Michael and Peter Spierig Step Into the Light with Daybreakers

Michael and Peter Spierig discuss their vampire film Daybreakers

Unless you were a fan of the 2003 cult classic horror film Undead, there's a pretty good chance you hadn't heard about the filmmaking brothers Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig until earlier this year. The Brothers Spierig's feature follow-up to their Undead debut was this year's intriguing vampire film Daybreakers, which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 11. I recently had a chance to talk with this directing brothers about their latest film and here's what they had to say.

I watched the film for the first time last night and I was kind of surprised by it, not in a bad way, but I was looking at the budget figures and it certainly doesn't look like a $20 million movie at all. It was quite impressive.

Peter Spierig: We'll take that as a complement.

You guys had your debut in 2003 with Undead and I was wondering if you could talk about when you guys came up with the idea for Daybreakers and where the whole thing came from?

Michael Spierig: After Undead, we had a lot of projects thrown our way and they were all... they were not fantastic, by any means. They were sequels to straight-to-video things like Children of the Corn Part 25 or whatever it was, stuff that we had very little interest in doing. We wanted to make something that we were really excited about. It's so hard to make a movie and it takes so long and the only things we're interested in making are about the things we are passionate about. We came up with up with this concept and it was going to be our next movie, regardless of how long it took, and it ended up taking about five years.

Peter Spierig: It was a lot longer than we were hoping, but it was the movie that we wanted to make and we had this kind of drive to go and make it, no matter how long it took. In hindsight, it took way too long (Laughs). That's just the way it goes sometimes.

When you finally did get the ball rolling on this, you rounded up quite a cast for this film. Can you talk about getting this cast together and were any of these actors in your head while you were writing the film, or on a list for the characters?

Peter Spierig: When we were writing the script, we had the idea that we wanted Ethan Hawke for the lead. It's one of those things where you kind of say that and think it's ridiculous, but why the hell not? You're in a room, writing a script, so you can wish as big as you want. We kept saying that Ethan would be great for this part. He's an intelligent, vulnerable, interesting leading man. When we completed the script we just thought, what the hell, and we sent it to him. The worst that could happen was he could say no, and he said yes. That really surprised us and we had a chance to sit down and talk with him about it. He's such a good guy and it was incredibly exciting and it changed the perspective of the film, in a way, and legitimized it. When he said yes, that kind of opened the door for us to go up to some really interesting, talented people. We just went after our wish list and they said yes, which is crazy. We had a fantastic Aussie cast, we had some of the best talent in Australia to be involved in the project. We were really very lucky.

I didn't really get this sense from the trailer, but when I saw the film, it really felt a lot like Gattaca to me, with this futuristic landscape and with Ethan in there as well was quite interesting.

Michael Spierig: I'll take that. Gattaca, I think, is one of Ethan's best films and what they do so well in that film too is they maximize their resources to tell a science-fiction story, and a believable one, and it's very very good.

The actual universe you created for this film is really quite intricate. Can you talk a bit about creating the whole back story to this main story?

Peter Spierig: We spent a long time on the world and we had created a whole history of what had happened during the plague. We created a timeline of events and it took a long time to come up with it. A lot of it is not in the movie, but indirectly it is in the movie because in order to create a future world you really need to understand the mechanics of how it works. The little details are so critical because that's what makes the world feel alive and real.

In the opening credit sequence you get all these little tidbits. There is a newspaper about how a bat started it all, and there are these really nice little glimpses of how the whole thing started. Was that all a part of creating that past?

Peter Spierig: Yeah, absolutely. We spent a lot of time doing that sequence because we wanted... you know, the easy way to do that is just use a scrolling text at the beginning of the movie, to give a brief history. It works fine for a lot of our favorite movies, really. It works great for Star Wars, it works great for Blade Runner, but we really wanted to get away from that and tell the story as you see it and as you're traveling through it. It's about the little pieces that you can give the audience and we spent a lot time wondering if we should see how it all happened. It felt that it wasn't our story and it wasn't what we were getting into, so maybe that could be explained in detail in another medium, whether it be a comic book, graphic novel or whatever it is.

