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Nicholas Hoult & Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies)

Nicholas Hoult & Teresa Palmer: The Interview (Warm Bodies)

A tormented zombie (Nicholas Hoult) experiences a profound transformation after entering into an unusual relationship with the daughter (Teresa Palmer) of a military leader charged with eradicating the walking dead.  We sit down with the two stars of the film in an exclusive interview.

SHAKEFIRE: What initially attracted you to the project?

TERESA PALMER: For me, it was the script. I read it, and it was so unique, original, and refreshing. The fact that you’re hearing from a zombie’s perspective was something that had never really been done before. It made me laugh, I really cared about the characters, and I thought it was grounded in reality in a strange way. It was very cool.

NICHOLAS HOULT: Yeah, I really enjoyed reading it. I thought Jonathan Levine was a director I wanted to work with; I enjoyed his previous films. I just cared about the character. I thought he was funny and endearing. I just thought it’d be a good, kinda tricky role to pull off and if it worked, it’d be a good film.

SF: What challenges did you face while filming, and for you Nicholas, how difficult was it to not blink?

NH: Yeah, the not blinking thing. That was a tough one. That was a silly decision because I was talking to Jonathan and I was like, “Do you reckon dead people blink?” and he was like, “I guess not.” And if I was smart about it, they could have cut around my blinking but I pretty much decided no, I’m going to not blink. I had contact lenses in which helped with it, actually. Did you see me blink a lot?

TP: Um, no, you were pretty good. Yeah, it was bizarre.

NH: Yeah, that was interesting. But then there was not being able to communicate verbally made it something different in trying to emote without emoting too much and connect with Teresa’s character. So it’s a different form. That’s the main thing, that the main character’s trying his best to express but failing to, like most guys do with girls, in general. But then when you’ve got great actors around you it makes it very easy because you can kinda just watch them and enjoy what they’re doing and they make you look good.

TP: For me, I think because I have much of the dialogue in the movie, I’ve never come up against that before. I’m usually I’m playing a supporting character but this one was the first lead role. I found it quite challenging to balance the initial situation she finds herself in. At the start, she’s petrified by R and then her fear needs to transition into a place that will organically take her into falling in love with him. So it had to be fearful but injecting a bit of curiosity in there as well and finding that balance was quite challenging as an actor, but a lot of it was really there on the page because the script was just so strong so I just trusted the words, tried to get beneath that, and wanted to stay as present as I could. It’s definitely the most dialogue I’ve ever had in a movie.

SF: What do you think people can learn from zombies?

NH: They can learn that if you try your best that things can get better and you can change for the better. I think there’s that moment early on in the film when they’re talking about how zombies aren’t that different from humans because most live in such fast paced world with so much technology and things going on. Sometimes you kinda just need to stop and notice the smaller things around you, perhaps, and stop and smell the roses occasionally.

TP: I think from this movie in particular and the zombies in this film, it’s really that you don’t give up hope. As dark and dismal as your situation might seem, love and the power of the human connection can really bring you through the other side. This too shall pass. I always go back to that and I think it’s very prevalent in this film and you see how love breathes life back into you. I think people can really connect to that and we can learn from that.

SF: Was there anything fun and interesting you had to learn from this movie?

TP: Shoot a shotgun. That was fun. We went to the gun range for that.

NH: I got to drive the car around a little bit around the runway. That was fun.

TP: Nic was into that. He was having a lot of fun. I was also in the car when you were whizzing around.

NH: Yep, that was good. I also got to watch a lot of zombie films just trying to figure out what I was going to do and how the film was going to work.

SF: One thing that works really well in the film is the music selection. Did either of you have any input on the song choice or was that all decided beforehand?

NH: There were songs actually in the script. Some of the tracks did change into the edit, but Levine’s got great taste in music. I think he balances some of the new additions and then he throws in stuff and all that with Guns N’ Roses and some great classics.

