Pride and Prejudicehas been adapted to the screen many, many times before, but Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesmarks the first time the Bennet sisters must count the undead amongst their most pressing problems.
We had a chance to sit down with two of the film’s stars — British actor Douglas Booth, who plays Mr. Bingley, and Australian actress Bella Heathcote, who plays Jane Bennet — to chat about what it’s like to fill such iconic roles while fighting off zombie attackers. Here’s what they had to say…
Why Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
For Booth, Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesoffered an interesting twist on the kind of period dramas he’d done before. (He played Pip in a recent BBC miniseries adaptation of Great Expectations, for example.)
Both Booth and Heathcote cited the cast of the film as a strength of the project. (The film stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith, and Jack Huston in the central roles, with more established genre actors like Charles Dance and Lena Headey filling supporting roles.)
“I had an absolute blast,” says Heathcote. “Not just because of the mash-up, but also because doing a film with a really young cast, you know? Which is pretty rare. And everyone has such great characters and there’s these great love stories, and I get to have a bunch of sisters and I get to wrangle them and fight with them, and it was fantastic.”
She adds: “As soon as I met those girls, we kind of unconsciously fell into those roles. I definitely felt like the old, kind of responsible one trying to wrangle and make sure that everyone’s going to be OK. I guess that translates into the film…
“Jane is that. She definitely feels responsible for her sisters. I think she feels that a sense of propriety that exists more than they do. She feels worried about them, and worried about her parents. I think she sees the best in people, and I think she’s optimistic, but she also has a quiet wisdom about her because she can see what Lizzie can’t, which is the love that’s right in front of her.”
How have your characters changed from the original novel?
For Booth, the most important aspect of his character to get right was Bingley’s friendship with Darcy: “I really wanted to get to know Sam, so I hung out with Sam a lot, so we had that bond,” says Booth. “It has to work. For him to try to dissuade me to not be with Jane … So, just really invested in my relationships with people.”
Heathcote thinks that the Jane of Austen’s classic and the Jane of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies“holds quite true,” adding: “Those aspects of her personality — like her sense of responsibility, I think her quiet wisdom, I think wanting to see the best in people — it’s just all those qualities have transpired into a world where the stakes are higher, you know? Like, she does feel responsible, but it’s a life-or-death matter.”
“And maybe their love is even more important because of that,” Heathcote muses. “Because, at the end of the day, if you’re in that kind of situation, it’s relationships, it’s love that’s most important, not all the other stuff of the times.”
What was it like training for and filming the fight scenes?
The female leads of Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesespecially have physically-demanding roles in the film. Heathcote’s Jane Bennet is a warrior, as well as a lady.
Heathcote spoke about the training needed for the film, saying: “I love channeling my anxiety into something positive, so I got really into it. I did about four months of kung fu training, and then came and did about a month in London with all the other girls, which was great, you know, because it’s also a great bonding exercise.”
Booth, who doesn’t get to do much fighting himself in the movie, had only complementary things to say about his co-stars: “They were sick, as well. The girls, they were amazing … All the zombies running at them, and they’re just slaying them down as they go. It’s like, yeah, pretty cool to see … It was just amazing to have women going out there and kicking butt, and just not always being guys-saving-girls.”
How would you fare in a real-life zombie attack?
In the event of a zombie apocalypse, Heathcote and Booth have their strategies down. Heathcote says: “I’d hope that my martial arts had kind of stayed true, and I’d make use of it.”
Meanwhile, Booth has a different strategy in mind, saying he would “find a useful lovely person and go hide in some remote valley somewhere … Isn’t that [the plot of the movie] Z For Zacariah? Is that Margot Robbie? Yeah, I’ll go with Margot Robbie.”
Heathcote approves of this plan: “She’d look after you, as well. She’s tough.”
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies opens in theaters February 5th.