Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows) and Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet) star in Screen Gems’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen. Grahame-Smith took Austen’s classic tale and inserted zombies, twisting the dramatic romance into a horror period piece. Heathcote and Booth were among the P&P&Z cast members who took part in a panel at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con, discussing the genre-bending film that’s heading to theaters on February 5, 2016. In addition to participating in the panel in front of thousands of Comic Con attendees, Heathcote and Booth teamed up for roundtable interviews to talk more about their characters, zombies, and action scenes.
Bella Heathcote and Douglas Booth Interview:
Had you ever wanted to do the straight version of Pride and Prejudice?
Douglas Booth: “Being British, I’ve done a few of those before straight. Like, I’ve been in a BBC adaptation of Great Expectations. I played Pip in that, so I’ve done that. I’ve done period before so it was kind of exciting to try and do something and turn itself on its head, something a little different.”
Bella Heathcote: “For me, I loved it because it holds true what I love most about Pride and Prejudice which is the relationship, particularly the two love stories. And then I’ve just got the added bonus of actually being able to fight and be empowered in that way. So it was better than doing the straight version.”
How did you train?
Bella Heathcote: “There was a fair bit of a boot camp situation happening. We did Kung Fu. We had weapons training. It was a lot of choreographed fight training with the girls. It was great fun.”
Are you good at it?
Douglas Booth: “She was great at it. You should see. When you posted a picture on Instagram with your leg [high] up here. Don’t piss her off. She’ll kick you in the chin.”
Bella Heathcote: “I got really into it. I’m a very anxious person so I just channeled all that into fight training for four months before the film, so it was actually very helpful for me.”
How was your training, Douglas?
Douglas Booth: “I was all right. I was good. I didn’t get to do as much fighting as the girls. The girls definitely have the main kickass moments. You come and save me quite a few times, but I loved it. For me, I love horse riding. I’ve ridden since I was a kid so my favorite parts was getting back on a horse. I always love those parts.”
Tell us about your characters.
Douglas Booth: “I play Charles Bingley. He does fight. Everyone in this world has to learn to be able to survive. It’s a dangerous place, but the girls are sent away to China to learn Shaolin fighting. The Bennet girls are known throughout the land, as it were, for being this extremely tight unit of tough babes. The fighting focuses on that side of things. My part’s more our love story. I just get caught up in the fighting as well. I kill a few zombies.”
Besides fighting zombies, are there other differences between your characters and the original characters?
Douglas Booth: “Of course, what we brought to them ourselves as people. What I love about this is it’s not a zombie movie where some person’s getting chased from A to B. What’s fascinating, interesting is how this amazing, enduring love story, tale that we know, Pride and Prejudice, how will that hold up amid the most bizarre circumstances? A zombie apocalypse, a plague. How will Mrs. Bennet go about marrying off her daughters? They’ve got different problems. It’s not necessarily about dowry. It’s things like they went for their training in China but the conventional thing to do is to go to Japan. So some people look down on them for that. There’s all these different things, different kind of quirks. It’s different and interesting for that.”
What kind of zombies do we see? Are they slow or fast or practical effects?
Bella Heathcote: “There’s actually different grades of zombies. So there’s like the neo-zombie who have just started to turn, and they can still completely be a part of society without anyone knowing. And then as they degenerate, they become fairly gruesome and I feel like they get faster. Don’t you feel like they get faster and faster as they get scarier?”
Douglas Booth: “Yeah, I think the interesting thing is that initially you can get bitten and you can conceal it and they can live amongst [us] knowing fully well they’re a zombie without wanting to reveal it because as soon as you reveal it, you’re probably going to be put to death because there’s no coming back. So, you get people trying to live. Sometimes you’re not quite sure who is a zombie and as they develop, they have three or four different stages of deterioration and it gets pretty gross. We have this amazing Oscar-winning prosthetics guy who did all the stuff on The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep. He came in and did some amazing work. He has a whole team. He created some really cool stuff.”
Are you, like the rest of the world, in zombie mode with The Walking Dead?
Douglas Booth: “I’ve never been a massive zombie follower myself which is why this was a really interesting experience to do. I love Austen and it’s amazing to see this mixed, to see this twist. Bring it because I’m not the biggest fan of just a zombie movie where people are just being ravaged, killed, this, that, just for the sake of horror. That’s not my type of film. Some people love it which is great, but this has a real story to it, has a bit more of a heart.”
Bella Heathcote: “I agree with that. You actually care about the characters and you want them to be okay for a whole other reason other than just for the sake of survival.”
Douglas Booth: “And also care about the zombies as well. It’s pretty sh*t. People talk about zombie movies and zombies. All it is really is it could happen to us. It’s a plague. It sends someone into a certain thing. Look what’s happening in the world right now. There’s so many great humanitarian issues about people getting a sort of plague and what happens if this just doesn’t kill them, they turn crazed and they start attacking the population. Zombie movies can be set in reality too as well.”
Why do love and war, even zombie war, go so nicely together?
Douglas Booth: “Because war is all about loss and when you’re in love, you’re terrified to lose it I suppose.”
Bella Heathcote: “If it’s your last day on earth, what’s most important to you? It’s your relationships. It’s not all the other stuff. When those circumstances are set, when there’s war, what is important becomes really clear.”