'Warm Bodies' Stars Talk Zombie Love, Eating Brains, and John Malkovich's Rap Skills

From left: Jonathan Levine, Analeigh Tipton, and Dave Franco. (Photos by: Getty Images)
In Warm Bodies, the new film from director Jonathan Levine, a zombie falls for a human and the world may not end after all thanks to the power of love. It's a hopeful message wrapped in a film that crosses genre lines. At once a romance, a horror, and a satire, Warm Bodies is an ambitious project for a filmmaker who's just beginning to come into his own.

Levine's film sports a young, talented cast led by Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco, and Analeigh Tipton. Their chemistry is apparent in the movie and it's clear the Warm Bodies set was a cool place to be. We got a taste of that chemistry when we sat down with Levine, Tipton, and Franco to discuss how their zombie movie came to be, working with the estimable John Malkovich (who can rap), and what exactly those edible brains were made of.

Zimbio: Based on your resume, I wouldn't have expected you to do a post-apocalyptic movie. Can you tell me what attracted you to the project?

Jonathan Levine: Based on my resume, yeah, but I really liked the scale of movie I was working on and really liked the opportunity to tell stories on that scale. But, then I was like, "Well, I want to work on a bigger palette." And when you do, you have several options. You can do a big movie that probably will be bad. Like, I couldn't get a big movie that would probably be good where I was, career-wise.

So, basically, I could get a really big movie that, if I told you what it was, you'd be like, "That sounds like a horrible idea. You'll never work again. Maybe you'll make money for that specific movie, but you'll never work again." So then, I see a book like this. It's a bigger movie. It allows me to explore things I want to explore. It has strong characters, great themes, and it has a bit more scope. It allows me to do some things stylistically and film-ically that i've not been able to do for a while, or ever. So that's why I was attracted to it.

Dave Franco: Have people asked you if there's a crossover between any of your movies?

JL: I guess when we were talking the other day, people were saying something about the guy in 50/50 being sick and the zombie being sick and I was like, "I don't want to compare... (laughs) one's a serious, real thing, and the other is a zombie."

Analeigh Tipton: Your style definitely comes through strongly I think throughout. You have like, I don't want to sound flowery, a poetic unfolding of it, the back and forth...

JL: Wow, that's pretty nice (laughs). I think there are consistencies stylistically, and my first movie was a similar thing, genre wise. I took a genre and then used it to explore something different.

: I guess, most of your main characters are pretty young.

JL: Yeah, that's true. That's because I don't identify with anyone over 30.

DF: (nods) Sure.

JL: Even though I'm, myself, over 30 (laughs). But yeah I think that's the opportunity to visit a time you're young and you're facing a post-apocalyptic world I think is really interesting too.

Analeigh, what attracted you to Warm Bodies?

: I'm still always looking for work.

JL: So it was a job (laughs).

AT: (Laughs). No, I had a meeting with one of the producers and after that meeting they asked if I could read for the part of Nora and I had not yet done a female role that was so brave and a little bit bold and up front with things.

Also knowing that the cast and Jonathan being attached... It's a zombie film in general. I'm still at that point where I could really easily be shoved into bad movies and make some money with that, but I don't want to be there, necessarily, and I trusted these people that they would make a really good film with what they had.

How about the humor? You seem to be attracted to comedic roles, at least a little bit.

Yes, I think that they're interesting. I don't mean to search them out. I think that sometimes I say things that don't always come out right and then people kind of laugh (Jon and Dave laugh). So I'm lucky in that people think that that works. I'll stick with that for a while and I'm not going to make any more alcoholic jokes so... (laughs).

Dave, how about you?

DF: I mainly wanted to work with this guy (points to JL). I was a huge fan of The Wackness and of course I love 50/50 too but I'd seen The Wackness a few times before this came about and at this point I just want to work with really good filmmakers regardless of how big or small the role is.

With this particular role I'm not onscreen a ton, but up to this point I've done primarily comedies and I get to be a little more serious in this. And although my last few roles I've kinda been the asshole and there's elements of that in this character, like kind of the justifiable asshole in this one, but also you get to see a softer side too.

JL: He's sweet!

DF: He's vulnerable and sweet and in love with this girl and you see why he becomes hardened and hell-bent on ending this zombie apocalypse. So yeah the role was a little bit different but, I don't know, the main thing was wanting to be part of an original movie that's trying to do something different.

Warm Bodies has bits of horror, comedy, and romance, but also satire, and I wondered how important it was for you to bring the satire out?

JL: Yeah that's a really good question because I think that is incredibly important and that was the core of Isaac's book. (There) was this central metaphor of what it means to be alive and not only that, we take it to the point where those are some of my favorite parts of the movie where Nick's walking through the airport and you see all the people on their cell phones and you start to question whether people are really living their lives in the moment on a day to day basis to the fullest.

And then there's other elements of satire like when he's reading the US Weekly and it's just little things where you think, "God, maybe the apocalypse isn't such a bad idea. We were stupid!" Some of these relics of today in a greater context seem so trivial and I thought that was really interesting too.

Analeigh, could you tell us what your favorite part was?

AT: I enjoyed the parts where I got to sit with Teresa and put makeup on Nick. I also liked the John Malkovich gun thing just because I think in 10 years whether or not I'm in this industry I can look back just to say I held a gun to John Malkovich and maybe not explain it further.

Dave, what was your favorite part?

DF: I guess to go off that, it was pretty awesome just to be around Malkovich. I mean, at first, when you're in a room with him it's kind of intimidating. He's John Malkovich and you kind of have these ideas about him based on characters that he's played, but then when you're in front of him, he's a goofy guy. He'll spontaneously like, I remember him rapping one day, just throwing out Dr. Dre lines. He's just this fascinating guy more so than you'd think. Like, I didn't know he was an opera singer. He has his own clothing line.
AT: (Laughs) He'd be designing ties!

DF: He's unbelievable, so yeah just being around guys like that is pretty incredible.

Check out the rest of our interview with Jonathan, Analeigh, and Dave below:

Analeigh Tipton skirt and top by Yoonmi Lee, blazer by Rachel Zoe, shoes by Dolce & Gabbana. (Photos by Zimbio)
Managing Editor, Zimbio — entertainment writer, critic, and reporter since 2011. Bay Area. Origin: Shark City.