In the new horror-themed romantic dramedy “Warm Bodies,” Nicholas Hoult plays a zombie who becomes involved with the girlfriend (Teresa Palmer) of one of his victims (Dave Franco) and discovers that their romance sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world. The Feb. 7, 2013 edition of “Breakthrough Thinking: The Magazine” featured several soundbites from Franco, whose film credits include “21 Jump Street” and “Fright Night.” The following is my full exclusive interview with him from which said soundbites were pulled.
Question: Describe your character in your own words. How did you see him in order to tap into his mindset?
Answer: Perry starts out as an innocent, naive, lovestruck kid. There is this zombie apocalypse happening but he has tunnel vision. All he can see is this girl that he is in love with and that is kind of how he kind of copes with the world around him. And then he has this horrendous thing happen in front of his face where he sees his dad get killed and it hardens him. He suddenly has this one-track mind where all he cares about is ending the zombie apocalypse and killing off as many zombies as possible. I am not on the screen for a [heck] of a lot of time so it is like a big journey to take in a very little time. That is kind of a tough thing as an actor because you jump from one intense scene to the next yet you do not want it to feel overdone. I just kind of had to give myself over to the director and hope that he would reign me in if I went too big or amp me up if I was too subtle.
Q: Were there any special things that you did to prepare for this role?
A: We went to the gun range and I talked to this gun expert at length because I wanted the military scenes to feel authentic. If a guy in the military were to see this movie, I want him to look at my character and say, “OK. He knows how to hold that gun. He looks like he knows what he is doing.” That would drive me insane if these guys in the military – the experts – could look at my character and know that it was not authentic. So I got to learn about every little part of this gun and how it works and how to hold it and all that jazz. I think that is an interesting part of acting in general, too – learning about stuff that you would not normally.
Q: I was disappointed to discover that at no point during the movie do you turn into a zombie. Do you – at least on some level – wish that you would have gotten to play one?
A: Not even a little bit. Nicholas Hoult, who plays the main zombie, showed up to set roughly three hours earlier every day than the rest of us to go through the makeup process. I went through that for about a week on “Fright Night,” where I was a vampire and, to be honest, it was brutal. They put these lenses in my eyes that were the size of quarters and, once those were in there, they threw me in this dirt pit. In the pit, there were rocks and dust flying everywhere. So that got in the lenses and I had this kind of crunchy blink going on. And then I had to act through it – be energized and pretend like I do not have all this [junk] in my eyes. So I think that I dodged a bullet on this one.
Q: But I imagine that it was still somewhat strange to act alongside all of the zombies. Right?
A: There were so many zombie extras on the movie. They were walking around everywhere. You are in the cafeteria and they are just in line in front of you. It should be weird and you almost hope that these extras would play more pranks – jump out and scare people – but there just was not a ton of that. I think that after a few days you just become accustomed to it.
Q: So, then what would you say is your biggest takeaway from your experience working on this film?
A: Jonathan Levine – the director – is one of these really smart guys who will give you ideas that just make the scenes a lot more complex than you initially thought. For example, you know the scene toward the beginning where I am addressing my troops and we are about to go out into the mayhem and find this medicine in the city? For the first few takes, I played that as if I was this confident leader who knew what I was doing. I was very composed. Jonathan took me aside and reminded me that although I am very determined and have a lot of passion, I am still this vulnerable, weak guy deep down inside so, realistically, I would not be such a charismatic, confident leader. I would be a guy who kind of stumbles over his words and doubts himself a little bit. I thought that was an interesting way to play that.