Warm Bodies Roundtable Interview: Nicholas Hoult on the Humor and Heart of the Film

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On February 1st Jonathan Levine’s zombie rom-com Warm Bodies arrives in theaters courtesy of Summit Entertainment. During a recent press day for the flick, Dread Central caught up with the director and several cast members for roundtable interviews in support of the release.

Based on the popular book written by Isaac Marion, the wonderfully charming and thoughtful Warm Bodies follows a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), who begins to fall in love with a young girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer) after saving her during a zombie attack. As their connection grows, R begins to de-zombify, which triggers an entire world-changing chain of events that will forever transform the post-apocalyptic world they both now belong to. With a screenplay written by Levine, Warm Bodies also stars Rob Corddry, John Malkovich, Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton.

First up is our interview with Warm Bodies co-star Hoult, who gave us his thoughts on both the book and the script adaptation of Marion’s original story, discussed working with his co-stars Palmer and Corddry, and much more. Check out the highlights from our roundtable interview with Hoult below, and look for more on Warm Bodies all this week.

Question: Were you familiar with the book at all before the movie came along?

Nicholas Hoult: No, I wasn’t. I read the script first, and then when I got the part, I went back and read the book then. It’s a really great book, too; reading it gave me some great insight into R and more of what’s going on inside his brain, and so I took some of that and what was in Jonathan [Levine]’s adaptation of the story and made the character work from there.

Question: Did you go into this thinking it was a straight-up zombie movie but then realized as you went along that it was more of a romantic tale than anything?

Nicholas Hoult: You know, the two films I related Warm Bodies to more than a zombie movie were Edward Scissorhands and Wall-E. I mean, we of course watched a lot of zombie movies, which was great in helping me figure out just what I was supposed to, well, ‘do’ as a zombie (laughs). But I think it was great to have this story from the zombie’s point of view, and the voiceover really helps since I’m a zombie and I can’t really talk much. Jonathan wrote R with a great dry and witty sense of humor to him, though, which I really loved.

Question: What do you think made Teresa right for the part of Julie?

Nicholas Hoult: Obviously, she’s very bubbly and a great actress and all of those things, but we had done a scene, and at the end of it she came out of it with a smile and gave me a nudge or something. I was doing my zombie thing, but I just remember that when she did it, it made me crack a smile for a moment, and I knew she had the right kind of energy to play this role.

Question: How hard was it communicating in Warm Bodies when your character can only really grunt his responses?

Nicholas Hoult: Well, isn’t that how most men want to communicate (laughs)? No, no, no, no- I’m only joking. Honestly, that [lack of] communication is what really attracted me to the role. It was just one of those strange roles that doesn’t come around very often, where you’re reading it and you realize that there’s a lot to think about when trying to make a role like this work and to get the audience to care about R, too.

So the communication thing was tricky, and so was the physicality of the role, too. We did a lot of messing around in these movement classes beforehand with this guy from Cirque du Soleil, me and Rob [Corddry], and so you just have to hope that when you get to set that it’s all going to work out in the end.

Question: Because your character goes through different zombie phases throughout the movie, how did you keep all of that straight within your performance considering you guys didn’t shoot this in sequence?

Nicholas Hoult: Jonathan and I sat down before shooting and kind of went through the five or six stages of zombie-ism that R would go through in the movie and developed those. And occasionally Jonathan would be like, “More zombie!” “Less zombie!” “Grunt more!” or “Now, talk more!” so we would just develop it around the key beats to R’s story in the movie, and he kept it all in line for me.

Question: What were the brains like to eat?

Nicholas Hoult: They were this cold, wet spongy stuff made out of grapefruit and peach or something. They weren’t particularly enjoyable considering they were covered in fake blood and all that.

Question: I’m sure there was far more of that [brain eating] than what made it into the final cut then.

Nicholas Hoult: Oh yeah, we had to cut a lot out for the rating. There were some pretty dark bits in the movie with scalps being peeled back and then a bunch of hands delving into the brains, which I thought was actually pretty great. Maybe the DVD (laughs).

Question: Can you talk about working with Rob considering his career in comedy and the fact that R’s friendship with his character is almost as integral to the story as the romance between your character and Julie?

Nicholas Hoult: Oh sure. Working with him was really difficult because he’s such a funny, funny guy that you can’t help but laugh. Rob’s been in the comedy game for a while now so he’s really great at trying new things. I knew whenever I was going into work with him that it was going to be hard to because he was always trying to get me to break first. He’d never break, and it would never fail- we’d be doing a scene and just the way he’d grunt at me or whatever and I’d just lose it. A lot of the humor in the film really comes from him.

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