English actor Nicholas Hoult made his initial splash as a child star in the 2002 film About a Boy, By 2007, as he came of age, Hoult landed a role as Tony Stonem in the now global cult hit teen drama, Skins.
Soon, Hollywood came calling and landed the role of Beast in X-Men: First Class. Now, the 23 year-old hopes to make a further splash in the States in the romantic comedy Warm Bodies.
In the film, a zombie apocalypse has engulfed the Earth. Hoult plays R, a teenaged zombie who falls in love with a girl named Julie, played by Teresa Palmer, after killing and consuming her boyfriend’s brains. The actor talks about his relationship with zombie films as a kid.
“I didn’t watch a lot of horror films growing up,” he recalls, “I remember once when I was pretty young, can’t remember how old, I found The Exorcist in a video drawer. I was like, what’s all the fuss about with this? So I put it in, terrified me obviously, and I’d get too scared, so I’d flip back to the telly watching kids’ shows and I’d be like, OK.”
“I calmed myself down for a little bit and then go back for a bit more exorcism, but I don’t watch a lot of horror films,” Nicholas adds, “I watched a lot in the buildup to this, as many zombie films as possible, right back from all the 80s classics up until Shaun Of The Dead and Zombieland and 28 Days Later and all those things as well, just for ideas and to get a sense of what I was getting into.”
We visited the set during the shooting of Warm Bodies. For us, the make up process and the mud made it a sticky hour and a half. Nicholas talks about what it was like to endure that process every single day of filming.
“It’s actually really useful,” Hoult says of it, “And luckily, the makeup artists were really nice, and I’ve done a lot of makeup before when I played Beast [in X-Men: First Class], that was four hours, so it’s one of those days where you kind of sit there and you chat and you zone out, but it’s a nice transformation.”
“You kind of see this character come to life,” he continues, “And then, once you got that and the grimy clothes on and you walk onto some great sets we had. You walk on and you see a load of other zombies and stuff and you’re like, ‘Well, alright, OK, well, this is making my job a lot easier for me.'”
We asked Hoult if he had to wear the same wardrobe everyday as R.
“There were varying forms of it,” Nicholas says, “There was a slightly cleaner, slightly muddier, bullethole, knifehole, so even though it was exactly the same thing, I got quite attached to it actually. I kept the hoodie. I got it on.”
Nicholas talked about how he tried to incorporate humanity into essentially an undead being.
“I had to know, but we watched other films, things like Edward Scissorhands and stuff like that, just to get a sense of…” Hoult says, “It was tricky because there’s that fine line where it’s like, he’s undead, he eats brains, but there’s another level of ‘corpsedom’, I don’t quite know how to say it, it’s called The Bonies, they’re the next level of decay I guess and they’re pure evil and don’t think at all.”
“So I guess with this, the kind of movement fell into shape and the grunting and groaning and that form of talking and think about it a lot and work with [director] Jonathan [Levine] and chatted about it and the staff,” he adds, “And eventually, you just go into set and go for it and hope for the best. It’s like, I believed it. When I was doing the scenes, I was like, I’m dead and I like this girl and I want to make her see that I can be human and I want to feel a connection.”
Hoult described for us what the human brains were actually made out of.
“It was like a peachy sponge wet, cold thing with blood on top and some grapefruit occasionally and bits of random stuff,” Nicholas says.
In Warm Bodies, when zombies eat human brains, they have the power to absorb their memories. We asked Nicholas what person’s memories he himself would love to absorb if he himself was a zombie.
“I’ve been asked this question a few times now and I keep on saying Henry VIII,” he says, “Literally, the first time I was ever asked it, I panicked for ages and I was like, ‘Uh, I don’t know, I don’t know,’ and then, ‘Henry VIII.’”
“And someone asked me earlier if there was anyone, if I could listen to them and have them around, I said, ‘Neil Diamond,’” Hoult continues, “And I still don’t know why. It’s just the first name that popped into my head, so there we go. I’m not standing by those answers or decisions.”
Hoult says though that his own memory isn’t the sharpest.
“I’ve got a terrible memory,” Nicholas claims, “I don’t remember things at all. People remind me of things that happen a week ago, a year ago, and I’ll be like…Once I jobbed it, I’m OK, I kind of come back to it, but the triggers aren’t really there in my brain, which is a shame.”
Warm Bodies was originally based on a novel by Isaac Marion and he has announced plans to write a sequel. We asked Nicholas if he was under contract to come back for a sequel should there be one and if he’d reprise the role of R again.
“No, there’s no contract for a sequel,” Hoult says, “It’s kind of made as a stand-alone film. I’d be intrigued to read. I really like Isaac’s writing and what happens to the character.”
We also asked Hoult if he read the original book as well as the screenplay and if he learned anything more by reading the book.
“I did,” Nicholas says, “There’s some great descriptive writing in the book about how it feels and just the breathing and the trying to formulate words and that rack in the brain for memories and stuff. There’s great writing and all that stuff. So I did read it after I got the role and really enjoyed it.”
