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 you’re dealing with a character who doesn’t have the ability to string more than three words together. If you can’t 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 guy…that a young person could watch Nick’s character and be like, “Oh, that reminds me of myself the first time I was nervous around a girl.” And the only way to get that is to know what’s going on in his head. And I didn’t want to do Look Who’s Talking [laughs]. Sometimes it got a little into Look Who’s Talking, sometimes it got a little too Mystery Science Theater, so we had to be careful.

You mention the spirit of the book, and I’ll admit that I haven’t read it personally, but I’ve heard that, for example, R, Nick’s character, actually wears a suit in the novel. And he listens to more kind of classic standards…

He’s kind of like a 50s guy, and he drives an old Mercedes, he wears a suit…he’s 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, “Oh my god, I could be turned into a zombie tomorrow and that’s going to be me.” I wanted to keep him an everyman for young people and I thought that would just resonate more. It’s a different decision than what’s written in the book, but I felt it was important. To me, as much as I can make that metaphor ring true, I’m going to keep trying to push for that metaphor.

As far as the music goes, it’s 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 – which, by the way, would have been way too expensive [laughs]. I’m so proud of the soundtrack that we put together.

Well, all of your movies I’ve found have put a strong emphasis on music.

It’s really important. When I read the book I was like, “I’ll get to do this, this and this” 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.

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

Dude, what’s the song on the Django Unchained soundtrack where they’re… I think it’s America? When they’re 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, “This is Jim Croce,” and she was like, “No, it’s America,” so now I’m going to fuckin’…[laughs] God, that soundtrack is so good.

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

Well, it’s 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 – and this is one of the things that’s most fun for me – 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. It’s a lot of music. And I don’t play every single song, but I just sit there with a glass of wine and just chill. And it’s incredibly relaxing and fun. Honestly, that’s one of the things that attracted me to music in the first place, the combination of music and image. And so that’s 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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