Interview: Craig Gillespie On 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'

As we have recently learned, Craig Gillespie is still directing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's parody novel. Not only is production set to begin by January 2012, but Gillespie has seemingly snagged his first lead.

It was reported yesterday that Dominic Cooper​ (Captain America, The Devil’s Double) has signed on to portray the profoundly desired, and ever-serious, Mr. Darcy. Cooper has already turned in a performance as Henry Sturgess, in Timur Bekmambetov's adaptation of Grahame-Smith's other novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Earlier in the month we had the opportunity to speak with Gillespie about his remake of the 1985 fan favorite horror-comedy classic Fright Night (you can read our interview HERE). During the course of our conversation, we did have occasion to chat a bit about his upcoming foray into the world of the horror-romance with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

"The tone is really what attracted me to the it," said Gillespie of the project.

"It's definitely a mix of horror and comedy just as "Fright Night" is, but the comedy in "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is coming from Jane Austen's writing because there is a lot of humor in her situations. I use "Sense and Sensibility" as a reference because a lot of the humor comes from these real genuine emotions and also from the fact that they've been living with Zombies for fifty years -- so they're very comfortable with Zombies."

The project has suffered several fits and starts, beginning with Natalie Portman removing herself as the film's lead so that she could focus on her pregnancy and family. As such, those who have followed the development of the film are anxious to hear hints of progress.

Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie

"David O Russell wrote a great script," Gillespie enthused about the film's original director indicating that pre-production is indeed moving forward at a healthy rate. "And we've done a bit of a polish on that with Marti Noxon so now we're just going out to actors."

It is rumored that several of Hollywood's finest up-and-coming actors have already been approached for roles in the film - though, in order for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to really work, both of the central characters must posses the unusual blend of timelessness and ferocity that Dominic Cooper has. We must, as the audience, be able to give over to the idea that Ms. Bennet and Mr. Darcy are not only of that time, but also capable of being high-octane action-heroes. Oh, and they really ought to have off the charts chemistry as well.

For Gillespie:

"It's really coming down to finding somebody who can have that character. Particularly for Liz Bennet, you know that incredibly strong female lead that's feisty, and impetuous at times, and with a real sharp wit -- and it's just finding those traits."

Emma Stone, Mila Kunis​, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara​ are just a few actresses who have reportedly been approached for the role. Of that list, Rooney Mara may just have my vote if she can dial up her sense of humor. Darcy is the dour one after all. An actress who has not been mentioned, but could be an outstanding Liz Bennet, is rising star Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, The Help) -- though she is perhaps a bit older than the other actresses being considered.

To 3D or Not to 3D?

With the influx of, and subsequent backlash against 3D this year (and with Fright Night having been shot in 3D), it's natural that many are wondering if P&P&Z will buck or embrace the current trend. When we asked Gillespie which direction he was leaning toward, the director responded:

"It's funny I'm kind of on the fence for the moment, but partly because this is a period piece so there's an aspect of shooting in film, and feeling that it's more in that tone that makes me lean that way -- but that's stuff I'll probably get into a little bit later with my DP. There's also a huge martial arts element in this, which is a whole choreography element that we've got to figure into it -- so that would be part of deciding how we shoot it as well."

If the martial arts sequences and fight scenes are going to be a stylized affair, then perhaps digital is the way to go. It might be fun, however, to somehow merge the look of a period drama shot on film and a classic Kung-Fu movie - Masterpiece Theater presents, On The Wings Of The Dragon?

Stay tuned as more Pride and Prejudice and Zombies news arises.

Follow me on twitter @jrothc


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