By AISLING MCENTEGART
Jane Austen’s classic tale “Pride and Prejudice” has been adored by millions around the globe for decades. However, after countless remakes, audiences can now look forward to witnessing a brand new twist on this beloved story with the upcoming release of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”.
The premise of this film is certainly intriguing. It’s not everyday paranormal creatures invade classical literature. England has been struck by a deadly zombie apocalypse and plunged into disorder. As a result, the remaining inhabitants must learn to fight for their survival amidst the chaos Victorian England has fallen into. One of the ways in which society is striking back against the relentless zombie population is by training both men and women in the art of combat.
Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and her sisters are fresh back from China where they have been honing their combat skills. Despite all of the mayhem taking place in England, their parents are desperate to marry them off to wealthy suitors and hope their fighting skills will make them more attractive marriage prospects. It is not often that viewers get to witness female characters in Victorian-era films take part in the action, so this is certainly a pleasant addition to the story.
“The Bennet girls all trained together and we all got really close. It was brilliant, we felt like the Spice Girls. It was all about girl power. It was great for once the girls to be leading that part of the movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before in a period setting,” said James.
This film boasts an amazing cast of the very best British actors, who bring this story to life in the most captivating way. Part of the appeal of this film is that it has something to offer for everyone, whether they like period dramas, romance, action or horror.
Two actors starring alongside James in this film are Matt Smith and Douglas Booth, who play Mr. Collins and Mr. Bingley respectively. The three are close friends, which is evident as they playfully banter back and forth during this interview. The friendship these three actors share may have contributed to the wonderful chemistry they share on screen.
“We are great friends. We all spent Christmas and New Year together and have known each other for a long time,” said Booth. “Me and Matt have worked together before and I’ve known Lily since she was at drama school. We had a really great energy on set. I look back on this [film] and just have pure joy run through me.”
Matt Smith candidly detailed some of the mischief the cast got up to behind the scenes of this movie. The choreography in this film is impressive, but called for intense dance rehearsals.
“The dancing was a car crash. I hated going to dance rehearsals,” Smith joked, much to the amusement of his co-stars. “The thing is, it was Halloween…and we had a really big party. That Monday we [shot] the ball. We were sweating out our hangovers. I’m not a very good dancer…[only] when I can freestyle.”
The performances given in this film are nuanced and balanced. At no point does it seem overly dramatic or forced. Another factor which may have culminated in the strong performances given in this film was the creative freedom the cast were able to exercise while filming, that allowed them to explore their characters more deeply.
“Matt never sticks to the script, so you never really know what’s going to happen. So we had some fun. I loved the scenes with the [Bennet sisters]…There’s one scene when [Mr. Collins] is deciding which one of us to marry and it was really fun because Matt would make stuff up and the girls would follow along and improvise. A magic little atmosphere developed that felt like the right tone for this film. It wasn’t too structured and rigid,” said James.
“It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which again I think is important,” added Smith.
Dedicated Austen fans may rest assured that the characterization in this film is top notch. For those wondering how the cast of this film went about combining the original characters Austen created, with the new story elements in this film, Lily James has the perfect answer.
“I tried to… do a really honest interpretation of Elizabeth Bennett and make her as wonderfully flawed, complex, independent and strong as she is. As soon as you put [the characters] in the setting of a zombie apocalypse [they] change,” said James. “Everything became heightened. Everything became much more about life and death. Actually, she became much fiercer and angrier because of that. The fact that her mother is still trying to find [the Bennet sisters] husbands whilst there are zombies knocking on their door added this whole other dynamic and life to the characters.”
James, Smith and Booth were all drawn to this project due to it’s uniqueness and the opportunity it afforded them to play around and experiment with one of the most well known novels of the nineteenth century.
“The idea of doing “Pride and Prejudice” but turning it on its head and adding zombies was quite exciting to me. We really had a lot of fun making this…As soon as I read [the script]I just couldn’t say no to it,” said James.
Although this film is very different from other on screen adaptions of classic literature, it is by no means just a silly parody. While there are humorous elements to the film, there is also a great deal of depth and emotion.
“What I set out to do and our director guided us toward was to not play that side of it, to not play any of the campiness, to not wink at the camera. We had to play those characters as if we were in “Pride and Prejudice”, but the humor would come out of the situation being ridiculous,” said Booth.
This film has an abundance of positive aspects to it that make it well worth a watch. From the fascinating story line to incredibly talented cast, this is not a film that should be missed. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” opens in theaters nationwide on Feb. 5.