Exclusive: director Henry Hobson talks Maggie, Arnie and zombies

Released this Friday in Cineworld, Maggie is different to most zombie movies. Instead of splattering the screen with gore, it instead focuses on the powerful relationship between farmer Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his daughter, the eponymous Maggie (Abigail Breslin), who has been struck down with a zombie virus. 

In part one of our exclusive interview, British director Henry Hobson (here making his feature film debut) discusses the themes of the story and how he coaxed an altogether different kind of performance from Terminator star Arnie.

Zombies are of course all the rage at the moment. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that the zombie movie has never been bigger. With so many TV shows and pop culture references flying around, where did you find the inspiration for Maggie

Well although it was written by John Scott 3, what's inspiring about Maggie is that it suggests a more adult, humane take on the genre. It’s more unpredictable. So I was immediately intrigued by that possibility. It’s a more relatable and understandable variation on the zombie story. It’s essentially a father-daughter story at its heart. 

Was it that father-daughter angle that drew you or the chance to create a monster movie? 

We’ve seen the likes of Shaun of the Dead which fused comedy with horror and we’ve also seen some terrific full-on zombie horror movies. This was the chance to make a human study, rather than an out and out horror. That’s something I wanted to sink my teeth into – sorry, that’s a terrible pun! 

You’re working with Arnie in the movie. Of course he’s a huge star and people have a preconceived image of him. How much input did he have on the project? 

It’s funny, I called him Arnie early on and he said that only the English call him that. But what’s great about him is that once he trusts you, once he feels compelled by your confidence, he’s completely willing and very forward in his desire to put everything into a project. I put in a lot of early groundwork to ensure that he trusted me as a first-time director, and to make it apparent that my intentions were to do something different with the zombie movie. 

I gave him and [Abigail Breslin] a book that detailed every aspect of the production and the performances, including notes from myself on how I wanted every single scene to play out. The book had photographic references, visual breakdowns and so on. So he immediately saw that I had everything in my mind, which he could access at the turn of a page. That really helped build his performance. 

And of course starring opposite him is Abigail Breslin, who’s a terrific actress and a rising star. What was she like to work with? 

She was fantastic in her own way. It was beautiful watching her and Arnold working together, as they were both learning from each other in subtle but amazing ways. She was learning about how to deal with presence and persona whereas he was picking up on nuances and how to bring out these subtle touches. They got on really well and I think there was a nice marriage of characteristics in the two performances.

Check back very soon for part two of our exclusive interview with Henry, in which he discusses the ongoing appeal of the zombie movie and what tools he'd need to survive a zomb-pocalypse.

Click here to book your tickets for Maggie, which is released this Friday.