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She's alive, he's kinda dead it might not work out

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In the movie Warm Bodies, a young male zombie falls in love with a pretty, still-living zombie-holocaust survivor. But it would be a mistake to assume this quirky film is just a walking-dead variant of Twilight, which also centred on the illicit love between living and undead.

Nicholas Hoult is the 23-year-old British actor who plays the lead role of a lovelorn zombie known only as "R." In a phone interview from a hotel in Toronto, he acknowledges the shambling, cannibalistic zombie is at a decided disadvantage when it comes to sex appeal.

Let's face it: Vampires are sexy. Zombies are icky.

"Vampires move quickly and they bite your neck and they're very old but look very attractive still," Hoult says. "Zombies don't age so well and don't communicate."

Even so, his character is not at a complete loss when it comes to winning a gal's heart. While not above eating human brains, R still has a glimmer of humanity that shines through when he encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of post-apocalyptic America's foremost anti-zombie zealot (John Malkovich). When she is separated from her still-living friends, it is R who keeps her safe from the less discriminating undead hordes. So, no, he doesn't have the vampire's seductive demeanour, but Hoult says the zombie's good intentions count for something.

"The thing about R is that he's trying to look after her and protect her and he's doing his best," he says. "Speaking on behalf of women the world over, that's a very appealing quirk."

Hoult started as a child actor, most successfully playing a needy lad who looks to playboy-wastrel Hugh Grant for a little male guidance in the 2002 comedy About a Boy.

Warm Bodies is only the latest in a series of high-profile genre offerings for the Berkshire-born thespian. Next year, he will appear in a different kind of post-apocalyptic film -- Mad Max: Fury Road opposite Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Later this year, he expects to return to the role of Hank McCoy/The Beast in the Marvel superhero movie X-Men: Days of Future Past. And in March, he'll be seen as the very-much-alive hero of Jack the Giant Slayer, a fantasy film from X-Men director Bryan Singer.

In short, Hoult has become something of a cross-genre specialist, and he acknowledges the zombie movie appeal, given the opportunity for social satire in films such as Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead.

"They can be entertaining and fantastical and scary but they can also have a nice little social commentary," he says. "This one, without trying to ram a message down your throat, is about the power of love and its ability to heal.

"There's also the idea that, in the world we're living in now, even though we're more connected than ever to technology, we're rather more disconnected from the world that's around us."

Hoult's recent work has been richly diverse, even if it has taken him from more grounded, reality-based work, such as the role of an angelic young man who holds the promise of hope for suicidal college prof Colin Firth in the 2010 drama A Single Man.

"I like mixing it up," Hoult says. "So far, I've been very lucky to work with talented directors and all the characters have been very different, so you're always learning and doing new things.

"But certainly, I haven't done a (smaller) movie in a little while," he says. "I'm looking forward to getting back to something with maybe less makeup and a little more dialogue."

Warm Bodies opens tomorrow at Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, and Towne cinemas.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2013 C1


Updated on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 10:23 AM CST: changes headline, adds photo

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