In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view, Richard Ed­wards talks to leg­endary pro­ducer Gale anne Hurd about Fear The Walk­ing Dead and her glit­ter­ing sci-fi ca­reer

SFX - - Contents - Por­trait by Smallz + Raskind

The woman be­hind some of the big­gest sci-fi of the last 35 years on why she’s now a telly ad­dict.

The Ter­mi­na­tor, Aliens, The Abyss… Not a bad way to launch your ca­reer in movies. And since pro­duc­ing that trio of James Cameron-di­rected clas­sics, Gale Anne Hurd has con­tin­ued to make her mark as one of the most suc­cess­ful pro­duc­ers in Hol­ly­wood, with the likes of Ar­maged­don and Hulk among the stand­outs on a glit­ter­ing CV. These days, how­ever, she’s best known for what she’s do­ing on the telly, as one of the key cre­ative forces be­hind The Walk­ing Dead and its spin-off, Fear The Walk­ing Dead. SFX sat down for a chat with Hurd to talk about blaz­ing a trail in Hol­ly­wood – and of course, zom­bie in­va­sions in Los An­ge­les… The Cal­i­for­nia/Pa­cific/Mex­ico set­ting of Fear The Walk­ing Dead’s sec­ond sea­son couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent to the par­ent show’s At­lanta back­drop. Was it al­ways the in­ten­tion to play with the for­mat?

Yes, it was im­por­tant to dis­tin­guish the show com­pletely. This is build­ing out an­other part of that uni­verse, see­ing what was hap­pen­ing be­fore in an­other city as the world fell. And there were lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties with Los An­ge­les, city of rein­ven­tion, a city of im­mi­grants. It’s very multi eth­nic and it’s sur­rounded by both moun­tains and the ocean. Many fans have said, “There’s one safe place, I know where I would go and that would be out to sea.” So now we get to show them whether that was the right idea – and once you’ve seen the episodes it’s maybe not so much.

You also didn’t start out with ob­vi­ous ana­logues to char­ac­ters in the par­ent show...

No, be­cause it was im­por­tant we had frac­tured fam­i­lies. We have an im­mi­grant fam­ily, the Salazars, who os­ten­si­bly came to LA to es­cape vi­o­lence in El Sal­vador, and then we pull out the rug from Ofe­lia, the daugh­ter who finds out that her fa­ther was not an in­no­cent vic­tim, but he was a per­pe­tra­tor of the vi­o­lence. So that’s some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. And then we have no po­lice of­fi­cers, we don’t have anyone who’s used to a po­si­tion of au­thor­ity or law en­force­ment, or a crack shot with a gun.

Given The Walk­ing Dead’s mas­sive success, were you con­cerned about mess­ing with a win­ning for­mula?

I think what we did em­brace was the rules of Robert Kirk­man’s zom­bie uni­verse, but that was

in­ten­tional be­cause this is build­ing out an­other part of that uni­verse, see­ing what was hap­pen­ing be­fore in an­other city as the world fell. But they’re never go­ing to be su­per fast zombies, they’re not go­ing to have su­per strength – that’s the one thing we’re keep­ing within the rules of the uni­verse.

Your CV is dom­i­nated by sci­ence fic­tion. Have you al­ways been a fan?

Al­ways, oh my good­ness! From the time I could read I was read­ing comic books, sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy and hor­ror, and that was long be­fore it was fash­ion­able – and es­pe­cially long be­fore it was per­ceived as some­thing that girls should be do­ing. Now there are comic cons for all of us. There weren’t back then, but I didn’t mind be­ing an early geek, and I was very lucky be­cause – to quote The Hang­over –I found my wolf pack. I started work­ing for Roger Cor­man in 1978 and he was mak­ing B-movies back then, but those movies have be­come the tent­poles that are sav­ing the stu­dios to­day.

What was it that ap­pealed to you about the genre as a kid?

