Actor Dave Franco and director Jonathan Levine visited the Tempe campus Wednesday to talk about their roles in the upcoming film, “Warm Bodies,” a romantic comedy featuring the undead. In a room crowded with students, English professor Kevin Sandler encouraged questions from the audience for the two on the making of the movie. The event was hosted by the Film and Media Studies program of the department of English.
Q: You got this whole audience. Sell them on the picture. Why should they spend their hard earned money to go see it?
Levine: I think it has a little bit of everything: It has comedy, it has drama, it has romance, it has horror, and it is really fun. Hopefully, I tried to make it more sophisticated and intelligent than some of the other movies in the movie theaters right now.
Franco: You might think it’s another zombie movie coming out, and you’ve seen a ton of those, but when you throw someone like him (Levine) at the helm, he makes it grounded. This movie is unique in its tone. It’s a zombie movie, but it is really funny, too. He’s just coming from doing a movie like “50/50” where he combined this very serious subject matter with a guy who has cancer, and he made it funny somehow, where it could have been very offensive. He is the man for the job, and he killed it.
Q: Does it help to be distributed by Summit Entertainment? Do you (Levine) get a lot more freedom than working with major studios?
Levine: For me, Summit is a major studio. They’re pretty awesome. They found this material, they brought it to me, and they have been very supportive. I think they are doing a really nice job with the marketing of it. Having someone on board from the very beginning is very helpful, especially someone like Summit that got it.
Q: You (Franco) are creating interesting content through “Funny or Die,” going through the independent route. You are making interesting stuff that the “big boys” aren’t doing. Talk about that.
Franco: When you first start out as an actor, you want to work for the sake of getting the experience and meeting people. But, you are on a lot of jobs where the material is s–t . You try to rip these jokes off the page and it is just painful. What my buddies, these guys I grew up with, and me do, because everyone has a camera now, is we go out and film stuff and try to make something new. A lot of my stuff is not for everyone, but I think the people who do gravitate towards it like it, because it at least tries to be something new. So, if you haven’t seen it, they are all very classy. One is called “Go F–k Yourself,” and the other is called “You’re So Hot,” where me and Chris Mintz-Plasse tell each other how much we want to have sex with each other. So, very intelligent stuff. But, honestly, I can’t tell you how much it has helped me. Every interview I go in, people bring in the videos, and I am so happy to talk about them because I feel, as twisted as they are, an accurate representation of my sense of humor.
Q: Is there a bloodier, gorier cut of “Warm Bodies” that exists?
Levine: Yes, but I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to see it. My idea was I knew I wanted to make it PG-13. Because it’s a movie that’s intentionally made for broad audiences, it wasn’t meant to be incredibly intense and gory. But, I also didn’t want to cop-out on the violence. I think a lot of times, you can have fun with that kind of violence. So, we shot the most horrifying and disgusting stuff you’ll ever see, and we kept cutting it and cutting it. We had one cut that we submitted that was rated R, which was what I always wanted. I wanted the first cut to be rated R, so that I could dial it back 5 percent. … As I was cutting it, I watched “The Hunger Games,” and I saw them murdering children, and I was like, “Cool, you can get away with stuff.” So, we pushed it as far as we could.
Franco: I think the goriest scene is when they’re eating my brain because it’s like, “F–k Dave Franco.” It was like the grossest scene in the movie.
Levine: There is probably an NC-17 version of that scene, but I don’t think will happen.
Q: So, no director’s cut on Blu-ray?
Levine: I don’t know. I would be down. It would only be 30 seconds longer, but it would be really, really gross.
Q: I heard this movie is the next “Twilight.”
Franco: F–k “Twilight”!
Levine: I can’t follow that.
Franco: Go Sun Devils!
Levine: We’ve shown the movie to a lot of people that liked “Twilight,” and they liked it. I want as many people to go see it as possible, so I would never say, “F–k ‘Twilight.’” But, anyone who has seen it will know it’s not that. Just because it’s a supernatural romance doesn’t mean it all has to be like that. The reason I don’t like the comparison is because we all worked our asses off to make something unique, so if someone said it was like anything else, it would bother me.
Q: You (Franco) usually are casted as the “a—–e.” I was wondering if it was the same for “Warm Bodies”?
Franco: I guess there are elements of me being kind of an a—–e. But, he’s the justifiable a—–e. He is not the guy who is insecure and needs to latch out in anyway. He goes through some intense s–t, which hardens him and makes him more serious. I don’t know. I sometimes try to sit back and think why this keeps happening to me. I was saying this last night to the crowd, and one guy literally said I have the face of an a—–e. I try not to think about it. I am trying to stay away from these roles at this point, because I feel like I exhausted the d-bag, a—–e character.
Levine: Dave is a very nice person. That’s how much of a great actor he is.
Q: You (Levine) have a main character that doesn’t talk or emote or walk very fast. Was it a challenge to make it a compelling story?
Levine: The book was a compelling read, and the book had this amazing voice-over that I thought would work if I accurately translated it to film. It only occurred to me on the first day of shooting that, “Wow, no one is talking and everyone is walking very slow, this is going to be boring.” But the book was so unique, so I didn’t worry too much about it. The great thing about voice-over is that if you mess anything up while shooting, you can add voice-over and you can fix it. In fact, up to a month before we finished the movie, the voice-over was more serious. I wanted to make it funnier, but I was so involved with the book and the script that I couldn’t get out of it.
Q: Were you (Levine) able to cast your favorite actors?
Levine: I am so happy with the actors in this movie. I generally get to choose. If it’s a main role, the studio has a lot of input, because there is a lot of dollars and cents that go into it. If they are going to spend so much money, they have these equations where it’s like, “Dave Franco is worth this much money in Uruguay.” At the end of the day, I think when you are collaborating with people you like, even arguments don’t feel like arguments and you can always get to a good place when you are doing it with the right collaborative spirit. On this movie, I was looking at the names on the poster the other day and I was like, “I can’t believe I got all these amazing actors in one movie.” We got lucky with a lot of people.
“Warm Bodies” arrives in theaters on Feb. 1.
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