Liv­ing dead you can warm to

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

ANY in­ter­view deal­ing with zom­bies must in­clude the oblig­a­tory and, yes, rel­e­vant ques­tion: Do you feel a kin­ship with Ge­orge A. Romero?

‘‘I do feel a great debt to him, and I also feel like we are kind of fol­low­ing in his foot­steps in some way,’’ says Jonathan Levine, di­rec­tor-writer of Warm Bod­ies.

‘‘The won­der­ful thing about Romero is he es­tab­lished the rules and cre­ated this amaz­ing al­le­gory in Night of the Liv­ing Dead. And then pro­ceeded to, first of all, vig­i­lantly use the genre as a ve­hi­cle for so­cial com­men­tary, which we try to do to some small ex­tent, and also con­tinue to tweak his own rules.’’

In the Warm Bod­ies novel, writer Isaac Mar­ion uses an aban­doned air­port much as Romero did a sub­ur­ban Pitts­burgh shop­ping mall for Dawn of the Dead.

Levine, who also di­rected 50/50, Ni­cholas Hoult as the hero zom­bie known as R and Teresa Palmer as Julie, the hu­man he res­cues and falls for, to her ini­tial fear, dis­may and con­fu­sion.

Palmer had au­di­tioned for Levine’s sec­ond fea­ture, The Wack­ness, with Ben Kings­ley and Josh Peck, and he never for­got her. Once Hoult was hired, she read with him.

‘‘It was their chem­istry, really, that in­spired me to cast her. Her role is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult be­cause she’s act­ing op­po­site a guy who’s ba­si­cally grunt­ing the whole time,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity on her to keep the scenes en­ter­tain­ing, and she had such ef­fer­ves­cence and a soul­ful thing go­ing on, that it was really a no-brainer.’’

Based on her turn as Julie in Warm Bod­ies and her work in movies such as I Am Num­ber Four and Take Me Home

cast Tonight, she seems primed to break out, the di­rec­tor pre­dicts.

Analeigh Tip­ton, who plays Julie’s best friend, Nora, turned heads as the baby sit­ter in Crazy, Stupid, Love, star­ring Steve Carell, Ju­lianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. A 13-year-old is tire­less in declar­ing his love for the 17-year-old sit­ter who is crush­ing on some­one else in a thread that skirts the edge of squeamish­ness.

Tip­ton, a third-place win­ner on Amer­ica’s Next Top Model in 2008, doesn’t go for con­ven­tional sorts of roles, she says.

‘‘I’m kind of a lit­tle bit odd. I’m not at­tracted to some of the tra­di­tional fe­male young-girl roles, and I like how edgy the char­ac­ter of Nora is and her off sense of hu­mour, just slightly un­der­stated, and Jes­sica from Crazy, Stupid, Love had that bit of hu­mour.

‘‘I think, if any­thing, for me, they’re per­fectly a nor­mal fit . . . But I trust the direc­tors that it will come out look­ing nor­mal.’’

When she and Dave Franco, who plays Julie’s doomed boyfriend, ar­rived in Mon­treal where the movie was filmed, they were sent to a gun range for in­struc­tion about safety, con­trol, stances, types of guns and am­mu­ni­tion and when to use what and where.

‘‘That, to me, was fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause it wasn’t just, ‘Here, hold this to look cool’. We really were try­ing to be au­then­tic to it,’’ she says. ‘‘I learned how to take apart and put back to­gether a hand­gun with­out look­ing at it, and it was in­ter­est­ing. There’s quite an art to it, in the proper hands.’’

Also as part of her re­search, she spoke with the nov­el­ist, brought a zom­bie sur­vival hand­book with her and en­gaged in a Love Boat view­ing marathon, in keep­ing with one of her char­ac­ter’s quirks that didn’t mi­grate to the movie.

‘‘I went and got the boxed set of that show and re­watched all of those episodes ev­ery night be­fore film­ing, which had noth­ing, at the end, to do with my char­ac­ter,’’ she says.

But she loved how kitschy, pos­i­tive and, in its own kooky way, pro­gres­sive in terms of so­cial is­sues it seemed.

If books, in­clud­ing Romeo and Juliet, and mu­sic help Tip­ton with characters, the mad­cap song se­lec­tion is a key part of the movie’s ap­peal.

Levine looked at ‘‘the most bom­bas­tic, over­wrought songs about feel­ings’’ he could find.

‘‘The ’80s were a great time for mu­sic like that. Power bal­lads, es­pe­cially, like Pa­tience and Miss­ing You.’’

Given what he con­sid­ers a John Hughes re­vi­sion­ist vibe to the movie, the 1980s fur­ther felt right.

‘‘The mu­sic that he uses in his plane (dou­bling as his home) is meant to re­flect a nos­tal­gia for a by­gone era. It’s a way for him to com­mu­ni­cate, but it also rep­re­sents a yearn­ing for some­thing lost. So we got to use this great ’70s al­bum rock, like Hun­gry Heart from Bruce Spring­steen. I’m un­nat­u­rally ob­sessed with Bruce Spring­steen and Bob Dy­lan’s Shel­ter from the Storm proved beau­ti­ful and rel­e­vant.’’

Warm Bod­ies opens to­day.

Ni­cholas Hoult

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