When we ran into director Jonathan Levine at the after-party for the New York premiere of his new film, Warm Bodies, he was concerned. "Were you okay?," he asked.
Levine was remembering that before the screening, we'd confessed to him a slight cannibalism phobia that had mostly kept us out of zombie movies up to that point. Warm Bodies, though, isn't a typical zombie movie: it melds the genre with comedy and young-adult romance to often cute and occasionally brilliant effect. (And thankfully, although the action sequences are exciting, the gore is mostly just suggested rather than explicitly depicted.) We were fine, we assured him, and had in fact loved his movie.
Warm Bodies stars Nicholas Hoult as R., an unusually sensitive post-apocalyptic zombie who develops a crush on the uninfected Julie (Teresa Palmer), which slowly but surely starts to make him feel something like human again.
"It is, obviously, a little lighter than most zombie movies," Levine said. "I'm a kind of cynical person and I'm a sarcastic person, and I love the central message of this movie, which is their relationship, their love kind of spreads and infects everyone. But we're making it irreverent; it's a kind of ironic movie, and we wanted to also make concessions to the people who think that's super cheesy."
The key to making that happen, Levine explained, was with a healthy dose of humor (and a killer soundtrack, featuring The Troggs, The Black Keys, M83, Bon Iver, and The National, among others, didn't hurt either). Unsurprisingly, some of the movie's funniest moments come courtesy of Rob Corddry, who plays R.'s best zombie pal, M. "The great thing about him on set is that—it's kind of the same thing with Seth Rogen—after you get what you need, you can be like, 'All right, Rob, go do your funny thing,' and some of that stuff was some of the best lines in the movie," Levine, who directed Rogen in 50/50, explained.
He's right, although "lines" might be a slightly generous word to use—much of R.'s and M.'s interaction, at least in the first half of the movie, is confined to grunts and the occasional odd English word that sneaks its way in. "He made me break a lot. I'd be looking at him and I'd try so hard not to, and he got me pretty much every scene," Hoult said.
Did he and Corddry understand the substance of those conversations? Hoult smiled. "It's kind of how guys communicate anyway, so..."
With the temperature on the Lower East Side in the teens, the audience was all the more grateful for Robert Mondavi's hot mulled wine after the screening at the Penthouse at Hotel on Rivington. After a cup or two, like R., we started to get our body heat back.