Roles in horror film The Rezort and TV series Fear of the Walking Dead have shown Dougray Scott there’s plenty of life in zombies. And the genre is more creative than you might imagine, he tells Alistair Harkness
Dougray Scott is pondering the appeal of zombies. More specifically, he’s pondering the appeal of appearing in zombie-related productions. There is a reason for this. The Scottish actor has just done a few episodes of Fear of the Walking Dead and is also starring in new British zombie movie The Rezort, which debuted at the Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier this summer and will get a more genre-specific outing when FrightFest kicks off its main event in London next weekend.
“Doing a zombie movie, you have to ask yourself: is there anything different here from any other ones I’ve seen?” says Scott. “I’ve watched a lot of George Romero zombie movies, which are cult classics and very B-movie-ish, and I thought this kind of had aspirations in that direction. It was making a connection between zombies and refugees and how we dehumanise people to the extent that we find ourselves in the situation where we can take potshots at them.”
He’s referring to The Rezort’s nifty hook. Set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, the film takes place on a privately-owned island where members of the public who want to indulge their own sick thrill-kill fantasies (or confront their greatest fear with some therapeutic violence) pay to hunt zombies in a controlled environment, making use of the island’s luxury vacation facilities after a hard day’s slaughter. “I thought that was a good idea,” says Scott of the zombie tourism theme. “It reminded me of Westworld and that’s what I liked about the script.”
The premise is certainly pure Michael Crichton, even if the execution doesn’t quite do it justice. Still, those aforementioned political subtexts give it an edge – as does Scott, who lends The Rezort a bit of old-fashioned movie-star charisma as Archer, the film’s mysterious hero.
Scott’s other recent brush with zombies in Fear of the Walking Dead is rather more interesting, though. A spin off from The Walking Dead – currently the world’s most successful TV series – the new show introduces Scott early in Season 2 as Thomas Abigail, the romantic partner of Victor Strand (played by Colman Domingo), who emerged towards the end of the first series as one of the show’s most intriguing characters. That the makers of Fear of the Walking Dead have opted to put an interracial same-sex relationship in the mix makes it one of the more progressive shows out there – and Scott liked it precisely because of how matter-of-factly it dropped the characters’ sexual orientation into t he plot.
“I’ve played a couple of characters where sexuality has got nothing to do with anything,” he says, approvingly. “It’s like, who gives a f***? That’s the way society has to go anyway. It doesn’t matter who you sleep with; there are many more important things in life for people to focus on. Unfortunately we still live in a society where homophobia is rampant. That’s something we have to tackle, but what I love about Fear of the Walking Dead – and also I did this thing called Strike Back where I played a gay character who was a mercenary that just happened to be gay – was that it’s not made a big thing of, which I think is a good way to feature diversity on screen. He met this guy and fell in love and had a relationship. It’s good just to portray gay characters like that sometimes.”
Scott generally has a pretty philosophical approach to things related to his own career. He’s long since moved on from losing the role of Wolverine in the X-Men films, for instance. Originally cast as the hirsute mutant, he was replaced at the last minute with Hugh Jackman when production on Mission: Impossible 2 overran. Or that was the story. Scott isn’t really sure what happened. “Tom Cruise just wouldn’t let me go and do it,” he shrugs. “You’d have to ask him [about it]. There’s no real reason. He said: ‘Well, we might need you for this...’ They couldn’t work out a deal between Paramount and Fox.”
Not that he really wanted to play Wolverine in the first place. “To be honest, I’d turned X-Men down three times,” he says.
“Because I was doing Mission: Impossible 2 and I wanted to do Enigma and whatever else I was going to do. And the head of the studio at the time really persuaded me. He literally got me in a car and wouldn’t let me out until I said yes. So I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it then.’
“I was training really hard for it and then it just didn’t happen, so you move on. There’s no point in living in the past. And I thought that Hugh did a really good job with it as well. I like Hugh Jackman. I like watching him.”
If the Fife-born actor does have any regrets it’s that he’s never been able to get any more Iain Banks books adapted for the screen. Scott got an early break in the BBC production of The Crow Road and he’d love to do more. “We’ve tried,” he says. “I think Iain Banks was an extraordinary writer. My favourite is The Bridge.”
With advances in digital technology, you could probably now do the book’s hitherto unfilmable coma fantasy sequences. “You could do it now,” agrees Scott. “It’s such a Kafka-esque novel. And that world… My God, I love that book so much. I love Iain Banks.”
Next up for Scott is a film featuring another of his heroes: Joe Strummer. In London Town he plays a single father whose 14-year-old son enlists the services of The Clash frontman (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to help save his ailing record shop. “It’s a simple story, kind of sweet,” says Scott. It’s also fictional, but the plot is very much in keeping with the sort of thing Strummer used to do.
“He’d be the one letting the fans come in through the window who couldn’t get into the gig,” smiles Scott. “He was a real man of the people.”
• The Rezort screens at FrightFest (www.frightfest.co.uk) on 27 August and will be released in cinemas nationwide later in the year; Fear of the Walking Dead is available to stream now on Amazon Video.