Warm Bodies - Nicholas Hoult
Warm Bodies - R (Nicholas Hoult) ©2011 Summit Entertainment, photo by Jonathan Wenk

Pictured above: Warm Bodies – R (Nicholas Hoult) ©2011 Summit Entertainment, photo by Jonathan Wenk

This must be a first – a zombie-rom-com! Based on the popular novel by Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies stars Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man, X-Men: First Class) as R, a soulful zombie who falls in love with the lovely and living, Julie (Teresa Palmer). After eating her boyfriends brains, and assimilating his memories, R saves Julie’s life from his ravenous companions, hiding her in an abandoned 747, where she realizes there is more to him than his vacant stare.

I spoke with Nicholas about his new venture into zombie films at the press day for the movie.

Were you a fan of zombie movies?

Warm Bodies - Nicholas Hoult) and Rob Corddry
R (Nicholas Hoult) and M (Rob Corddry) ©2011 Summit Entertainment

I didn’t watch a lot of horror films growing up. I remember once when I was pretty young I found The Exorcist in [my parents’] video drawer. I thought, ‘What’s all the fuss about with this?’

So I put it in, and it obviously terrified me. I would get too scared, so I’d flip back to watching kids shows and I would calm myself down for a little bit and then I’d go back for a bit more exorcism.

I watch a lot of horror films in the build up to this, as many zombie films as possible, from the ’80 classics right up to Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and 28 Days Later, just for ideas and to get a sense of what I was getting into.

When you can’t use your voice as an actor, do you compensate by using your eyes more?

Warm Bodies - Nicholas Hoult
Warm Bodies – R (Nicholas Hoult) ©2011 Summit Entertainment, photo by Jonathan Wenk

R couldn’t talk much or express much, but that was something that I liked the idea of doing. I thought, ‘This character is going to be a tricky one to pull off.’ The eyes are important, and I tried to do some stuff with those.

So much of how he’s defined was by his walk, how many incarnations did you go through before you got it perfected?

Not that many, to be honest with you. I’m quite a slow walker anyway, and I slouch. So I went a bit further with that. It was more of a feeling of being very tired and heavy. He hasn’t got to be anywhere.

It’s literally like when you get stuck behind people who 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.

How did you ready yourself every day to have the zombie make up put on?

Warm Bodies - Director Jonathan Levine with Teresa Palmer, Nicholas Hoult and John Malkovich
Director Jonathan Levine with stars Teresa Palmer, Nicholas Hoult and John Malkovich on the set ©2011 Summit Entertainment

It’s actually useful, and luckily the makeup artists were really nice. I’d done a lot of make up before when I played the Beast (X-Men: First Class. That was four hours, so it’s one of those things where you sit there and you chat and you zone out.

It’s a nice transformation, you see this character come to life. Then you put the grimy clothes on and you walk onto some great sets we had and you see a load of other zombies, and you’re like, ‘This is making my job a lot easier.’

How hard was it to figure out how human to make R?

Warm Bodies - Nicholas Hoult
R (Nicholas Hoult) ©2011 Summit Entertainment, photo by Jan Thijs

It was tricky, because there’s the fine line between he’s undead, he eats brains, but there’s another level of copse-dom called the Boneys, they’re the next level of decay, and they’re pure evil.

I guess with this [the zombies’] movement fell into shape with the grunting and groaning and that form of talking, and eventually you just go onto the set and go for it and hope for the best.

I believed it, when I was doing the scenes I thought, ‘I’m dead and I like this girl, and I want to make her see that I can be human. I want to feel a connection.’

Apparently they are writing a sequel to this, would you like to play the role again?

There’s no contract for a sequel. It was made as a standalone film. But I really like Isaac’s writing, I’d be intrigued to see what happens with the character.

As R is unable to have sex, what is he after in this relationship? Click here to listen to Nicholas’ reply.

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.