The Cast and Crew of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombie’ Discuss Bringing the Literary Mashup to the Screen

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

It’s been a long time coming, but the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s wild literary mashup Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is finally coming to the screen. After a number of starts and stops in the development phase, including one point where it was set to star Natalie Portman and be written and directed by David O. Russell, Burr Steers has taken over the project and blended Jane Austen’s classic novel with the horror tropes of the zombie subgenre. I recently got to sit and talk with some of the cast and crew behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, including its author Seth Grahame-Smith, its director Burr Steers, and cast members Lily James, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, and Matt Smith.

Matt Smith and Douglas Booth had worked together before on the 2011 TV movie Christopher and His Kind, and have a natural rapport. After answering a few questions about his time on Doctor Who, Smith was finally able to talk about his role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. “I went back to the book,” the former Doctor Who star said of being the only actor able to play for laughs, “and when I read the original novel, I found out that he was really interested in eating, and muffins, and scones and things like that, and so I thought, maybe try and get some of that texture into the piece.”

As for going into the source of the source material, Douglas Booth said, “The books are there, you can go straight into someone’s mind who was existing then, and just exist in their problems. I mean, she was writing about the problems she faced in the society around her, and to me, it’s like going back in time, it’s like time travel.”

Lily James and Bella Heathcote had much of the same rapport as their male counterparts, laughing and joking throughout. As for the film’s deadpan sense of humor in the face of such an absurd subject, Heathcote explained, ““I think the funny is in the absurdity of it, it’s not like, this is a funny performance I’m giving, and I think if you take it seriously, it’s easier to laugh at you.”

Lily James chimed in, “We’re not playing it for laughs. It’s not too campy. It’s about the humor coming out of the situations.”

James continued to elaborate on what drew her to the film, “Pride and Prejudice has been done and done so well, that it just felt fun to add zombies”

That idea about the sense of humor was shared by those behind the camera as well. Director Burr Steers said, “The big wink is that there’s no wink.” Steers is onto something as the straight-faced sense of humor is the strongest element of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Playing it straight also earned the film a bit of praise from its author. “It’s not just about the lines of dialogue,” Grahame-Smith said, “but the fact that they approached it with this unflinching seriousness, like the fact that they never really wink, that people are speaking correctly, that they are acting properly, that this isn’t like a, you know, spoof movie. We’re not doing like The Starving Games or Scary Movie.”

Grahame-Smith also doesn’t believe that by adding a bit of badass weapons training to the characters adds any extra feminist element that isn’t in Austen’s original text. “People try to say, ‘Oh, you wrote this great female heroine’ – no I didn’t,” he said. “I just put a sword in her hand, and made her say all the same things. It wasn’t that I was trying to instill any feminism that wasn’t already in the book. I mean, the book is probably the original feminist novel, isn’t it?”

Though the film concludes with an open-ended teaser for a potential sequel, none of the principal cast or crew is signed on for more installments. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone involved would be reluctant to do another film. “We didn’t sign up to more,” Lily James explained, “but I think there’s always been an open discussion about it, and I think we genuinely all would love to do another one.”

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