Nicholas Hoult ‘Warm Bodies’ Interview
A funny new twist on a classic love story, ‘Warm Bodies’ is a poignant tale about the power of human connection. After a zombie epidemic, R (a highly unusual zombie) encounters Julie (a human survivor), and rescues her from a zombie attack. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and as the two form a special relationship in their struggle for survival, R becomes increasingly more human – setting off an exciting, romantic, and often comical chain of events that begins to transform the other zombies and maybe even the whole lifeless world. ‘Warm Bodies’ stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton and Dave Franco. Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50), the film is set for release on Febuary 1st in the US and Febuary 8th in the UK. My first interview Teresa Palmer for the film can be found here, while my Analeigh Tipton interview can be read here.
What was your initial reaction to the script for ‘Warm Bodies’ and your character R?
Nicholas Hoult: I had a great reaction to the script, I really enjoyed reading it and I read it really quickly. I remember sitting there and thinking, “That’s cool… really cool!” I liked the idea, I liked the humour in it, I liked the romance, I liked the action, and I really liked this character, R. So I rang my agent, I really wanted to do it. Luckily I had an audition with Jonathan and I met up with him, and he liked me enough to give me a shot at it.
This young zombie, R, he feels trapped in his zombie state. The most compelling thing about R as a character is his want and need to connect. He wants to connect with the other zombies in the airport, even though they’ve got nothing to really say to him and they can’t even say their names. He wants to connect with them to feel alive. That’s one of the most human instincts ever – to want to feel a part of something and to connect with another human. I have to try to make an audience care about and root for this zombie, that was very interesting to me. In the script he was very funny and eloquent in his voiceover, so there was a charm about him and a humor as well.
For me, Jonathan Levine has a great knack of balancing themes and tones. Was that sort of genre-busting aspect of ‘Warm Bodies’ appealing?
Nicholas Hoult: Yeah. I knew it was funny going into it. I knew that there would be physical comedy and some ridiculous things that were out there. But then just reading it, I could see the heartwarming and touching side of it, in watching this guy who feels a little bit trapped and just wants to connect with people. Then to watch him find the girl who is that spark, who inspires a positive transformation in his life. Plus, her also seeing his hope and helping him out. It’s a sweet story.
As you say, Jonathan does a fantastic job of balancing it. It’s funny but it doesn’t get out of hand to a point where it starts becoming a parody or an outright comedy. There’s a lot of depth and you really do care about these characters. Jonathan is great at that.
Speaking to the rest of the cast, they were telling me they didn’t see the Romeo and Juliet aspect of it when they first read it….
Nicholas Hoult: I didn’t see it either until another friend pointed it out to me! I was reading through the script when I was practicing the accent, and then the guy that I was working on the accent with said, “Ah, it’s like Romeo and Juliet.” I was like, “Hang on, is it? (Laughs) And then I flipped through and I was suddenly like, “Ah, it’s all falling into place now.” There are a few little nods in the story, with the balcony scene and things like that.
Did that make you conscious at all, or did you recognise it and then just sort of put it to the side?
Nicholas Hoult: Yeah, I wasn’t particularly onto it, to be honest with you. There wasn’t anything from knowing that that made me think, “This is going to change how I play the role.” I had a clear idea how I was going to play R and what he wanted, the idea that his energy should be focused on the other people, trying his best to communicate with them.
Was it tough going into to it with those scenes where you literally have no dialogue, you’re just grunting? And especially when you’re communicating with other zombies?
Nicholas Hoult: It was one of those weird things where you’d really get into it. The conversations would really start to embellish a little bit (laughs). It was really funny, I lost it a few times, especially with Rob. He’d do a grunt sometimes and I could really tell what he meant (laughs). I got it somehow. It’s kind of similar to how two strangers sitting at a bar would be like watching the football, mumbling to each other. It was nice doing that.
I thought you had great chemistry with Teresa. And especially in the early scenes, a lot has to be conveyed without you being able to use spoken language…
Nicholas Hoult: She’s fantastic, she’s a really great actress and she’s so bubbly. She just has a great energy. I knew from when we first did a reading together that she would be the perfect counterweight to what I was doing. She’s just got a light in her and a smile that when it goes off, I could see why it would trigger R to think, “I’m not gonna eat this one, I’m gonna look after her.” (Laughs) And that’s what we needed. She had to do some massive scenes with me, with me not really doing a lot back. It was great to watch her bring that character to life.
Was a lot of your stuff between each other improvised, especially on the plane, or was it scripted.
Nicholas Hoult: That was scripted. We went into the film with a really solid script that didn’t need to change much throughout filming – which is rare! Most of the time when you go into films, the script that you started with changes enormously as you go along. But with this it was such a strong script to begin with that we didn’t really change it that much or improvise.
One thing I noticed was R’s lack of blinking, how was that?
Nicholas Hoult: Oh man, I didn’t think people would notice that. I remember speaking to Jonathan and saying, “Hey, dead people wouldn’t really blink that much would they?” I got myself into a whole world of pain with that one (laughs). Sometimes there would be long scenes and I’d think, “I have these contact lenses in, my eyes are really dry and I haven’t had a blink in while.” But we got through it (laughs).
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