February 26, 2010 / 8:20 AM / 9 years ago

"Crazies" director crazy for genre movies

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Genre movies do well with audience, but they usually don’t get much respect from filmmakers for whom they’re just bill payers.

Exception: “The Crazies,” a re-imagining of George Romero’s 1973 horror thriller, opening Friday.

Indeed, director Breck Eisner and stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell all embraced the story of a virus infecting residents of an idyllic town who start killing their friends and neighbors.

“I loved the concept of the movie and it was one I remembered seeing on an old VHS tape as a teenager and liking back then,” said Eisner, the son of former Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner.

The project marks Eisner’s follow-up to his 2005 directing debut “Sahara,” a costly box office failure starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. He shot that film in the Moroccan desert. For “The Crazies,” he found himself in the rural towns of Perry, Ga. and Lenox, Iowa, having scouted locations in 12 states and Canada.

Filming took place last spring over 45 days of mostly night shoots. The budget was just under $20 million.

Eisner recalled a sequence where more money would have allowed the filmmakers to build a car wash rather than use a real one that kept breaking down.

“It was a really treacherous place to be shooting with these spinning wheels of death, as we called them, and water and soap on the slippery concrete, four actors in a car with broken windows and glass and three or four stuntmen made up to look like Crazies in the water with makeup and explosions and gunfire.”

Eisner has been attached to the project since 2006, when it was being developed at Paramount. It then landed at Rogue Pictures before ending up at indie distributor Overture Films and producer Participant Films. Romero served as an executive producer, which provided Eisner with a measure of assurance.

“It felt to me that that meant he would have a hand in it and more importantly was signing off on the concept of the movie being made.”

Early reviews have been favorable, and industry observers believe opening-weekend sales come close to matching its production budget

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