Australian actress Teresa Palmer‘s making her mark in the zombie genre. Friday, she’ll appear in Jonathan Levine‘s Warm Bodies. It’s an unconventional love story about a girl and a lifeless boy (Nicholas Hoult). It sounds like a crime against nature, but somehow they make it work. Palmer spoke to ScreenCrave about perfecting zombie-human chemistry, and appeasing horror fans.
Were you a fan of zombie movies? Have you seen The Walking Dead?
Teresa Palmer: I haven’t seen The Walking Dead, but I did watch 28 Days Later, which I love so much. Danny Boyle is amazing. And I loved Zombieland because that’s fun. It doesn’t really take itself too seriously. It pokes fun at the zombie genre. But yeah, definitely, [I've] always been a fan of the zombie films. It was really cool reading this script and knowing that I got to be a part of one myself.
What was your first impression of the script? Did you read the book?
Teresa Palmer: I didn’t. I actually made a point of not reading the book until after I did the movie. I didn’t want to be swayed in anyway by Julie in the film vs. Julie in the book. I just thought it was so unique. I’d never read anything quite like it before. There was romance, which worked. I heard the premise of the script before I read it and I wasn’t too sure about it. Then I read the film and it really was so beautiful and pognaint. There were so many amazing messages in the film too, about society and how love breathes life back into people. That’s really what I could connect to. I just knew at that time that I wanted to do the movie. I fought really hard to get the movie. And I got it [laughs].
How was it working with your leading man Nicholas Hoult?
Teresa Palmer: He’s amazing. He’s so sweet and funny and humble. He’s obviously an incredibly talented guy. I was initially worried about how we would have chemistry because he can’t express himself verbally in the movie. It’s just groans and grunts. My character is doing all the talking. But he really gave me so much in terms of what he was able to emote through his eyes. He’s such a nuainced actor. All his little choices that he made with body language and just the way his facial expressions would change depending on what I was talking to him about, it was really remarkable. I didn’t have any worries or any challenges finding that chemistry. It was just naturally there. We kept building upon it as the production went along.
How was the tone on set? We’d love to see the gag real.
Teresa Palmer: It was so fun! I think when you have a director who has an upbeat energy he’s really positive and excited about the work their doing, it really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Jonathan Levine was amazing at creating an environment where everybody wanted to be at work. We wanted to make the best film possible. Because we felt so connected to the material, I think everyone worked harder. We all had a blast. We had so much fun. Someone asked us [the cast] what the challenges were and none of us could really think of any. It just really was so fun.
How was it shooting scenes with the Bonies [large, skeletal zombies]? They definitely represent the darker part of the film.
Teresa Palmer: We almost shot in order, which is great. As an actor that’s so refreshing and liberating to be able to shoot in the order of the script. Towards the end of the production, we did all the fight sequences with the Bonies. We would have stunt guys dressed up, head to toe in green outfits running at us. It was actually sort of petrifying and exhausting. We had to do a lot of physical training and learn to do stunts. I love doing that sort of stuff. I actually had to do a bunch of that for I Am Number 4 a couple years ago and I just added upon what I had learned on that movie. It was great. It’s hard when you’re freezing cold and you have to be sprinting down concrete getting chased by a camera, and then all these Bonies and stunt guys. But it’s part of the fun.
Where did you guys shoot?
Teresa Palmer: In Montreal. It was [all of] September, October and November in 2011. So it was cold. It was definitely cold. And I’m Australian so I’m not so used to that type of weather but it was fine. They look after you so well on those sets. We had heating tents. We always had blankets on.
What would you say to die-hard fans who think a zombie love story is sacrilege?
Teresa Palmer: I’m really hoping the zombie lovers are gonna be open-minded. I think they have to be on this one. There’s definitely a quirky twist on the zombie genre… We still have the typical zombies. We have the fight sequences, we have the gore, we have the eating of the brains. And then for the romantics of the world we have the romance. For the action lovers we have a ton of action too. And scary monsters in the Bonies. I just think in the best way this movie is a mixed bag. It’s lots of different things. I think if you go to the cinema you’re not gonna really know what to expect. You’ll come out feeling happy and satisfied in some way because we really do appeal to the mass audience.
Warm Bodies opens in theaters February 1.