TP: I love it because this film is very eclectic and the music is representative of that. You get some old stuff, and new stuff, edgy and cool, and romantic, and all that.

SF: Was all that taken from the book and all the other things your character collects on the airplane?

NH: Not all of it, no. The book goes into a lot more detail in many respects with the bonies, etc. My character in the book has a family. He’s got zombie children and a wife. All those things we couldn’t fit into this film. I though Levine did a really great job at adapting it. I don’t think the specific things he collected were in the book.

SF: Do you feel that it’s a genuine romance because of the whole boyfriend brain eating situation?

TP: Yeah, I think it’s both. He sees her before he actually eats the brains of Perry. He sees her and something gets jolted in him. It’s an instant attraction and it’s something about this girl. He feels it for the first time then and it only intensifies when he eats Perry’s brains and starts to relive the memories of the first time she said I love you and the first time they kiss and her smiling. It just kinda adds to it and then becomes his own story when he sees the light inside of her and there’s something beautiful about that for him and they breathe love back into each other.

NH: Yeah, I agree. I agree.

SF: If you could eat the brain of anybody in the world and gain their memories, who would you pick?

TP: I would pick so many different people but I’m going to go with…

NH: Mick Jagger.

TP: Jagger? I’m going to go with Elizabeth Taylor just because I’m very interested in the Richard Burton situation.

NH: Kid Cudi. I would eat his brains.

TP: Nic has an obsession with Kid Cudi.

NH: I love his music.

SF: What was it like working with John Malkovich as your father?

TP: It was fantastic; very surreal. It was daunting to hear that John Malkovich was going to be playing my dad. Then when I met him, any fear or intimidations went out the window because he’s very humble and giving and generous person. He’s sweet and soft-spoken and hilariously funny. He really surprised me with his sense of humor. He was showing me all these YouTube videos and impersonating them. He was just so funny and obviously a brilliant actor. So that’s cool to be in a scene with someone and halfway through you’re realizing you’re acting opposite John Malkovich.

SF: You’ve both already done a lot of things in your films. Anything you’re hoping to do but haven’t gotten the chance yet?

NH: I’d like to do a film not wearing a lot of makeup. That’s my next plan.

TP: Yeah, I realized the other day I’ve been a ghost, been captured by a wizard, fallen in love with a sorcerer, been an alien, fallen in love with a zombie…

NH: And what about your movies?

TP: And what about my movies? Haha. But I haven’t done a period piece. I would like to be in a corset. I’d like to fall in love with a human back in the 1940s. That would be really delightful for me. Life was so different back then.

SF: Why do you think zombies and vampires are so popular right now?

NH: I think they’re magical and mystical but all the things they’re dealing with are still quite grounded in very human feelings and emotions. Like this one, a guy getting the nerve up to talk to a girl and the love that shouldn’t be. Zombies are different than vampires. Vampires are really cool in that they can run up trees really quick and do cool stuff like that, whereas zombies kinda stumble around. They’re endearing and will look after you but they’re the underdog of the supernatural dating world.

SF: There’s a lot of mixing of genres with romance, action, comedy, and zombies. Who do you think the intended audience is for?

NH: I don’t know. I like to think this film, compared to some films in a similar vein, isn’t as sappy. It pokes fun at itself and is funny and fast-paced and enjoyable and guys can go along as well. It’d be a good date movie. But then I don’t know. Even hardcore zombie fans have been coming in and saying they saw it and really liked it and liked how it took what zombies were and developed it and pushed it to new boundaries but was still pretty faithful.

TP: Yeah, it feels like it reaches a wide demographic, and that’s just from interacting with people who have already seen the film. A lot of people are getting stuff out of it who are my parents age, 50s and 60s, and then younger people too, like the teenagers of the world. I think it’s because this movie has something to say as well. There’s social commentary to this film. It’s not just a basic love story or a basic zombie story. It is all of those things, and it’s a big mash up of different genres, and that’s what keeps it interesting and new and original.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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