Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 novel of the same name, “Pride + Prejudice + Zombies” is a comedy horror film following the same characters that appear in Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice.” It is set to premiere on Friday, Feb. 5. As the movie name suggests, however, zombies are used to put a fresh twist on the story. On Friday, Jan. 22, I had the chance to chat with some of the film’s stars: Matt Smith (Mr. Collins), Lily James (Elizabeth Bennet), Douglas Booth (Mr. Bingley), and Bella Heathcote (Jane Bennet). During the conference call with several student journalists, they discussed what it was like to participate in the movie.
How surprised were you when you were handed the script title “Pride + Prejudice + Zombies?” It’s definitely not your everyday movie title.
Smith: I was very surprised, actually. It’s quite interesting if you add zombies to any story. Somehow, it makes mistakes more dynamic. I picked up the script and read it and thought it was an interesting spin on a classic tale.
Heathcote: I thought, “How could this possibly work?” and then I read it and I loved it.
James: I thought it sounded terrible, and then I read it and thought it was wonderful. It’s bizarre how it works, and it’s rare that you get a script that you love that much.
What were some of the lines and moments that were not in the script that were improvised?
Smith: There were a few moments, actually. I went back to the original book as a source of material to try and make things up. There was quite a lot in there, and Burr [Steers], the director, was really good. He allowed a platform and environment where you could throw things out there that weren’t in the script, so it was an enjoyable experience for me.
As the cast of the film, what are you hoping audiences will take away from such a modern twist on a very classic story?
James: What’s cool is that you get both. You get Jane Austen, and you get “Pride and Prejudice,” and that story, especially the love story, Liz and Darcy and Jane and Bingley, that all really remains the heart of the story. It’s a romance with drama, but every time you may be getting a bit bored, [there is] a big zombie attack, so it really just makes it very exciting and quite scary and funny. Somehow, it just all holds together.
Heathcote: It’s awesome that it’s a bit less nutritional value and a bit more candy on top.
Did any of you have trepidations prior to the beginning of the shoot?
James: To make this film happen, I’ve learned, is such a long journey. It didn’t worry me that the script had been around for so long. In fact, it really drew me into the project.
Is there anything you put in to subvert these characters?
James: I didn’t purposefully try and subvert [Elizabeth] because so much is done anyway in the story and the plot and the circumstance, but because of that, I think my character is much angrier, much fiercer. She manifests what she feels more. She can’t hide it as well as she does in the original.
Smith: Because there are zombies in the film… the characters that exist in [this universe] can therefore be slightly heightened. I think it’s interesting as well… you can reinvent characters that have been played before. You’ve got to bring something new to the table.
James: We could be way more free, like we had knives hidden in our knickers! We could do anything we wanted.
How has this film compared to other projects?
Smith: What was different was we really get on. We’re really good friends. We just enjoy[ed] this job, really. This is particularly a really fun cast.
Booth: I second that!
James: We had a riot, especially because we got to fight. We became like a girl band!
Heathcote: It’s pretty rare that I get to kick ass. I usually get cast as the girl-next-door or something. It’s nice to have a physical role and actually get to beat the crap out of someone and get to rescue the boys for once.
James: Yeah, it was fun to scream and scratch and bite and kick and be strong in a different way.
Is Jane more aggressive in the film, or does she have her own way of going about it?
Heathcote: She’s just as shy. She has to be in this version as well. The relationships are the same as they are in the original in the sense that you want [Jane and Mr. Bingley] to be together, and everyone else can see they should be together, but Jane has to shy because Bingley has to be convinced that maybe she doesn’t love him.
Booth: I think Jane is similar, but even though she’s reserved in her fighting style, like me, kind of reflects her character.
If the actors’ insights have told me anything, it is that “Pride + Prejudice + Zombies” sounds like it will be an intriguing movie, and I can’t wait to see how it will turn out on the big screen.
Casey Tobias is a second-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies. She can be reached at CT822683@wcupa.edu. Her Twitter is @Casey__Tobias.