In “Warm Bodies,” a self-aware zombie named R saves a human girl named Julie from certain death, falling in love with her in the process. The fate of the human race hangs in the balance based on whether or not the two of them can convince Julie’s father, the gruff General Grigio, played by the eternally-quirky John Malkovich, of R’s change of heart. I had a chance to speak with Malkovich last week, when he talked about the current popularity of zombie fiction, acting opposite CGI zombies, and the modern-day zombies smartphones may have created.
Zombie fiction is huge right now. Are you a fan or is it something you don’t pay attention to?
I don’t pay the slightest attention to it. (Laughs) One of many things I don’t pay the slightest attention to.
Are you a fan of any supernatural fiction at all? Or is that a genre you completely avoid?
It’s not so much avoidance, its just really not on my radar, generally. This book [“Warm Bodies” by Isaac Marion] was an interesting story since it kind of went out of the normal publishing circles and it was written by a young person. And I liked the tone and thought it would be interesting and challenging to try and capture. But no, I never—even as a kid—I didn’t follow much supernatural…probably didn’t go further than Ray Bradbury, maybe.
You mentioned the book. Did you read the novel beforehand?
I did. But not before I was involved with the film.
It has a huge youth following.
Mmm-hmm. And, in fact, I think my producing partners probably read it as something for us—our company is called Mr. Mudd—something for us to produce. Because they seemed to know it quite well.
Near the beginning, the film touches on the isolation caused by modern technology like smartphones, Twitter, and Facebook. Are you constantly connected in that way?
I really can’t afford to stay away from it because, you know, when I’m here just doing [press for a film], I’m having to deal with something in the fashion business I work in. I’m having to deal with the production of a French play, getting the financing to bring it to London. I’m having to deal with setting this [interview] up. I’m having to deal with the cuts of two movies we have in post-production now. There’s a lot you have to deal with. But I don’t do Facebook or Twitter, but certainly for emails and text I kinda have to.
You aren’t typically known for appearing in films with lots of special effects. Does acting opposite armies of computer-generated zombies take some getting used to or is it just like any other acting job?
I think it’s just like any other acting job. It has its irritations, sure, but in acting you’re always pretending. And you can either pretend or you can’t. And pretending with someone else…yeah, it’s probably easier in some ways, but still, in the end, you have to pretend by yourself. You have to be capable of suspension of your own disbelief anyway. And they generally explain quite clearly what it will be, what it will look like, what it will do. And I don’t find it so difficult.