Warm Bodies Director Jonathan Levine Talks Accessing The Zombie Mind
When you’re on the hunt for the right music are you more listening to sound or do lyrics enter the picture as well?
I don’t look at lyrics so much. Other people have to remind me to look at lyrics.
I love that you have “Hungry Heart” by Springsteen in there. It’s just perfect in there.
[laughs] It’s funny, “Hungry Heart” works because of the lyrics, but I always look at rhythm and feel. I don’t really pay much attention to the lyrics, unless the lyrics are just totally out there or totally undermine what we’re trying to do. For so long the first scene in the movie where they go hunting was "No Church in the Wild" by Jay-Z and Kanye, and it got really played out over the course of the time that we were editing and also it just became ridiculously expensive, but it was like the perfect song for that scene. So it drove me crazy to have to not use it. But lyrics…”Hungry Heart” works because it’s obviously so good, but I was telling these guys downstairs, I’ve basically followed Bruce around the country…
I’m a Jersey boy. I totally get it [laughs].
[laughs] So I was so happy to be able to use “Hungry Heart.” And it wasn’t as crazy expensive as Patience… definitely not as expensive as Sinatra. [Bob] Dylan is cheap! Everyone out there should know, if you’re making an independent movie or something like that, Bob Dylan is very friendly to filmmakers and you should think about Bob Dylan songs in your movies. That’s my public service announcement [laughs].
I do also have to ask about tone, especially because you made this movie coming off of 50/50, which is another film with a lot of wide spread tones and emotions, and this movie is very much the same way, blending comedy and romance and action and horror. When it came to balancing it, were you able to reflect back on your previous work for guidance?
Yeah, 50/50 helped a lot, and working with Seth and Evan worked a lot. They were incredibly influential in teaching me about that stuff. What I learned from them is that if you can get a joke that’s not going to mess up anything – it’s not going to take people out of it or whatever – you better get that joke. Because at the end of the day we’re here to entertain people, and especially when you’re screening a movie and there’s a time when people don’t laugh, you’re like, “I want to hear people laugh.” That’s one of the few things you can hear – maybe in a horror movie you can hear people scream – but we don’t want to scare people that much. And so hearing people laugh becomes addictive. And throughout every cut…we always had funny versions of every take and we just kept adding more and more and more of them, we kept adding more funny voice-over, and then at the end of the day I think we had 20% more comedy than we originally had. And it’s because we’re addicted to hearing the audience laugh, and I think in that way the audience wants to laugh. So as long as you’re not screwing up the rest of the movie, as long as you’re not winking and breaking character and doing all that stuff, then I think it’s cool to just go for laughs all the time. We did that for 50/50 and I really liked it. That’s a great lesson that I owe.
I actually talked with Rob Corddry earlier today and he was telling me that he asked you to cut the “Bitches, man” line, but that’s one of the funniest lines in the movie!
That was a very controversial line. I don’t know that Corddry has seen it with an audience because he’ll definitely backtrack on that statement.
I told him that I saw it last night and that the audience roared.
It kills, man! But it’s funny. My editor was like… it wasn’t in the original cut, and my editor was like, “I have this take where Corddry says, ‘Bitches, man’” and I was like, “Oh yeah! I remember that! Let’s try it!” And it was the biggest laugh in the movie. That was one of those things where that trumps everything. If you get a laugh that big I don’t care what it is. Just put it in the movie! So I think when I first sit down and watch it with Rob in a room full of people he’ll understand why it’s in there [laughs].
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