Eagle-Tribune: Your last film was “50/50,” which balanced a lot of sentiment and comedy, much like “Warm Bodies.” Was that good preparation for this film?
Levine: Yeah — “50/50” was a great training round for this, but it wasn’t just the combination of positivity and negativity in bleakness; it was just combining comedy and drama — just combining tones. I learned a lot from Seth (Rogen) and Evan (Goldberg) about that. So yeah, it totally helped me prepare for this.
Eagle-Tribune: Did you read the novel beforehand?
Levine: Yeah, Summit got me the book, and then I kind of auditioned or interviewed for the job and I got the job. Then, “50/50” came around maybe a month later. And “50/50” happened really quickly — other people had fallen out of it. So, between reading “50/50” and prepping it was like two weeks, and I started adapting the script up in Vancouver. This was going to happen before “50/50.”
Eagle-Tribune: Did the PG-13 rating prevent you from doing anything you really wanted to do with the film?
Levine: Well, I was never too worried because I view this movie as more following the footsteps of, say, “The Goonies” or “The Princess Bride” or even “WALL-E” — movies that have really nice hearts at the center of them, but also movies that are not super earnest and have a degree of cynicism to them. But I never thought that amping up the gore would help tell the story in any way; it wasn’t really about that. I wanted it to be gory because I wanted people who like zombies to not think we’re (expletive). So, we pushed it as far as we could within PG-13, but it wasn’t really about that.
Eagle-Tribune: All four of your features have been pretty different. What attracts you? Genre? Story?
Levine: I like doing all sorts of different things. I loved the opportunity to get back into genres and have fun and that kind of stuff, but I do think this is the most similar aesthetically to “All The Boys Love Mandy Lane” — just kind of the idea that you’re taking a genre and kind of using it as a Trojan horse to kind of tell a different kind of story, even though “Mandy Lane” is sort of way darker and way more (expletive) up.
Eagle-Tribune: You seem to enjoy those messed up coming of age stories, don’t you?
Levine: It’s true — everything I’ve wrote has been a coming of age story, and the next thing I wrote is also a coming of age story. Now that I’ve done this, I want to go do something, not necessarily smaller, but I would like to have as much money and do a comedy with some drama in it — but I would like it to take place in a non-post-apocalyptic world. It’s hard for me to think about this because you just kind of end up psychoanalyzing yourself. I’ll ask my therapist at some point “Why?”