“Warm Bodies” is a new kind of zombie movie — the hero actually is a zombie. And he’s not just any hero. He’s a romantic lead who falls in love with a human girl.
Writer-director Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) and actors Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton recently visited The City to chat about the movie, opening today, which is based on a young-adult novel by Isaac Marion.
For Levine, zombie movies are about collective vs. individual consciousness.
“In the traditional ones, the people want to be individuals, and in this one, it’s the zombie who wants to be an individual,” he says.
Franco (“21 Jump Street”), from Palo Alto, and Tipton (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”), who was raised in Sacramento, also are writers. Franco makes shorts for the website Funny or Die and Tipton is working on a zombie screenplay. She keeps a journal she fills with stories, sketches and thoughts captured in hand-drawn bubbles.
The one thing about “Warm Bodies” Tipton regrets is that her character originally was supposed to be a “Love Boat” fanatic, but jokes and references to it were cut.
“That’s how I got into it,” Tipton says. “It was such a quirky random thing. Do you know that I watched ‘The Love Boat’ every night before filming? I got obsessed with it. It’s so good! Every night is different! They sing!”
Levine, Franco and Tipton were fascinated by working with the legendary John Malkovich in the film.
“You’re intimidated based on what you expect him to be like,” Franco says. “But he’s a goofy, lighthearted guy.
He’s even more amazing than you thought. He’s an opera singer, and he designs clothing. We’d catch him rapping under his breath to Dr. Dre.”
Eventually they get to the big question: fast zombies or slow zombies?
“There are moments when they get a little faster, but we did choose slow, because I thought we were working in a kind of dialectic with the [George] Romero world,” Levine says. “We wanted our zombies to be unique. We didn’t want to do gaggy half-arm, or half-face, but also wanted it to feel kind of classic.”
Then he laughs, and adds, “You do realize that whatever anyone wants to do in the zombie genre, Romero has done."