said he had never seen anybody that close to dying of malaria that came back from it.

BUG: Oh wow. How long were you out? How long were you unconscious?

RF: Oh, I wouldn’t think I was unconscious for too long. I was delirious for a few hours. I think I was unconscious for…I don’t know, I face-planted in the dust and kind of woke up down there, so I don’t know, maybe a couple of minutes or something.

BUG: So how long did it take you to get back to health and start back up again?

RF: Well, it was over a week and I had yellow stuff being pumped into my body like out of some sort of freaky Frankenstein film. Just thinking back it was so weird. I can’t explain to you how bizarre it was. I mean, there was a guy beside my bed that probably never had the sheets changed and then there was a puddle of water there that was festering and stagnant. It was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It was just the most surreal bizarre thing ever. I don’t think it was seven days where I went straight from there to set and there’s a scene in this film where there’s a chicken in the background. I think it was that scene. I was literally unplugged, we had gone and shot.

BUG: Wow. Well that’s pretty amazing. So what was it that drove you to return to this film after such a near death experience?

RF: You can blame that on my Canadian father who was a very rough tough rock and roll outdoorsman guy that didn’t believe in giving up at all and instilled that in me when I was a very young fellow with a few beatings.

BUG: Let’s talk a little bit about the film itself. It’s a zombie film, and there are so many zombie films out there. Why did you give this one a shot? What was it about it that made it special for you?

RF: Well I could ask you a question. Have you ever walked into a situation where you see a pretty person and you’re like “I would like to go out with that person” based on the circumstances. My circumstances at the time presented the film to me and I thought “Wow, this is a heck of an adventure” and that’s essentially the answer. It was circumstances. I was in England and had the unique chance to have the Ford brothers meet me and pitch this story to me and being a game actor as I was, I wanted to go. I was like “Let’s do it.”

BUG: So how did the locals react to you and the Ford brothers and just the fact that there were zombies? This is part of their local culture, correct?

RF: Yes. We were shooting in the birthplace of I think voodoo. They definitely believe in all of that sort of stuff out there and that’s actually a really interesting question that has many layers to it, because when we first started using local people on the ground, villagers, as zombies they didn’t understand how to be zombies, so we had to explain to them how to do it, but we only had to explain to a few of them and even though we traversed hundreds of miles away from the people who we explained how to be zombies to, the next people we used did it right away. It was a very interesting thing and I don’t know if you know about Rupert Sheldrake, the Cambridge biologist who has more…it was very much that theory of the idea of information passing without telephones and walkie talkies and that sort of thing. And the people treated us incredibly. They welcomed us into their villages and we are talking mud huts that haven’t changed structure for thousands of years. There’s no add-ons like “Let’s have a porch or an out house,” they’ve kept the same design of the mud hut. They welcomed us into the village with their instruments and singing to us. It was an incredible thing. We would stay there the whole night shooting and disrupt the whole village. There’s no light there, so we had a generator and I can’t say it was a party situation, but definitely surrealistic situation for both us and them.

BUG: What’s it like looking back on it now that it’s been a year or so since you wrapped shooting?

RF: It’s been a couple of years.

BUG: What’s it like looking back on it now? Can you believe you made it through it all?

RF: I believe it, because I’m talking to you and answering the question, but it’s a heck of a lot more comfortable sitting where I am right now than it was there. I’m glad that we came away. (laughs)

BUG: The film ends kind of open ended. Would you be interested in returning for a sequel given the same conditions and everything?

RF: No.

[Both laugh]

RF: I’m not going to go through that again. Look, as an actor I’ve been in guerilla “crawl through the mud and the shite” that all actors go “I can do that to become an actor and earn my stripes.” I’ve done that a lot, but I would do a sequel.

BUG: You would?

RF: Like zombies in New York would be…

BUG: So anywhere but there. Okay.

RF: Or zombies in Bel Air or something to that effect.

BUG: What’s up next for you?

RF: Well I’ve just finished shooting a reality pilot where I went back after not playing ice hockey for 30 years and making a comeback in my 50’s on a professional team.

BUG: Cool. That sounds great. That will be interesting to see. Do you know when that’s going to be airing?

