An unlikely romance between a beautiful human teen and a sensitive undead slacker sets off a chain of events with the power to transform the world in Warm Bodies, the hilarious and heartwarming zombie action rom-com based on the popular novel by Isaac Marion.
We sat and spoke to director Adam Levine (50/50), Nicholas Hoult (X-Men:First Class), and Teresa Palmer (I Am Number 4) and asked about the challenges of bringing a zombie love story to the screen, finding a leading man, undergoing zombie school, what they’re favorite zombie movies are, what hardcore zombie fans will feel about this film, and about Nicholas Hoult’s upcoming projects Mad Max and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Jonathan when did the book come to your attention?
Jonathan Levine: I had a meeting with Summit in late 2009, one of the executives there showed me the book and I read the first couple of pages and I thought it was amazing. So I then begged them to let me write it and let me direct it and I brought a power point presentation. Then a week after I agreed to do that , 50/50 became an open directing job and I fell in love with that script and Summit allowed me to direct that.
Jonathan how hard was it finding a leading man who had to express himself through his grunts?
Jonathan Levine: It was really hard but you know when you find them it’s like wow that person exist. We had a list of people that we thought about and an executive at Summit said “what about Nick Hoult?” and I said “yeah who’s that?”. He said “Thats’ the guy from Skins” and I just loved that TV show and I’ve seen the first season. We didn’t want someone who has a public persona that overwhelms the role. Nick has a great level of exposure, he’s been in a bunch of great movies and people know who he is but he’s not over exposed. He then came over my house and we work-shopped a couple of scenes and I just loved what he was doing.
Nicholas what kind of zombie school did you have to go to?
Nicholas Hoult: There were some days with the Cirque du Soleil people and we would take our shoes off in a dance studio and we would kind of grow out of the wall and make our bodies feel very heavy. It’s one of those things where you think about it a lot but you just have to try it out and see what works. Then Jonathan would say either “too much or little less”, we didn’t want to go over the top with it.
Jonathan Levine: When Nick got to Montreal I said “lets watch Return of the Living Dead,” and he said “OK but lets watch Awakenings” and I though this guy is coming at it from a creepy angle. The Cirque sessions were really helpful but if you can picture it, it was really weird movements. So we worked on the movements and developed the movements and after a while we just let it go.
Teresa how was your onscreen chemistry with Nicholas?
Teresa Palmer: Nick Hoult is amazing, he’s so sweet, funny, and humble and obviously an incredibly talented guy. I was initially worried how we would have chemistry because he can’t express himself verbally in the movie and it’s just groans and grunts. My character is doing all the talking. He really just gave me so much in terms in what he was able to emote through his own eyes. All the little choices he made with his body language, just the way his facial expressions would change depending on what I was talking to him about. It was really remarkable and I didn’t have any worries or challenges finding that chemistry.
Nicholas was it difficult staying in character and avoiding conversation with Teresa?
Nicholas Hoult: You know what, it wasn’t difficult because the sets were really well made and we had really great actors. Most of the time I would just sit and watch, it was a treat to watch these really great actors be zombies. The only time I would really struggle would be when I would laugh a lot. There is a lot of me in the out takes just cracking up.
How was the rehearsal process like since you really don’t have much dialogue?
Nicholas Hoult: If I went to work and if I had more then three words to say, I would panic. I would ask Teresa if we could go through our scene please because I have a lot to concentrate on. She would look at me like I was nuts saying “I’ve got pages and pages of dialogue I’m doing here and you haven’t spoken in months”.
Were you guys fans of Zombie films?
Teresa Palmer: I haven’t seen The Walking Dead but I did watch 28 Days Later who I loved so much. I also loved Zombieland because that was fun and it didn’t take itself too seriously. But I definitely was a fan of zombie movies.
Nicholas Hoult: Yea I was and I went back to watch a lot of the great 80′s one and Dawn of the Dead. I also like some of the recent ones like Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland. But in this film it’s the first time it’s switched around and from the zombie’s point of view.
What would you guys say to the hardcore zombie fans who are thinking this film is sacrilege ?
Teresa Palmer: I’m really hoping the zombie lovers are going to be open minded. I think they have to be on this one because there’s a quirky twist on the zombie genre but I really think we have a lot of stuff in there for the zombie lovers. In the best way this movie is a mixed bag of different things. I think if you go to the cinema you don’t know what you’re going to expect and you’re going to come out feeling happy and satisfied.
Jonathan Levine: I don’t know, all I can say is I really hope you will be open minded about it because in my opinion this genre is meant to be used as a way to access certain truths about life today. The core metaphor for zombies is basically holding up a mirror to who we are today, Zombies more then anything are social commentary. I think we’re doing that and we’re respectful to that history. These things are tools to take in a new direction and they bring interesting stuff when people take it in a new direction. With that said, I know I’m not crazy, I know there will be people out there saying this guy ruined zombies and I just have to be OK with that, I knew that from the very beginning.
Nicholas what character will you be playing in the new Mad Max film?
Nicholas Hoult: I play the driver of one of the pursuit vehicles, a young kind of soldier, warrior character.
Are you shooting on the sequel to X-Men: First Class right now and are you looking forward to reuniting with Bryan Singer?
Nicholas Hoult: No, I don’t think we start for another few months, but yeah I got along with him, he’s fantastic and he really knows what’s going on. From what I heard about the script I think it’s going to be a really cool film and I really like that character.
Can you tell us anything about the X-Men script?
Nicholas Hoult: No, my mouth is shut.
Warm Bodies is in theaters February 1st