Is that something you guys are exploring then? Taking it to a graphic novel or even a prequel or sequel film?

Peter Spierig: Yeah, absolutely. We've written a series of graphic novels which explains the entire history of things prior to the movie, so maybe that will come out in that form or maybe it will come out in another form. Who knows. Maybe it will just be for us.

That was one of the things that I took away from it too, that I really wanted more. I wanted to know how it all began and actually how it all ended as well. It would be really cool to see a future or past extension of the story.

Michael Spierig: Absolutely. One of the other exciting options is taking it to television. You have several years, which is really exciting. In film you have two hours and in TV you could have 100 hours, or whatever it would be. It's really exciting.

Are you guys in talks for anything like that now? A TV deal?

Michael Spierig: We've spoken a little bit about it but it's the question of 'Is there an audience out there for it?' It's exciting because Daybreakers is doing really well and it's done well worldwide. It's not so much if we want to do it, it's if there's a need for it.

The Blu-ray has a full-length documentary about the making of the film. Can you talk about that what that full-length film will bring to the Blu-ray viewers?

Peter Spierig: We're really proud of the Blu-ray and the DVD, but in particular the Blu-ray. The feature-length documentary basically started six years ago when we finished writing the treatment for the movie and goes through the whole process of making the movie and the logistics behind that. It's a very honest documentary too. It's not a sort-of glamorous, Hollywood version. It's fly-on-the-wall kind of stuff. We're both really proud of that documentary. Then there's the commentaries, there's a picture-in-picture storyboard comparison between the movie and the storyboard animatics and a short film that Michael and I made before we started Undead. We had a chance to re-master it in high definition and it looks better than we've ever seen it.

I see you guys have a film in development called Captain Blood. It sounds like a really cool concept. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that.

Peter Spierig: I can tell you that unlikely that it's going to be our next movie. There are a number of other things we're working on and it's unlikely that will be our next movie. The other things we're working on are far more advanced than that project is and, to be honest, I don't think Captain Blood is anywhere near getting made anytime soon. The exciting thing is that there is something we've been working on for six months now and hopefully there will be an announcement really soon with that project. We're really passionate about it and I can tell you that it's a sequel to an 80s classic. That's really all I can say, but it's a very interesting project.

A sequel to an 80s classic. Hmm...

Michael Spierig: Now he's going to run them all through his head.

Peter Spierig: OK, it's a sequel to... um... Weekend at Bernie's

Michael Spierig: They already did that.

Peter Spierig: Oh yeah. It wasn't a very good one.

(Not long after the interview, we reported that their secret project was Power of the Dark Crystal, a new sequel to the 1982 classic The Dark Crystal. For the record, I wasn't even close to guessing on that one...)

One of my co-workers is a huge fan of your first film Undead and he was wondering if there was any chance at a sequel for that film as well?

Michael Spierig: I don't think so, to be honest. I mean, I would've said 'maybe' a couple of years ago, but it seems to me that there's just such an onslaught of zombie movies all the time. I don't think so. It'd be fun to go back and do it again. With Undead, we always wanted to make the goriest film of all time, and Undead certainly isn't that, because we couldn't afford it. We were hoping to make the bloodiest film of all time, but once we realized how expensive it was to make blood, we couldn't do it. It would be fun to go back and do a zombie film and actually go back and beat Peter Jackson in making the bloodiest film of all time.

To wrap up, what would you like to say to anyone who didn't get a chance to see Daybreakers in the theaters about why they should check this out on DVD or Blu-ray?

Peter Spierig: Well, personally, I think you should pick up the Blu-ray. It's literally a direct, digital transfer of the film so you can see what our original intentions with color and everything else were on the Blu-ray. The DVD is stunning as well, but for a true experience, you should buy the Blu-ray. It's in 7.1, it sounds fantastic and it's a digital movie, it was shot in digital and you get to see it in its true digital form. It's really beautiful and I think it's a better way to see it, on the Blu-ray.

Excellent. Well that's about all I have for you guys. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with your future projects. They all sound pretty awesome.

Peter Spierig: Thank you.

Michael Spierig: Thank you. Cheers.

You can watch the new film from directors Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, Daybreakers, when it hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on May 11.