Bella Heathcote and Douglas Booth on ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ and Learning New Skills as an Actor
“That is one of the most amazing things about being an actor is learning a new skill for everything.” – Douglas Booth
What happens when you take a classic novel and add a dash of the apocalypse? You get Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!
Bella Heathcote and Douglas Booth star as Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley in this reimagining of Jane Austen’s tale of the relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England. Directed by Burr Steers, Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) is a master of martial arts and weaponry and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) is a fierce zombie killer, yet the epitome of upper-class prejudice. As the zombie outbreak intensifies, everyone (including Matt Smith and Jack Huston) must swallow their pride and join forces on the blood-soaked battlefield in order to conquer the undead once and for all.
Both Heathcote and Booth were at Comic-Con to talk about their preferred method of killing zombies, fighting in period costumes and one of the best things about being an actor.
Jane is terribly sweet in the book. Does that mean she can’t fight zombies?
Bella Heathcote: Not at all.
Douglas Booth: She’s one of the best.
Bella Heathcote: She’s tough. The thing about Jane in the book, she also feels responsible for her sisters. There are other aspects of Jane that are in the book that also hold true to this film. And I think that because of that sense of responsibility, she has to be a great fighter because she wants to protect them and she wants to protect her family. But yeah, she is still sweet. She’s still a woman who wants to love someone and be loved and those relationships are important to her. Perhaps even more so because of those stakes.
What’s your go-to zombie fighting move?
Douglas Booth: You see, Bingley isn’t the best zombie killer. He often finds himself being saved by the wonderful Bennet sisters or his very dear friend, Mr. Darcy. So, I don’t know, what did I take away?
Bella Heathcote: Always travel in packs.
It seems like none of the men in this film are good zombie killers.
Douglas Booth: I think Mr. Darcy is a good zombie killer. But I think that the film definitely focuses on the talents of the Bennet sisters. They’re sort of known throughout the land as an awesome pack of death machines.
Bella Heathcote: I reckon what I take away from it is that anything can be a weapon; hairpin, boot, anything that’s at hand can be used to kill a zombie.
When you guys auditioned for the role, were you like, “What the heck is this? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?”
Douglas Booth: Well, I remember I heard about the book when it came out. It was on the New York Times bestseller list. And yeah, I thought, “I love Pride and Prejudice. I need to read this book.” So, I read it and I loved it and I was like, “I want to see this as a movie!” And then lucky enough, I ended up getting cast in it.
But it was just intrigue from the very beginning. I’ve been in straight costume dramas before so it was sort of thrilling and exciting and sexy to see something like this.
Bella Heathcote: I would agree. It’s like everything I loved about the original book but there’s zombies. I remember when I first saw it, I was like, “How could this possibly work as a concept?” But it does.
Douglas Booth: That’s what I found fascinating about this movie, it wasn’t like a zombie movie where someone was being chased from A to B or this and that. It was, how would this love story endure? How would it continue on? How the upper classes protect themselves?
Are these evolved zombies?
Douglas Booth: The zombies have different phases. When they first get bitten, you can’t quite tell. If they cover the bite, they can act like a normal human being. So, they can get into society and they’re scared of telling people because then they’re going to get killed. So, that’s interesting. It sort of breeds a sense of paranoia in society.
How difficult is it to fight a zombie when you’re all costumed up?
Bella Heathcote: It was definitely, it was a challenge. I mean, Julian [Day], the costume designer, kind of amended the costumes to facilitate the fighting. It was definitely an added challenge. Especially when you’ve been trained for four months in track suits, you know?
What was the one new skill that you were most looking forward to learning with this film?
Belle Heathcote: Mine was probably Kung Fu.
Douglas Booth: That is one of the most amazing things about being an actor is learning a new skill for everything. This one? I’m trying to think. In other movies I’ve done, I’ve learned how to Blacksmith. I did a bit of fighting but I’ve done that before. I ride horses but I’ve done that since I was young. Oh, how to play, what was that card game? Whist! I’ve forgotten it but it was difficult. Learning to play whist. That was a challenge. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever learned.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is in theaters February 5th, 2016