Stars of latest “Pride and Prejudice” parody talk zombies

(Photo courtesy of Pride + Prejudice + Zombies OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE)
(Photo courtesy of Pride + Prejudice + Zombies OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE)

In Jane Austen’s novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” which was first published in 1813, the main concern of the Bennet sisters is finding a suitable husband.

In “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” a film based on a 2009 parody novel, it’s safe to say the Bennet sisters have larger, scarier and hungrier concerns — zombies  roaming through their idyllic English village.

The stars of the film — Lily James, Matt Smith, Bella Heathcote and Douglas Booth — recently spoke in a phone interview with The DePaulia.

“Pride and 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 and Prejudice.  But how do you sell the concept of “and Zombies” to those Austen purists?

Lily James: Well, I think that there’s been a lot of “Pride and Prejudices” before in the past. It’s been done very, very well and I think it’s always interesting, especially if you love something to see it done in a different way. What we all found was kind of crazy; was that put something so, so surreal and strange as zombies in “Pride and Prejudice” and somehow some of the scenes and relationships in the book become heightened, become really clear. Liz Bennet gets to beat the crap out of Darcy which is really a sort of a 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.

Bella Heathcote: Yes. Look, it’s just—Jane Austen’s all about female empowerment and this film is too and it just has a cynical expression because we get to beat the crap out of zombies so there you go.  I think they’d like it.

LJ: Girl power.  Jane Austen would love girl power and so would Jane Austen purists.

Matt Smith: And also they’ve probably seen it done so many times.  It has been done and near perfectly a few times as well so it’s kind of cool for them to like just see it in a different way.

This novel has had a kind of long, slow road to the screen and had gone through a number of different directors in particular, and writers. Did any of you have any trepidations about this prior to the beginning of the shoot?

LJ: Well, to make a film happen, I’ve learned it is such a long journey.  Films are in development for like 13 years, I think The Danish Girl this year was in development for 13 years so that didn’t worry me that the script had been around for so long, in fact it really drew me into the project.

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?

LJ: I didn’t purposely try and subvert (Elizabeth Bennet) 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, more spirited. 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.

MS: 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.

LJ: And because it’s a period genre and because it was zombies it meant that we could be way more free. Like we had knives hidden in our knickers, like we could do anything we wanted.