'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' director chews over Jane Austen mash-up -- EXCLUSIVE

Pride-Zombie-Gillespie

Image Credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Jane Austen purists, eat your heart out. It’s going to happen to some of your favorite characters anyway.

Lars and the Real Girl director Craig Gillespie finalized his deal yesterday to helm the big-screen version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling fusion of Austen’s 19th century comedy of manners and romance with a nightmarish horde of flesh-eating undead. Gillespie recently wrapped a remake of the ’80s cult classic Fright Night, with Colin Farrell as the unfriendly neighborhood vampire, and plans to begin shooting P+P+Z at the end of summer.

Gillespie spoke exclusively to EW about how he plans to make zombies seem natural in the early-1800’s British countryside, and whether Austen film alums Colin Firth and Keira Knightley could make cameos…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m trying to think of a common thread between your three recent films — Lars and the Real Girl, the Fright Night remake, and now Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — and all I can figure is that you’re fascinated by things that aren’t really alive.
CRAIG GILLESPIE: [Laughs] Yeah, there’s a certain undead quality.

What’s the state of the project? David O. Russell was attached to direct. Then he dropped out in a budget dispute, and Mike White took over directing duties, but then left to focus on an HBO series. Do you start from scratch?
No, we have a really great script that we’re just going to do a polish on and then get going, really…. David Russell wrote the script off the book, and it has such a great mix of humor and horror. I just love being able to juggle those two aspects. The humor is inherent in the Pride and Prejudice side, but taking that and accenting it with zombies is just a brilliant and fun idea. And there are such strong female characters, which is nice to have. It’s a great clash.

What sold you on this mash-up between pre-Victorian British literature and flesh-eating horror?
I was aware the project was around, but at the time it wasn’t available. Then it became available. I was still finishing up Fright Night, but in the meantime I called my agent and said, “I want to see that script.” He said, “I’m not sure we’d be able to figure out the timing.” But I read the first 30 pages and said, “I want to do this.” It’s just such a great combination between classic literature — Jane Austen, and meshing it with zombies. The challenge of meshing those two genres is really exciting to me.

How would you describe the final combination — is it a horror film, a comedy, a supernatural drama?
There’s a lot of action in this. There are a lot of big set pieces in this film, which is exciting. Basically, as I said to the studio, at the core it’s a love story between Elizabeth and Darcy. If that’s not working, and we’re not rooting for those two get together through all this craziness, the movie is not going to work. That’s key to me, to have this great emotional story going on, and all this craziness.

So what you’re saying is this needs real drama. It can’t be a spoof.
Exactly. But there can be comic relief.

What do you have to protect from Austen’s original work to keep the balance?
I love the propriety of the Jane Austen novels, which you want to keep. The language, what’s appropriate and not appropriate. The customs, and the hierarchy. They had very witty dialogue with a lot of undertones to it. You need the juxtoposition. There’s going to be a strong gothic undertone, which ties the two genres together. It’s more in the world of [Tim Burton's 1999] Sleepy Hollow, where it’s somewhat stylized. We have that creative license because of the zombies. I’ll certainly do my homework and explore genres to see what might work, but it’s going to have that strong gothic sense, I think.

Though the two sides of the story share a gothic, heightened tone, is it possible to add zombies to a British pastoral romance and still make it believable?
They’re incorporated in a great way. It’s literally just a burden they have to deal with. And back in those days, people would die from plagues. It’s just a hardship they have to work through. They still try to keep the social norms working. It’s not proper for a lady to be carrying a shotgun, for example, but here she’s got to have a weapon.

Who do you have in mind for the roles of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy?
Casting is trying to find the people who can walk that line. It’s too early now. [Laughs] Nice try though.

Any chance you can recruit actors who have appeared in previous versions of Pride and Prejudice to, say, do a couple cameos as flesh-eaters? Like, could we see a zombie Colin Firth or a zombie Keira Knightley?
I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re definitely giving me food for thought.

For more movie news, or to discuss the pros and cons of messing with the classics, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter @Breznican.

Read more:
‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ lands director Craig Gillespie
Colin Farrell accidentally disses his ‘Fright Night’ remake
‘Black Death’ director Christopher Smith talks about not making ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’
‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ now Mike White-less

Comments (32 total) Add your comment
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  • Bobby G

    i like this guy’s idea of a gothic/Tim Burton styled film. it may actually make jane austen interesting

    • Liz Lemon

      Jane Austen is interesting regardless, but I like the concept as well. I’m excited to see the finished product…hopefully it makes it that far this time.