If we look at the his­tory of sci­ence fic­tion, it’s pre­dicted every kind of chaos, threat, in­ven­tion that the world has ex­pe­ri­enced since those great writ­ers were writ­ing – whether it was Jules Verne or Ray Brad­bury or Hein­lein or Asimov or Philip K Dick, you name it, they en­vi­sioned it. I think it’s so hi­lar­i­ous that a few months ago Stephen Hawk­ing and Elon Musk and a whole lot of peo­ple came out and said, “You know, sen­tient ro­bots and AI could be dan­ger­ous.” And hon­estly, Jim [Cameron] and I called each other and said, “Didn’t they just see

The Ter­mi­na­tor in 1984!” That’s the funny thing, that sci­ence fic­tion is of­ten so far ahead of sci­ence, and it takes sci­ence so long to catch up. But we should be think­ing about these things. We should be think­ing about the les­sons we can learn from the great sci­ence fic­tion, fan­tasy and hor­ror writ­ers.

Did you sus­pect that SF could be­come as dom­i­nant in pop­u­lar cul­ture as it is now?

I wish I could say I was pre­scient. All I knew was that I loved the fact that there was money avail­able to make more and more of the movies that I liked. But I didn’t see it as, “Oh, now I can cash in.” The prob­lem is that it also al­lows peo­ple who don’t love and re­spect the genre to make re­ally crappy movies. Peo­ple are al­ways pre­dict­ing the genre’s demise on tele­vi­sion and in films, and it hasn’t hap­pened yet. Be­cause there have been re­ally great movies – even ones not made for a huge bud­get like Ex Machina, which I thought was a tremen­dous movie. So peo­ple keep say­ing that genre is dead, that the pen­du­lum’s go­ing to swing the other way, but as long as there are great movies from great cre­ators that’s not go­ing to be the case.

Of course, you got in there early with the ex­plo­sion of comic book movies, when you

pro­duced Hulk back in 2003…

It was so funny when we started out on Hulk. That was the first time peo­ple said that comic book movies were dead! The de­vel­op­ment of visual ef­fects has re­ally helped since then – the costs are less, you can turn the shots around faster and you can do more – but I’ve al­ways re­ally liked grounded sci­ence fic­tion. We needed CGI to bring the Hulk to life, but we didn’t need it for The Pun­isher.

Your ca­reer was mostly movies be­fore The Walk­ing Dead. What prompted the move to the small screen?

It’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause right now tele­vi­sion al­lows you to tell far more char­ac­ter-driven sto­ries than fea­tures. You have two and a half hours max­i­mum to tell a story, so – if it’s an orig­i­nal – you have to set up the world, build up the char­ac­ters and then have a res­o­lu­tion. Well, with Fear The Walk­ing Dead we have al­most 15 hours of char­ac­ter-driven story, we can re­ally get into each char­ac­ter and that’s not some­thing that fea­ture films al­low you any­more. So in the time that it takes me to make one of the big­ger fea­ture films, which is two years, I can tell 30 hours of Fear The Walk­ing Dead.

Does the speed of shoot­ing TV echo the pace of some of your earlier movies?

No, gosh… An episode of Fear The Walk­ing Dead, that’s 43 min­utes, shoots in eight days.

The Ter­mi­na­tor was less than two hours, and we shot in 58 days – and that was con­sid­ered fast! Aliens was 75 days, The Abyss was 113, so what I think is be­ing achieved now in tele­vi­sion is ab­so­lutely re­mark­able. And we all know that shoot­ing on the wa­ter, as we did on The Abyss, it’s not easy, and we’re turn­ing around these episodes in eight days!

Sci­ence fic­tion is of­ten so far ahead of sci­ence, and it takes sci­ence so long to catch up

Hurd on set mak­ing Fear The Walk­ing Dead.

Tak­ing a break from killing zombies…

With James Cameron pro­mot­ing Aliens.

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