Alan Ford and Ashley Thomas talk Cockneys Vs Zombies

“I didn’t realise until this film how big this zombie phenomenon is,” said Alan Ford, who plays Ray MacGuire in the British horror/comedy Cockneys Vs Zombies. For fans of the horror sub-genre, zombies are certainly at their peak, finding their way in current TV shows, the latest video games and of course movies. For Ford, he revealed how their film stands out because, “We got real zombies!”

As you can probably gather from the title, Cockneys Vs Zombies centres on a zombie outbreak in the east end of London. After some workmen accidentally dig up an old graveyard it’s not long before zombies are unearthed and someone gets bitten. Amidst the carnage are a group of criminals who decide to rob a bank in order to save the Bow Bells Care Home. At the retirement home itself are a group of residents led by Ray McGuire (Alan Ford), who band together in an effort to survive. 

Two of the film’s stars, Alan Ford and Ashley Thomas (who plays Mental Mickey), made a little time at the London MCM Expo for a roundtable interview. They talked about what drew them to work on a zombie film, their characters and their weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse.

While they both enjoyed working on Cockneys Vs Zombies, Ford described it as tough. “It was an early call everyday and a lot of driving to the location,” said Ford. “Learning lines on the way, then coming home covered in blood, dust and rubbish. Get home about nine, have a kip, up in the morning, learn the lines in the car. It was like that for three weeks for me.”

“It was a little bit hard,” said Thomas on his experience. “It’s one thing if you’re doing like serious drama, which is quite naturalistic, but if you’re in a surreal world where there’s extra blood, crazy gunshots and zombies running around – just some of the prosthetics, make-up, contact lenses – it can get a bit crazy.” However, he did describe his involvement on the film as, “the most fun shoot that I’ve been on.”

With Ford and Thomas both admitting that they weren’t really fans of horror or zombies films, when it came to what made them want to get involved they were both drawn to the humour in the script and their characters. “I thought the jokes were funny,” said Thomas. “The set-ups were good. I just enjoyed the story.”

“I thought it was a good script right from the start,” said Ford. “I loved the character I was to play. I thought all these lines are actually rolling off my tongue. When I met the writer [James Moran] on the set on the second day of shooting I said, ‘This is great dialogue. It could be coming out of my own mouth.’ He said, ‘I wrote it with you in mind.’ So, life doesn’t get better than that, does it really?”

The zombies that feature in the film weren’t just dressed up extras either. “These were real professional zombies,” said Ford. “And they don’t come out of character, they stay in character.”

“They were just good to work with as an actor,” said Thomas of the zombies.

With the film featuring two separate storylines that ultimately converge, Ford was involved with a cast that involved the likes of Richard Briers and Honor Blackman. “Most of us had known each other for 30 odd years or more,” said Ford. “As you can see it was quite an athletic and quite a physical job and we’re all over 70, apart from Georgina Hale who’s 69, so she’s the baby on the film. I mean, Honor [Blackman] was 85 when she was making it. Richard Briers is almost 80 and the rest of us all in our 70’s. So it was a tough gig.”

When it came to describing his character Mental Mickey in the film, Thomas said, “I think my character’s dark. Mine’s sort of like… he has this serious tone throughout the movie. He’s just like the darkest character…” At this point Alan Ford suddenly starts laughing.

“He should be in a f**king nut house,” says Ford, making everyone laugh. “He should be banged up this guy!”

“So yeah,” concedes Thomas. “I think that just describes him! Because of the genre and the style it was being shot in, I had the freedom to take him as far as I could really and just make him a larger than life character. He was sort of like the super villain I guess, even though there were zombies, he was like the zombies personified. There weren’t really any bad characters and he’s like the really bad one. Once I had the gold tooth, the tattoos, the big jacket, the boots, I was ready to go. I turned into Mental Mickey, I forgot who I was and I just didn’t care. I just wanted to be bad! I just had a bad vibe.”

Of future projects in the pipeline Ford revealed that he had just done some work on a TV show with Johnny Vegas. “A TV series for Sky called Tatt, as in Tattoo,” said Ford. “Nice to work with Johnny Vegas. I’ll also be playing a northerner which makes a nice change!”

“I’m in another film called My Brother the Devil,” said Thomas. “That comes out November 9th.”

They were both finally asked what weapon they would use in a zombie apocalypse, with the both of them deciding on the ones their characters are seen using in the film. “My shotgun actually would be the weapon of choice,” said Thomas. “It was very powerful. I was quite jealous of Alan’s machine gun actually. That might have been better than my gun.”

“I had an American M16 rifle with a grenade launcher attachment underneath,” boasted Ford. “You can blow their f**king heads right off. I did get very attached to it! I didn’t like letting it go in the evening. I didn’t like giving it back!”

“They were real by the way,” reveals Thomas of the weapons in the film. “They weren’t props.”

“That’s true,” said Ford. “They were real guns! That was a real M16… with a grenade launcher attachment!”

Cockneys Vs Zombies is now available to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray. 

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