  • JennieO

    I’ve always been a Jane Austen purist, but I read this book and it was hilarious. Maybe I’ll finally get my zombie-loving husband to finally watch a Jane Austen movie with me!

  • lbw

    Ever since I read the zombified version, whenever I see the Keira Knightly version on tv, I automatically imagine zombies & Mr. B. “vomiting politely into his hands”. I would love to see them get everyone from that movie into this one, and basically just add in the zombie parts.

  • Garry

    “Pride and Predjudice” is perhaps the greatest comic novel ever written, and it’s absolutely disgusting that some punk writer first had the arrogance and utter disrespect to make a mockery of it, and then for a director to actually want to put it on film. @ssholes.

    • Shameless

      PP &Z is one of the dumbest and dullest books ever concocted; it’s not a graphic novel by any means, just a mangling of P&P with a few badly drawn cartoons. It’s not even funny. The joke pretty much ends at the cover.

    • edmonton girl

      The writer does NOT have any of Austen’s literary gifts. The characters, although the names were hijacked from Austen’s novel, have very little resemblence to anyone in P&P – I just can’t find any respect for someone who is such a lazy author.

    • Russell Utegg

      You’re an idiot.

    • maressa

      absolutely agree!!, is there anything that’s kept original nowadays for this stuff is that the world has gone from normal to disgustinf, i hate that ass#$% for bringuing his stupidity upon an amazing book.. he should die right away!!

      • Zach

        Err…he should DIE? Isn’t that a bit serious? How about you just don’t read his book or see this movie?

  • Mia

    I love P&P (My dog’s name is Mr. Darcy) and I somewhat liked the book. I think if done well this movie could be rather good. It is funny that I want to rant and rave about people touching Buffy but I am okay with all the Jane Austen rip offs…

    • Mia

      The book meaning Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I LOVE the original

  • steph

    I actually can never get through the book (Pride and Prejudice)- I’ve tried like 4 times and just can’t do it. Love the movies though. Weird.

    • Jackie

      You’re not alone, Steph. I had to read it for my senior year English class in high school, and I kept falling asleep (literally – my teacher eventually told me to read the Cliff’s Notes). I did, however, go through ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ in less than a week.

    • CV

      I’m among those who pick it back up every few years and re-read it again. It’s my all-time favorite book. I own several copies including a 1st edition…that one I never touch…far too delicate. My favorite viewing version is the PBS series with Colin Firth as the best Darcy ever!

  • alice

    Can’t wait for the first dance. “Girls, Pentagram of Death!” RIP Mrs. Long. And “Have your ninjas left you?” “We never had any ninjas.” “What? Five girls brought up at home, and no ninjas? Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.”

  • Annie

    For me, I can not wait to see Charlotte Lucas’ transformation and Mr. Collins being utterly clueless.

    • Valley Girl

      Me, too!

  • frank

    Does anyone else get the idea Gillespie hasn’t read the book at all?

  • Liz Lemon

    Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Emma Watson, or Melanie Laurent for Elizabeth Bennett! All three can do the classic Elizabeth and also the kick a*s one.

    • Darkeyes

      You are so right. Winstead or Watson would be great…if we have to see this, I just pray for this it hurt less…

      • Darkeyes

        Or Emma Stone…this one would be great!

    • The Riddler

      He just finished working with Imogen Poots in Fright Night. He should give it to her.

  • Ben Rint

    This will be PG-13. What a bummer.

  • Liz

    Does anyone else think the photo of the director looks eerily similar to the book cover? That smile is just creepy right next to the zombie.

  • AntStorm

    im a puritan when it comes to Austin and the Bronte sisters and Wolfe , lighten up people the mashed up novel was light hearted humour but to tell you the truth im not too fond of this producer , he totally has MANGLED Fright Night , Get Tim Burton to do it , that way it wont be as putrid as Fright Night is shaping up to be

  • Modelly

    OMGm this is possibly the stupidest, most idiotic thing I have heard about my entire life! Horrible! I would never, ever watch such a film, its a violation against Jane austen really…

    • kattygal

      You can only realy appreciate it if you actually LIKE zombies in the first place… I, personally, am probably the biggest fan of the series, and totally psyched for the movie… BTW, if you don’t have anything nice to say, DON’T SAY IT! You should’ve learned that in kindergarten.. .

  • viviennewestwood

    Thanks for interesting blog post. You guys are always provide information that it makes it impossible not to want to buy your next product ;I cant wait to see what you guys come up with based on all your research and data that you gather.

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