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ZOMBIES AND ZEN: AN INTERVIEW WITH TERESA PALMER
ON 'WARM BODIES'

Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
January 5, 2013

Based on the debut novel from writer Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies combines elements of horror, romance, action, and comedy with a dash of social commentary to bring a new twist to the mythology of the undead.

When atypical, internally conflicted zombie R (Nicholas Hoult) stumbles upon human survivor Julie (Teresa Palmer), he is immediately drawn to her--perhaps because she radiates an irresistible aura of beauty, or perhaps because he has absorbed her boyfriend's memories by devouring his delicious brains. Either way, he is compelled to protect her from his fellow undead, and what begins as an escape from the ravenous hordes turns into the spark of a genuine relationship. As the two face threats from humans and zombies alike, their unlikely and forbidden connection awakens something in R, and it soon becomes apparent that his growing attraction to Julie may be the key to regaining his very humanity.

Warm Bodies is directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), who also adapted the screenplay from Marion's book. The supporting cast features Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton, Dave Franco, John Malkovich, and a slew of zombie extras who shambled around an abandoned airport in Montreal for the making of the movie.

Given that Teresa Palmer has always demonstrated a compelling propensity to advocate both kickass empowerment and compassionate positivity, it's only fitting that this interview covers a funky mix of zombie mayhem and spiritual introspection. In this Q&A, Teresa talks about her experience of working on Warm Bodies (which itself concocts an unexpected blend of carnage and empathy) and previews a myriad assortment of her other projects, including Track Town and a currently untitled film that will see her in front of and behind the camera; her footage that explores themes of happiness through the eyes of children from Kenya; and her online destination for all things related to health and wellness, Your Zen Life.

We last spoke to Teresa nearly two years ago for the sci-fi thriller I Am Number Four, in which she played extraterrestrial badass Number Six. As always, she brings a notably vibrant energy to the table, and with our opening segue into this interview, it feels like we've continued our conversation without missing a beat...




MEDIA: If we really were in a post-apocalyptic world, I could totally picture you dressed up like Number Six...

TERESA: BAM!

...with a katana and shotgun...

My shotgun!

...and your dogs following you around I Am Legend style.

[laughs] Yes, that's me!

Do you think you could adjust to that type of living, or would you go stir crazy?

I think I would be pretty good in that kind of world, I have to say. Because of all the training on I Am Number Four, I know martial arts, [and] I know how to shoot a shotgun because of Warm Bodies. I think I'd fare pretty good in a zombie apocalypse. [laughs]

What role do you think you would take on in a survival group: the tech person, the weapons person, or something completely different?

Definitely not tech person! [laughs] Weapons, yeah. I'm a good gun shooter! I went down to the gun range, actually, down in LA, and I was not bad. I love it. I feel so powerful with a gun! [laughs] I mean, if it's in a safe environment, then it's good. But I definitely would not be the technical person. Ummm...I could cook? I could cook for everyone! I mean, people need food in the apocalypse, right? So I could be the chef.

Analeigh said the same thing in an earlier interview, so you might have to fight her for the job...

Yeah, we're going to have to fight over that! I think she's a little better at cooking than I am. [laughs]

What did you think of Warm Bodies' premise that zombies can regain their humanity through love?

Well, I think what is at the core of this story is really this beautiful notion that love heals--love breathes life back into people. And that's something I really believe in and I connect to. And I read that in the script--I mean, I just picked up on that instantly. And I just think it's such a pure, beautiful message. And then, of course, that's kind of hidden in this zombie world, but it is a great metaphor for life, I think. And that's another reason I wanted to do it...Love is, like, the most powerful thing--it can transform you, it can just really heal so many people. And I really think that's the key, is for us all to be more loving to each other. I mean, we enter into this world as little infants, and all we need is love. And you see babies thrive from love. And it's just so true. I mean, ill babies can be healed just from touch and affection and love and positivity. And I really believe that humans can be healed in that way, too.



This film draws many parallels with Romeo and Juliet. What similarities did you see between Juliet and your character, Julie?

[laughs] We definitely pay homage to Romeo and Juliet--it's kind of the quirky version of the classic love story. But I do think that Juliet and Julie have a lot in common--I mean, they're both brave and spirited, and they're star-crossed lovers. And I loved the balcony scene, actually, in Warm Bodies. It was very Romeo and Juliet, and it's sweet. It's a really, really sweet thing to pay homage to, I think.

After playing a warrior with Number Six, it's nice that you've been able to follow up with another strong character...

Women are strong, women are warriors...We've been birthing babies for thousands of years--I mean, you can't get more of a warrior than that! [laughs] But she's a strong, feisty woman, and she can shoot a gun and take care of herself. And I love that films these days are embracing these strong women. It's really important. It's reality.

Despite not being a damsel in distress, do you think you have a good scream in you?

I have a good scream. I'm not going to do it, it's probably going to deafen everyone. But I have a good scream. [laughs]

Usually, actresses have to spend more time in the make-up chair than actors. How did you feel about the tables being turned with Nicholas and everything he had to go through in creating R's look?

It was so refreshing! You see on the call sheet when you're getting picked up. And the guys always get picked up at least, like, an hour and a half after the girls. On this one, it was always like, "Nicholas Hoult - 4:15 a.m. Teresa Palmer - 7:30." Woo! [laughs] So it was really nice. It was a good change.

Given how much of it you eat in the movie, do you have a different relationship with fruit cocktail now?

Yes, I do! No more fruit cocktail for me. The syrupy sugar stuff? No thanks! [laughs]

How was your experience of working with John Malkovich?

