Warm Bodies Director Jonathan Levine Talks Accessing The Zombie Mind

By Eric Eisenberg 2013-02-01 00:00:49discussion comments
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And just from a logic point of view the voice-over makes sense because youíre dealing with a character who doesnít have the ability to string more than three words together. If you canít connect to that lead character then the audience is just going to be lost.

To me his internal monologue was so important because one of the things that I was really attracted to with the movie was that this guyÖthat a young person could watch Nickís character and be like, ďOh, that reminds me of myself the first time I was nervous around a girl.Ē And the only way to get that is to know whatís going on in his head. And I didnít want to do Look Whoís Talking [laughs]. Sometimes it got a little into Look Whoís Talking, sometimes it got a little too Mystery Science Theater, so we had to be careful.

You mention the spirit of the book, and Iíll admit that I havenít read it personally, but Iíve heard that, for example, R, Nickís character, actually wears a suit in the novel. And he listens to more kind of classic standardsÖ

Heís kind of like a 50s guy, and he drives an old Mercedes, he wears a suitÖheís like a Sinatra guy.

Where along the line did you decide to make those changes and why?

That was a hard decision. That was a decision I knew I might get a little flak for too. But to me, again, it was all about a young person today watching this movie and being like, ďOh my god, I could be turned into a zombie tomorrow and thatís going to be me.Ē I wanted to keep him an everyman for young people and I thought that would just resonate more. Itís a different decision than whatís written in the book, but I felt it was important. To me, as much as I can make that metaphor ring true, Iím going to keep trying to push for that metaphor.

As far as the music goes, itís interesting. To me there was always this kind of John Hughes-ian kind of thing about this movie and the music was always functioning as a relic of a nostalgic time that happened before the world ended. And I wanted to be able to use as many colors of that emotional palette as possible, and not just use Frank Sinatra Ė which, by the way, would have been way too expensive [laughs]. Iím so proud of the soundtrack that we put together.

Well, all of your movies Iíve found have put a strong emphasis on music.

Itís really important. When I read the book I was like, ďIíll get to do this, this and thisĒ and we hired this great music supervisor named Alexandra Patsavas, and the movie has everything from Bruce to Bon Iver. The soundtrack is super cool. I wish I could sell the soundtrack to people as a physical thing. I just remember buying soundtracks to movies, it was so much fun.

Iíve actually been listening to the Django Unchained soundtrack pretty much non-stop since I picked it up.

Dude, whatís the song on the Django Unchained soundtrack where theyíreÖ I think itís America? When theyíre riding through the snow, or is it Lee Hazlewood?

Oh, are you talking about the Jim Croce song?

Is it Croce? I love Jim Croce and I turned to my girlfriend and I was like, ďThis is Jim Croce,Ē and she was like, ďNo, itís America,Ē so now Iím going to fuckiníÖ[laughs] God, that soundtrack is so good.

But when youíre looking for the right song for a scene what is the process for you?

Well, itís a couple things. One, we have this amazing music supervisor who just sends us ideas and we try them. Two, the editor tries a bunch of stuff. And three, I literally Ė and this is one of the things thatís most fun for me Ė I get my iTunes, I put up a Quicktime of the scene, I go home for the weekend, I have the editor give me a scene in Quicktime without the music in it, and I just go through my iTunes. And I have like 100 gigs. Itís a lot of music. And I donít play every single song, but I just sit there with a glass of wine and just chill. And itís incredibly relaxing and fun. Honestly, thatís one of the things that attracted me to music in the first place, the combination of music and image. And so thatís basically the process. Every song on the soundtrack came from a different place. Some came from me, some came from Alex, some came from Nancy [Richardson], the editor, and it just combined into this really nice kind of diverse, eclectic mix.
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