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Interview | Director Levine and actress Tipton discuss inspiration

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 08:02


The Daily sat down with director Jonathan Levine and actress Analeigh Tipton at a college roundtable to discuss the inspiration behind their upcoming film “Warm Bodies,” comparisons to other zombie works and the best zombie-killing weapons.

The Tufts Daily: What has been the most exciting part of working on this film?

Jonathan Levine: I think, for me, it’s really the opportunity to tell a unique story. We’ve been going around showing it to people and the response has been really nice, so that’s really fun. I think the opportunity to work with these guys, actors that are so awesome, and work with my peers who are young [and] create a fun on-set environment was really nice.

Analeigh Tipton: I’d agree with talking to people who are so excited about the genre, about zombies. And it’s fun to discuss that, but it hits on so many levels that you really get to indulge in so many different avenues of film and storytelling ... There are so many levels to this and it never gets boring. And then you get to handle machine guns on sets and things explode, and you’re playing “pretend” on a very heightened, wonderful scale. 

TD: How does it feel to redefine the “zombie film”? This movie provides a different side to zombies.

JL: For me, that’s what really attracted me to the book. It’s such a unique take on zombies. I don’t think we’re trying to define anything, we’re just trying to use zombies to tell a story about what for me is a guy and a girl who are falling for each other. I think that zombies have always traditionally been used as a device to both tell stories and also kind of reflect society back to ourselves. I just think we’re following in this tradition, that even [famous zombie movie director] George Romero continued to tweak his own rules. That’s why I think zombies are so cool, though ... The central allegory of being a zombie gives you a lot of opportunities as a storyteller.

TD: In comparison to other zombie movies, there isn’t much gore. Is that because you wanted to keep it PG-13?

JL: We definitely wanted to keep it PG-13. It’s a movie that we wanted young people to see, so I didn’t want them to have to sneak in. It’s a movie that, even though it’s a zombie movie, has a very positive heart to it. I didn’t think it was really important to push the envelope on the gore, although I did shoot really gory stuff that will maybe make it someday to a screen near you.

TD: Is there a grand metaphor going on in the story?

JL: There are a couple of central metaphors — I guess you could call them metaphors. We’re asking the questions “What does it mean to be alive?” and “Are people really living in the moment today?” I think for me, being a zombie is a metaphor for Nicholas Hoult’s character as being a shy guy around a pretty girl, not being able to say what you want to say and feeling like a loser. I can definitely identify with that. 

TD: Analeigh, what was your favorite scene to shoot?

AT: I had a really good time shooting this film, so I don’t have a straight, go-to answer. I enjoyed the makeover scene because it was a pretty male-heavy cast, and Teresa [Palmer] and I ... are playing tough characters, there weren’t a lot of moments to get girly, and this was our moment to fully hold him captive and we put so much bad makeup on him. Nick had to sit there so patiently, and Jonathan didn’t yell “cut” for forever because it was just too much fun for you guys [talking to Levine] to watch. 

JL: Oh, it was awesome, because ... he’s just as bummed to be there as his character is. 

TD: To direct actors who played zombies, did you draw more inspiration from non-zombie or zombie characters in previous films?

JL: Nick took inspiration from “WALL-E” (2008) and also “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) was a big inspiration too just for the tone and just the general, you want a guy who can’t speak to feel sweet. Nick is just so good at doing that. You look at him and you just want to give him a hug. Performance-wise, I think it was pretty organic, it wasn’t like we were trying to copy anything.

TD: Final question. If you were in a zombie apocalypse, what would be your zombie-killing weapon of choice?

AT: Wordplays and puns.

TD: To kill zombies?

AT: Yes, to confuse them so that they will turn and eat themselves.

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