Producer Bruna Papandrea Talks Working with Director Jonathan Levine, Aiming for a PG-13 Rating, Zombie Sex, and More on the Set of WARM BODIES

     January 4, 2013


In October 2011, I was lucky enough to visit the set of Jonathan Levine‘s Warm Bodies.  The film follows R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who falls in love with the non-zombie Julie (Teresa Palmer) after eating her boyfriend’s brains.  Judging by the trailers, it looks like Levine has crafted a sweet, funny rom-zom-com.

In addition to getting zombified on the set, I got the chance to interview producer Bruna Papandrea.  We talked about how she got involved with the project, working with Jonathan Levine, trying to appeal to fans of the zombie genre, getting inside R’s head, how zombies get it on, and more.  Hit the jump to check out the interview.  Warm Bodies opens February 1st.

How did you get involved with this project?

BRUNA PAPANDREA: I work with Anthony Migello, there’s a gal working for them who has a business where she takes unpublished novelists and screenwriters and becomes the de facto editor and she was editing his manuscript. She’s a brilliant editor and she had just finished editing it and sent it to me.

Twilight kind of reinvented the mythology of what vampires are supposed to be, and it seems like everybody is going through the process with every type of supernatural thing, so what was it about zombies specifically? It seems like we’ve seen every sort of incarnation.

When she first pitched it to me as a zombie movie, I had only ever made character-driven specialty movies. So, when she pitched it to me, I said “it’s not going to be my thing.” But the book is such an amazing character piece, it’s such a different bend on the genre. For the most part, I was just captivated by R as a character and the whole story.

What about R captivated you?

PAPANDREA: I thought it was so interesting to come at that genre from a zombie’s point of view, to get inside his head, just hearing someone struggling to speak and coming back to life.

warm-bodies-movieHistorically, the zombie genre has been R-Rated, featuring dead rotting people eating living people. You guys are aiming for a PG-13. Do you think this is the kind of movie that will still satisfy the hardcore fan?

PAPANDREA: I don’t think it’ll satisfy every hardcore zombie fan, but I think it will be very emotionally satisfying. When I describe this film, there’s always a little bit of I Am Legend in there, which also pulled off that rating quite well and was a very suspenseful movie. I think we’ll tread that line as well.. I hope so. I think there will be something new for those hardcore fans.

Twilight reinventing the vampire stuff sort of makes sense because there has always been a romantic element to vampires. Zombies tend to be the least erotic and emotional of all monsters. Is that something people are ready for?

PAPANDREA: I think so. I believe that with most narratives, if you can capture the audience’s emotion right from the beginning, then you’ll invest yourself in the character. Because it’s actually R’s voice in the book and screenplay, you get inside his head very early. I think that’ll be the catalyst.

More to the point- do zombies bone in this movie?

PAPANDREA: (Laughs) There is some uh..some uh…there’s romance. I wouldn’t consider it necrophilia. He’s coming back to life, guys!

warm-bodies-nicholas-hoult-rob-corddry-teresa-palmerThis is Jonathan’s biggest film. How did you end up working with him?

PAPANDREA: We sold the book to Summit and a few filmmakers, and got a lot of interest. Filmmakers want to make genre movies but they really want something more sophisticated and character-driven. We had a lot of interest, particularly from big music video directors, as the book is very visual. I had seen The Wackness, as had Summit and was so impressed with it, it had so much craft in it. I love the way Jonathan grounds his humor, which is a super important element. The fact that he’s a brilliant writer is a huge plus, so obviously when he came in and pitched his take, it was kind of a no-brainer.

For more from my set visit, click on the links below:


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