In the Jonathan Levine film Warm Bodies, Hoult plays R, a young man with poor communication skills, posture, and facial pigmentation. He's also a zombie, living in an airplane, with no direction in life. One day while scourging for food he meets living being Julie, who sparks something within him that sets him on a course of feeling progressively human. Nicholas Hoult broke out with his role in About A Boy opposite Hugh Grant, and went on to appear in films like A Single Man and X-Men: First Class. He is going to lead Jack the Giant Killer when that comes out next month, and is co-starring in Mad Max: Fury Road opposite Tom Hardy.
Teresa Palmer has previously appeared in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Take Me Home Tonight, and I Am Number Four. She has a part in the new Terrence Malick film Knight of Cups, which is due sometime in 2013.
In an exclusive interview, I sat down with the two romantic leads to discuss the taste of their brains, caring about someone making the best of a bad situation, creepy boyfriends, and more.
Warm Bodies opens nationwide February 1.
What do you think each other's brain tastes like?
Nicholas Hoult: [To Palmer] Your brain would taste quite vegetable like - healthy. My brains would probably have a bitter alcohol taste.
Teresa Palmer: Yours would taste pretty toxic [laughs]. I'm sure it would taste like fairy floss [cotton candy]? Because you're so sweet on the inside.
R's airplane hangout spot from the film — I assume it was fully decked out. Did you hang out there often?
Hoult: I spent a bit of time in there; it was my home. I rifled through the little trinkets; there were a few Playboy magazines in there. They made it into one of the outtakes.
Palmer: For me it was awesome, because I didn't want to spend very much time in there, because I had started filming when I first get brought onto the airplane. And I love that in the scene I could just look around at this crazy amount of trinkets that R had hoarded, and it was cool to look at them for the first time. But then there was so much in there that it was fascinating in between takes. I'd be reading old comics, and looking through the vinyls.
Do you think staying away from the set was really helpful in getting authentic reactions?
Palmer: It was, it was really helpful. The whole film was kind of like that though, they decked everything out realistically; it felt like we really were in a zombie apocalypse, not that I know what that is, but I can only imagine.
Nicholas, does acting like a zombie require a "dumbing down" or heightening of your abilities? Do you think the work you two are doing is equal, or are the scales tipped in a certain way? Palmer: We'll have different answers for this, because he keeps saying that I'm carrying this film.
Hoult: You're doing the hard work. There's a certain level - no dumbing down required, already that dumb - it's one of those things that it took a lot of focus, and ideas to go against the normal way of thinking, and there weren't lines to learn. It was his head space to get into a different kind of focus, I guess. I think there's certainly something to be said for the dynamic between us two, where by if that didn't work, if [to Theresa] you hadn't managed to play your character so well, and with all of the dialogue you have to do, and the emotions you have to go through, that change me, then it wouldn't have worked.
Palmer: I think he did all the heavy lifting, I really do. Because, what a challenge to have to express yourself without the liberty and freedom of using words. He had to rely upon his body language, and making choices with his facial expressions. He was so earnest and real, I had so much to work opposite. I would just read his face and just get lost in what he was doing; it really made that transition from Julie being fearful into curious into love, it made that so seamless and organic. If it weren't for him, really just being present and feeling these real emotions, it wouldn't have worked. There are elements in R's character that are just like any controlling boyfriend. How much of R is just a guy who doesn't know the right way to care for girls?
Hoult: He's like a guy who can't talk to girls, and everyone can relate to that. Except for, he really can't talk.
Palmer: It's symbolic of that first flush that you get when you meet someone and you're attracted to them, and you're awkward with each other. Guys especially. Especially when first dating someone, I think guys try to put on a tough persona.
Palmer: They do. They really try to be their most interesting selves, but then you realize that they are quite self aware, and it's all stemmed from cute little insecurities they may have, and the girl ...
Hoult: And the girls are just themselves.
Palmer: I am always just the most colorful version of myself, and I tone down the energy.
Hoult: They just hide the crazy. In the sequel, that's when Teresa's character will show her true colors.
Houlkt: I will just be standing there, and the voice-over will say, "I did not see this coming." [laughs]
I see 'Warm Bodies' as a parody on the "Romeo & Juliet" template, which has been seen in many teen romance novels, including 'Twilight,' which is also from Summit Entertainment. Was that jokey attitude prominent on set?
Hoult: It was certainly in the script - that tone of not taking things too seriously. And also, it was kind of different from Twilight, in that for them, they're very cool. Those vampires move quickly, and run up trees. Whereas this guy can't talk, and they can't ...
Palmer: He doesn't have a lot going for him.
Hoult: So there has to be a different kind of charm, which is the fact that he is really trying his best, and wants to look after her.
Palmer: It's almost like pity love [laughs].
Hoult: That was definitely in the script. And Jonathan [Levine] said that - he didn't want the film to become full parody. He still wanted it to have a heart, and be based in reality, or feel realistic. But you've got to enjoy it, and have a laugh as well.
Palmer: At the concept. It's an out-there concept.
With his previous film '50/50,' Levine found a lightness in cancer. Now he's working with the apocalypse.
Palmer: [The apocalypse] has gravity to it, but at the same time it is comedic. Trying to look at these situations which could be very bleak and dismal, and looking at them in some sort of a different light.
Hoult: You care about the characters who are making the best of a bad situation a lot more, though. If you see someone having a good time against the odds, you're like, "Hey, that's guy is a survivor." If you see someone who is like a survivor, it's like, "Oh, well."
Do you guys gravitate more towards projects or directors now?
Palmer: For me now, recently, I'm a little more conscious in terms of the projects that I do. I want to connect to the character, and feel like it would be a challenge for me. But also I want to feel passionate about the people I am working with, mainly the director and cast mates.
Hoult: It definitely goes in the script. But I think the director is ... I'd like to work with the new up and coming directors, but also like the greats. Doing something offbeat - if you meet someone and you believe in them, and you've got a good script, then I'm down for that as well. The future is bright.
Quick Questions with Nicholas Hoult & Teresa Palmer
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Hoult: Steak and eggs. Palmer: I had a grape juice, freshly squeezed mango, a pineapple, and some fruit.
If you could be someone else for 24 hours?
Palmer: Christy Turlington, because her husband is very handsome. Or, I'd like to be my nana. Because I think she's a ghost that's been haunting me, and I'd like to see what's on the other side [laughs]. Hoult: I think I'd be a comedian. Lee Evans. No, Sean Lock. Actually no, Karl Pilkington. He's got a good outlook on life. Age of first kiss?
Palmer: Adam LaVista, it was behind the skate park, and I was 14. And we bit each other, and we spread the rumor around school that we bit each other, and we didn't mean to. Hoult: I was twelve.