An interview with Ellory Elkayem

Interviewer: What first attracted you to this script and how did you get involved?

Ellory: It all happened very fast. My agent sent me the scripts. I met the producer, Anatoly Fradis, and I appreciated his great enthusiasm for the material. He offered me the job, and the next thing I knew I was location scouting in Chernobyl. Initially I was excited about doing a Zombie movie. I’ve always been a big fan of the genre, and like the original “Return of the Living Dead,” these scripts have a lot of humor in them. I wanted to keep that fun campy aspect alive for the fans.

I: Tell us a little about the casting process?

E: I was in Romania doing pre-production while casting was going on in L.A. so I watched a lot of videotapes. Except for Peter Coyote, we didn’t have the budget to go with established stars. But we found some extremely talented newcomers to play the principal American roles, John Keefe, Aimee Lynn Chadwick, Jana Kramer, Cory Hardrict, and Jenny Mollen. That was a pleasure actually, working with unknowns. For the most part, everyone was just happy to be there and working, and they did a great job. Even our creature FX guy, John Vulich and his team at Optic Nerve pitched here and there with bit parts. Thanks John!

I: Now that you’ve worked with these actors, tell us what they brought to the project.

E: Peter Coyote was a true pro. He really brought something to the role of Uncle Charles. He had the idea of playing the character like Donald Rumsfeld, another kind of madman in his eyes I guess. Anyway, he did a great job, and it’s really comical to watch his performance when you know the joke.

Also, as I said, each of the young actors did great. John Keefe in particular was a very fine actor. He took his work very seriously. He’s also a super nice guy in real life, very wholesome and honest. And I think that translates well to the screen. When he begins to lose the people he cares about, you really feel for the guy. Aimee Lynn also stands out in my mind. She has a lot of courage and enthusiasm as an actor and a performer.

I: You’ve made your name through some unique horror films, what attracts you to this genre?

E: It’s just fun. Blood and guts. Blowing things up. And you get to work with some really interesting and creative people.

I: Return of the Living Dead films are cult classics, how did you go about making these two new and different while retaining that cult audience.

E: Well, all the classic ROTLD motifs are there, the gore and the campiness, the cheese factor too. But what really sets these movies apart are the zombies themselves, the uber zombies, the machine gun zombie and saw blade zombie, and of course the tar man from the original for Rave. They all look fantastic. Optic Nerve really came through for us there. Also, I think the locations really add something to these films, something dark and ominous. Shooting in Eastern Europe has its challenges, but you just can’t find locations and production values like this anywhere else.

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