Chapter 16: Rob Freeman
When I first read the script for The Dead I am shut in a room.
I am an actor. Rob Freeman - Superman’s coach, Scully’s alien lover, now reading for Murphy the anti hero who crosses the African continent dodging the rising dead.
As an actor I work the journeyman’s route, popping up in films here and there working the mix.  But I’m not long for that way before I need to go and ride a country; run a few mountains, sleep under the stars, live like the characters I want to play. And Murphy is one of those characters.

Rob Freeman
How did I get here?
I split from the west coast TV scene right around the time my star is rising. I can’t help it, the adventure calls louder than the buck.
I have no idea how powerful this ride will be as I jump a flight, drop into Geneva and run the French Alps, lay on my back and watch the stars, climb a few trees and grab some wild grub for a while before strapping the inline blades on and skating Milano through to Paris on up to London and finally out to the south coast city of Brighton where I’m first introduced to the Ford brothers in a yuppified bar tucked down a cobbled street when the nights are growing longer and the leaves are autumnal reds and yellows.
The next day I knock on the bungalow door that serves as home and office for Howard. John is there, the Ford brothers in tandem, a solid front. Here’s the script, we’ll leave you in here, just give a holler when you’re done. I paraphrase, they are well educated English boys so they don’t say holler, I do.
Horror films address repression. The Dead is set in Africa - historically a continent that has suffered from repression on a grand scale. As I read – Murphy scrambling for his life, along the dusty heat soaked outback roads running the gauntlet of the rising Dead I am both terrified at the thought and intrigued by the challenge.
I imagine the repression as I read. I link it to how I feel as a kid wanting to get out from under the thumbs of the adults but now as an adult I know I will be signing onto a monster shoot. The Dead's repression isn’t about bedtime and candies it's about corruption, decapitation and real guns whose bullets tear real lives apart. We will look to capture that agony while doing our best not to be caught. This isn’t a studio shoot with big bucks backing us up – nah we go in bare bones guerrilla filming.
If there is a present in a box I can know it’s a present but I can’t know what’s inside until I open the box.  I can imagine the hardships of this shoot but I won’t know for real till we get there.
Ten hours of dangerous driving. We are caught somewhere in the depth of pitch darkness, headlights barely cut a path through the jungle. We have paid several bribes at checkpoints along the road so that we can get to a town to rest the night. Foreign plated vehicles are not allowed on the road after dark.
This is the way we will be for the next three months. Battling. We will run out of food, vehicles will be impounded, guns pointed and threats of prison.
When I look at the smiling faces of the children in the villages we film in I wonder how they grow into the corruption that mauls a continent ripping the tenderness like claws tearing through raw bleeding flesh leaving innocence squirming for life.
Like the buried dead bursting through the dirt, rising out of the graves I too feel the repression. I feel it when we are arrested on the way to film. I am saddened, not just for me but for the kid hiding in the uniformed man hustling us down for the last bit of cash we have. As I stand at the side of the road waiting for our release I can see that kid scratching with bleeding nails to get out of the corrupt adult he has become. And I feel a wet cloak of repression suffocating me when I realise that it’s not just here in this Africa it is in me and where I come from, in the news published every day, in the tears of anyone that has ever been bullied and pushed down.
That’s what you see in The Dead before you see the hope. But you won’t see Howard held captive in the dark, robbed by knife-point, so that someone could eat that day, or me, gripped in a nightmare of malaria, hours from death, rushed through the clouds of dust as the film’s battered Land Cruiser is wrestled across the open country to the hospital saving my life, or us sharing food with the people that play the villagers in the film or how they sang to us when we arrived or how we felt honoured to be with them making the film.
Yeah this is a road movie with Zombies, yeah we are acting but I ask you to think about the emotion you see on the screen and why it’s real, to look closely at the people and their sunken cheeks, at the repression which still grips a continent that isn’t a lot different from how you feel when you scream inside to be released.
Then capture the hope.

 Tell A Friend  Share on Facebook
 1777 Times
 Back To Index