One of the interesting aspects of R is his love for recorded music on vinyls. Nicholas talks about his own relationship with the music format.
“I was a CD generation growing up,” Hoult says, “So it was CD’s and obviously MP3’s and all that sort of business, but I do have a record player and some records, not a massive collection, but a few, and I enjoy listening to it. Like R says in the film, there’s something more alive about it.”
Hoult talks about what he would consider to be a great song or great album.
“It depends on the mood, doesn’t it?” Nicholas says, “A couple of the vinyl albums I got are The White Stripes albums, but I might go back and do some of the Nina Simone, go back and listen to a few of those maybe.”
Nicholas talks about how he rationalizes the fact that R has no bloodflow, yet there’s a sexual moment with Teresa’s character Julie on her bed.
“I honestly think that it’s one of the few times that a guy probably wasn’t actually in it for the sex,” he says, “This is a guy that actually just wants to protect her and he wants to feel that connection with her. But I don’t think he’s after the sex, from the beginning anyway.”
“I mean, if it’s a byproduct, very nice,” Hoult adds, “And obviously, it’s a complete panic for him when there’s that scene in the bedroom and he sees a living girl with not many clothes on, it’s a big moment for him, and definitely makes him feel more alive.”
Hoult talks about the way he overcompensates acting-wise for the fact that R does not talk very much.
“I mean, there was that thing where you couldn’t really talk much, couldn’t really express much,” Nicholas says, “But that was something that I liked the idea of doing it. This is going to be a tricky one to try and pull off, this character. So, I don’t know, the eyes are kind of important and try to do some stuff with those, but I’m not sure how you compensate for it really. It’s just kind of feeling.”
We asked Nicholas about how he got his “zombie walk” right for R.
“Not that many, to be honest with you,” Hoult replies, “I’m quite a slow walker anyway and I slouch, so I kind of just went a bit further with that. And then, me and Rob would have like zombie training school with the guy that used to work for Cirque Du Soleil and kind of grow out of the floor and move around and get hungry and smell food and all this sort of stuff, and so ridiculous, and running up and down in the car park and there’s zombies.”
“And, yeah, again, it was more just a kind of feeling of being very tired and heavy and he hasn’t got to be anywhere,” he continues, “He’s literally like when you’re getting stopped, people are really wandering slowly on the street and it’s annoying, because they’ve got nowhere to be and you’re trying to get somewhere. He’s just pacing around, waiting for something to happen and he meets Julia.”
We also asked Hoult if the director of the film Jonathan Levine’s balancing of the funny and serious tone of Warm Bodies made him anxious about how the finished film would come out.
“You know what, no, I really wasn’t that nervous,” he says, “I trusted the fellow right from the first time I met him. I was like, this guy knows what he’s doing. I saw 50/50 and I was like, yeah, he knows how to balance. And then, from when we went on set as well, just from his direction to me, because I’d get carried away and I’d be like, ‘Oh, we can be funny here and do this.’”
“And he’d be like, ‘No, we need to right it here a little bit and keep it serious there and a bit more here and stuff, so he had it all figured out in his head from the start,” Nicholas adds, “And the script really didn’t change that much from what was originally on the page. His script was really a great adaptation. I was nervous to see if I could pull it off, but I wasn’t nervous about how he was constructing it and putting the film together.”
Nicholas talked about his reaction to finally seeing it.
“I was happy with it,” Hoult says of it, “I was. I sat down there and I enjoyed watching everyone else, plus I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack and it brought back a lot of good memories and i think it worked. You care about the characters and I think it’s an enjoyable film.”
Hoult talks about what it was like to work with veteran actor John Malkovich, who plays Julie’s father General Grigio in the film.
“Yeah, I was a big fan of his,” Nicholas says of him, “I remember, we studied Of Mice And Men in school and I watched the film loads, it’s easier than reading the book. And so, I was nervous, obviously, meeting him, but he’s a really nice guy and I only have a couple of scenes with him and then, he shoots me. But just to watch him is fascinating to see how he works and I’m really glad that he did it.”
We asked Nicholas if it was obvious to him that Warm Bodies takes homage from William Shakespeare’s legendary play Romeo & Juliet.
“I mean, we knew it was there and obviously, the balcony scene and stuff, they’re all a nod to it,” Hoult says, “I’m a little modest playing Romeo, so yeah, we were aware of that.”
Also asked was whether a “forbidden love” aspect is developed in the story.
“Yeah, that’s the whole principle of the film, isn’t it?” Nicholas says, “And after all, the kind of thing that love conquers all and it’s all-powerful and all that sort of stuff and two people.”
“At the beginning, she’s looking for someone who can help the humans get out,” he adds, “She’s run out of hope and she’s not happy with how the humans are dealing with the post-apocalyptic world and he’s trapped in an undead body, wanting to feel human again, and then, boom, there’s a spark and they meet and we’re off to the races then.”