“Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”: Cast Interview



Kristian Stefanides

Recently, The Villanovan had the opportunity to participate in a nation-wide conference call for the new hit movie, “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies,” a modern spin on Jane Austen’s respected classic. The call provided many college and high school journalists with the opportunity to ask the star-studded cast of Douglas Booth, Bella Heathcote, Lily James and Matt Smith questions about the film that was released on Feb. 5. 

The Villanovan: Hello. My question is, what was it like to act among fantasy-like creatures, and what kind of training did you guys have to go through to fight off all those zombies in the movie?

Bella Heathcote: The girls went through quite a bit of training—I know because I trained with them.  I did about three months by myself in L.A. and got really into Kung Fu and then came to London and met up with all the other girls and we did lots of different skill training with weapons and choreography and got very into it, and I liked being on set with the zombies even when they scared me.

Lily James: Yes.  I did like boxing and swung a bat against a punch bag for months, and I was very unfit and very lazy prior to shooting so I had to do a lot to get into shape, and I loved it.  We had such a fun time just yes, beating the crap out of zombies who were very frightening on set, especially when you’re trying to eat your lunch, and the person opposite you face is melting into their meal.

Matt Smith: I remember Mrs. Phillips saying, have you seen this film?  The woman that kind of like played with her face as it was falling off.  It was really amazing prosthetics that she had on. She actually looked like that and we were trying to eat lunch.

Caller: Hi. My question is directed to Matt Smith, but everyone can answer it.  What were some of the improvised lines and moments that were not in the script?

Matt Smith: Well, there were a few moments, actually.  There was some stuff about muffins, and just generally sort of playing around really, and I went back to the book which was the original book as a source material to try and sort of make things up in an attempt to build up my part. But yes, there was quite a lot in there, and actually, Burr, the director was really good.  He allowed a platform and an environment where you could take risks and sort of throw things out there that weren’t in the script, so it was, it was an enjoyable experience for that for me.

Caller: Hi. My question is, Pride & Prejudice is for many people, Jane Austen’s magnum opus, and a lot of people will go see a movie if it has the words Pride & Prejudice.  But how do you sell the concept of & Zombies to those Austen purists?

Lily James: Well, I think there’s been a lot of Pride & Prejudices before in the past. It’s been done very, very well and I think that it’s always interesting, especially if you love something to see it done in a different way and what we all found was kind of crazy—was that put something so, so surreal and strange as zombies in Pride & Prejudice and somehow some of the scenes and relationships in the book become heightened, become really clear, like Liz Bennet gets to beat the crap out of Darcy, which is really a sort of physical expression of all her sexual frustration, and I mean, that’s a very basic analysis but it was just interesting how the zombies kind of contributed.

Caller: Hello. My question is geared towards all of you really as the cast of the film.  What are you hoping that audiences, mainly students that are fans of Jane Austen, what are you hoping they’ll take away from such a modern twist on a very classic story?

Lily James: And also the zombies—what’s cool is that you get both.  You get Jane Austen, and you get Pride & Prejudice and that story, especially the love story, Liz and Darcy and Jane and Bingley, like that all really remains the heart of the story and it’s a romance, it’s a drama, but then throw into that every time you’re maybe getting a bit bored, a big zombie attack, so it really just makes it very, a sort of exciting romp and quite scary and funny, and I don’t know, somehow it just all holds together, doesn’t it guys?

Bella Heathcote: Yes.  It’s like Austen but a bit less nutritional value, a bit more candy on top.

Caller: So obviously this is an immensely subversive take on this story, and that gives you guys some leeway to kind of bring in maybe less traditional takes, and this is for anyone, less traditional takes on these classic characters.  Was there anything that you specifically put in to subvert these characters or our expectations of them or that you just thought was a particularly interesting twist that is provided by this kind of project?

Lily James: Good question. I didn’t purposely try and subvert her because—I’m Lily, I played Liz Bennet.  I didn’t purposely try and subvert her, because so much was just done anyway in the story, in the plot and the circumstance, but because of that I think my Liz Bennet is much angrier, much spirited, sort of she says what she—she manifests what she feels more, she can’t hide it as well as, I think Liz tends— does in the original and so I think Matt played Parson Collins and you were pretty subversive.  You can talk about that. 

Matt Smith: Yes.  I think because there are zombies in the film, like somehow eternally that allows you to be—sort of make bold choices because the laws of the universe are slightly heightened and the characters that exist in it can therefore be slightly heightened, I think.  And I just think it’s interesting as well, I think maybe subversive is the right word or the wrong word but just to reinvent characters that have been played before much like you would play Hamlet and every actor gives that their spin—I think with Jane Austen and this work it’s a similar idea.  You’ve got to bring something new to the table which everyone did, I thought.

Lily Smith: And because it’s a period genre and because it was zombies it meant that we could be way more free. 

Douglas Booth: I actually had a badger down my pants the whole film or so I thought.  Cold, cold days so very interesting on all fronts.