You take a classic novel, drop some evil into the mix and what do you get? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!
Burr Steers directs the film about a zombie outbreak that has fallen upon the land in this reimagining of Jane Austen’s tale of the relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England. 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, Bella Heathcote, Jack Huston and Douglas Booth) must swallow their pride and join forces on the blood-soaked battlefield in order to conquer the undead once and for all.
Steers was at Comic-Con to chat about the upcoming film, zombies and casting the talented cast of young actors.
What was it about this material that attracted you?
Burr Steers: The idea of having the most repressed society that you possibly could and then bringing in the element of these agents of malicious chaos into that world is attractive.
When you do something like this, do you watch other zombie movies and bring elements to this or do something completely different?
Burr Steers: No, I wouldn’t do something new for the sake of doing something new. But coming from a different background, I approached it the way I would a real movie. So, my research was I was looking at effects of meth on people. The before and after. The idea you just see them change and the get desiccated and drawn. Their eyes are always looking at you. It looked very spooky.
And then there was a study, I think it was in Persia? It’s an old black and white film about people who contracted rabies. I think it was like a Tuskegee Airmen thing where they weren’t really trying to cure them, they were trying to see what rabies would do to people.
What are the attributes of these zombies?
Burr Steers: This zombie outbreak started about 70-years earlier. They’ve all grown up with it and it’s all part of their world. And even in the architecture of the buildings. So, you’re looking at Regency, England and it’s slightly askew. It’s an alternate world. But they all take it for granted because they’ve grown up that way. They all trained in China in Martial Arts.
What’s the process of adapting the book?
Burr Steers: I was more going back to Pride and Prejudice itself. My idea was you create this alternate world and then you set Pride and Prejudice in that world. In the same way if you were doing Richard III, you might set it in Nazi Germany. But it would be about yielding something new.
There was something great about five strong, young women kicking ass. It’s cool. They knew how to do it and they had sword training and they had martial arts training. It’s nice to have five young, really athletic actresses’.
I mean, the other thing is, they’re doing these things and they’ve got to be able to spout Austen dialogue. That’s tough. To have the chops to do that and then to be able to fight.
Going off on that, what was the casting process like?
Burr Steers: I was casting actors. I made a point of going after… we packed this movie. I think Coppola said when he was casting The Outsiders, he casted it off the cover of a Tiger Beat magazine and just packed it with all these kids who were about to break. And that’s who we’ve got. Every young actor in this is a lead and they were all great. They just have chops to do character pieces. I mean, they’re incredibly well trained. You have this whole generation, this whole young Brit Brat Pack, that push each other. That are competitive. They’re all cordial, they’re all friends, they’re all buddies but they’re making each other better.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is in theaters February 5th, 2016