At first, when I heard I was working with him, I was intimidated. I thought, "I'm not ready to work with someone of this caliber! He's incredible!" And then I met him. He walked into the trailer, and he had a bright colored shirt on, and he had umbrellas all over the shirt. And I was like, "Oh, we're going to get on just fine!" [laughs] And he was just wonderful. We would actually show each other YouTube videos, and we were just laughing our heads off. It really was a father/daughter bond. He'd show me all these really funny videos, and then he'd be filming, and right before they'd call action, he's acting out and impersonating the videos to me to make me laugh. And it was just amazing that John Malkovich was doing this! [laughs] And he filmed a little video of himself saying goodbye on the last day, and he went through and did all the impersonations of the videos that we were watching together. And it's just classic. He's just a really good guy like that.



And your experience of working with Nicholas?

Oh, fantastic. He's such a beautiful man, in every way. He's an incredibly gifted actor, and he had a very challenging role in this movie because he couldn't express himself verbally. So he really had to show his emotions through his eyes and his body language, and a couple of groans and grunts here and there. But he gave me so much, and I think because he's just so talented, this man is going to have a huge career. And he's also a beautiful, humble person, and that's just going to see him [go] far. And I'm really proud of what he did in the movie. I think he's a true movie star!

Was he all method about playing R?

No. [laughs] I've come across method actors before. I think it's really interesting. If it's what works for you, then more power to you. I am not method. I am definitely not. I mean, sometimes, if I have to be in a really, really dark place, I'll step off to the side and get in the zone and listen to music. But Nick was not really like that--he wasn't "zombying out" in between the takes. [laughs] But it was funny watching a guy have a normal conversation and crack jokes in the zombie make-up. It was a little surreal. But yeah, he was just great--he could just turn it on and off.

R absorbs the memories of Julie's boyfriend after eating his brains. Whose memories would you be interested in gaining through osmosis?

You know what? Elizabeth Taylor! I think she has had the most colorful life! [laughs] I mean, Richard Burton, and all these, like, incredible experiences she's had in her life...To even just have a snippet of what she lived through would have been incredible! I just finished reading Furious Love, which is about the love affair between the two of them, and it just sounds so erotic and crazy and passionate! So I think I would love that--see what Hollywood was like back in those days. How interesting!

Vinyl records play a key role in the connection between R and Julie, but it seems like there's a whole new generation that is unfamiliar with that medium...

That is so true! I was thinking that when I was watching the movie. And we're so lucky to know what a vinyl is! [laughs] And how special it is that R collects all these vinyls. And it's cool and edgy that this zombie is into music...But not just music, into vinyls! And there's something really nice about that. It's just so surprising to Julie that he is this way. I mean, "Who was this guy?" And it's nice, it adds to their connection.

What song, album, or artist would you pick if you wanted to play a really choice cut for someone?

Oh, gosh, I have so many that I'd play! Like a lot of Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine...I am the sort of person who just gets completely transfixed by music, and I can feel so much more when I'm listening to music...Sometimes if I'm about to do an audition for a role [in] which I'm playing the baddie or I'm playing someone really tough, I'll drive to the audition listening to underground rap--like Big L, Masta Ace, Mobb Deep--and just crank it and get in that zone. But in terms of romance, you can't really beat, like, a Damien Rice, "The Blower's Daughter." I mean, that's a really beautiful song.



I would have loved to pick your brain about everything you have in the works, including Track Town, your documentary on happiness, and your health and wellness website. Since we're short on time, what's the quickie version of what's going on with all of those projects?

[laughs] Okay, quickie version...I started a website called Your Zen Life, which is an online scrapbook for everything health and wellness and spirituality and philanthropy. And we have contributors from all over the world come and write for us--experts and celebrities, but also just anyone who wants to have a voice. And we just support each other, and try to live our happiest, most impactful lives. And then I am producing and starring in a movie called, right now, the "Untitled Mark Webber Project." Mark Webber directed The End of Love, and he's also a really talented actor. So we're starting that. A lot of it's kind of improv-based. We go into production in March. And then Track Town, I wrote and I'm producing, and I wrote with my producing partner Tahyna Tozzi, and we're starring in that, and hopefully go into pre-production in November. So yeah, I like to fill my time with all these little projects! [laughs] It's fun.

And your documentary?

Well, it's not really a documentary. Basically, we ended up condensing it to a small, like, 3-minute piece--a very powerful piece with music--and it talks about how happy these children are in Kenya. And they may not be rich in material wealth, but they're so rich in community and in love and happiness. And why is that? And it's just a lot of really beautiful footage of them. That's going to be launched on the website, on Your Zen Life, coming up soon.

What inspired you to film this?

Just because I noticed that there are a lot of unhappy people in the world, and there's a lot of "glass half empty" people. And I have never really been that way. [laughs] I've always been quite bubbly, and embracing life. And I can understand that people's spirits get really broken--out here [in LA], especially, I was seeing it. And it's just a way to show us that life can be beautiful, life can be great. And even if you don't have all these material things that so many people strive for, if you can just really turn inside of yourself internally, you can find that happy place--you can find what you are blessed with. And I just try and live my life like that. And that's, I guess, where the idea [came from].

Did you go to Kenya specifically to record this?

No. I was just in Kenya, and I was just noticing how happy these children were. And they were playing with sticks, and they were playing in dirt, and they didn't have a playground at their school. And they were all laughing and having so much fun together, and I thought it was really amazing. And all their parents were so happy, and they live in their little huts, and they don't have electricity or fresh water. I thought it was so beautiful, so I started filming that, and edited it together.

Definitely something to check out...Thanks again for your time!

Thank you so much! Bye!


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