RF: Well we are trying to get it developed into a full-blown reality show. We shot the pilot and are pitching it right now.

BUG: Awesome. Well, best of luck to you. Thank you so much and have a great day. Thanks a lot for talking with me today.

RF: Take it easy.

BUG: THE DEAD is available now on DVD/BluRay. Check out my interview with the Ford Brothers last fall and my own review of the film here!

See ya, Friday for our regular AICN HORROR column!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.


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Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 22, 2012, 8:31 a.m. CST

    Not to be confused with those other Dead movies.

    by UltraTron

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 8:36 a.m. CST

    i thought the movie was decent

    by Waka_Flocka

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Don't forget about JOHN CARTER?

    by cloudyP

    Really, I already have.

  • It's one thing to be cast as the "everyman" character to represent the audience, but I found Freeman to be lacking in any screen presence. Quite honestly, IMO, he resembles a better looking version of character actor Robert Clenendon (10 Items Or Less, Cougar Town, etc. etc.), and that would distract me a bit. On the whole, the film is good, but "the best zombie movie of the year"? I'd rather watch an ep of The Walking Dead.

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 10:14 a.m. CST

    Check out these Dutch zombies, gore-o-rama!

    by Bitches_leave Movie is called: ZOMBIBI

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 11:08 a.m. CST

    it was okay, it started well, then became annoying.


    i watched the first third and was very impressed...i was happy to see a movie with so few lines- and i liked the resourcefulness of the everyman engineer type (things like grabbing the twine, etc)..that i know i'd be doing 'just in case' during a disaster. then my GF came home, and I hyped it up to her as she likes zombie movies too...and it seemed like everything AFTER the first 3rd, where I stopped it, was really boring or annoying somehow. I had egg on my face. alot of it had to do with the editing. sneaking through the woods taking too long, the same zombies appearing in different places because of bad edits. some of the most obvious was the african soldier talking to the village chief- Prince/soldier talks about his son and the chief is sympathetic. Then the chief asks him if he has any family. WHAT? Then Prince/soldier continues to say the almost the same lines about his son...again. Also, the soldier breaking the chicken's neck outside the missionary compound- putting it in the back of the truck. then night shots of the guys driving and talking about being hungry. then they get to the village and ask for food. they eat. they leave. then suddenly they are hungry again and viola! the chicken is still in the back of the truck and is cooked to eat...after being in the back of the truck in the african heat for like two days, at least. so yeah, editing. as for Freeman, sometimes he was very good and understated, other times his performance was so awful. no offense if he's reading this- i'm sure it has to do with the takes chosen, his illness and the editing.

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    I have to admit - it does feature one of the best filmed zombie kills -

    by openthepodbaydoorshal

    the head that splats under the driver side wheel was pretty effective.

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 12:34 p.m. CST

    uh, that trailer is some low budget bullshit

    by Jonathhan Kana

    looks like crap with crap actors and crap dialogue and crap music. everything about that trailer felt cheap as FUCK. fuck this movie.

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 1:32 p.m. CST

    3 year old girl loves Army of Darkness

    by sebastian half and half

    Happy Ash Wed!!

  • Feb. 23, 2012, 8:44 a.m. CST

    seriously, nobody has anything else to say-?


    you mean to tell me the last two posts were 1) a guy who prefers 'fuck' over punctuation and 2) a guy linking to a totally unrelated youtube video. class.

  • Feb. 24, 2012, 11:55 p.m. CST

    Low Budget? Yes. Fascinating? Also Yes.

    by EatDrinkManCyborg

    I really dug this flick. It's gritty and low-budget, but is more inspired by a Globe Trekker episode than the latest straight-to-DVD slasher flick. Admittedly, the stories of the tumult that the production encountered shooting in Africa is a lot more interesting than the film itself. Point of fact, I'd rather see a feature-length doc about this movie than watch the movie again. I'd love to see the Ford Brothers make some more low-budget third-world post-apocalyptic films that expanded on the idea that a zombie outbreak would be quickly contained or dealt with in first-world, organized countries, but would be persistent and dangerous in less-organized third-and-second-world countries. I say they film their next flick in the 'stans. Haiti wouldn't be a bad choice, and they could use the film production...