Lily James Celebrates 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' at Premiere

From left: ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ stars Jack Huston, Sally Phillips, Millie Brady, Matt Smith, Ellie Bamber, Bella Heathcote, Lily James and Douglas Booth at the film’s premiere.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

The film is "proof that no matter what you do to Austen’s story, the template she created can withstand anything," says director Burr Steers.

Stars Lily James, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth and Matt Smith and director Burr Steers celebrated their film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Thursday night at its L.A. premiere at Harmony Gold in Hollywood.

Based on Grahame-Smith’s 2009 novel of the same name, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes Jane Austen’s classic novel and adds a plot twist — a zombie outbreak. In this version, the Bennet sisters are not only trying to find a husband, but they’re also killing zombies.

Steers tells THR that when setting the tone for the film — a mix of romance, action and humor — he “really took the title to heart. I went back to the original Pride and Prejudice, and I took its themes and the zombie themes, and they organically came together. [The film] is proof that no matter what you do to [Austen’s] story or her characters, the template she created can withstand anything.”

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a long-in-the-works project, with helmers David O. Russell, Mike White and Craig Gillespie all at one point attached to direct, and Lily Collins, Scarlett Johansson, Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman all previously attached to star as Elizabeth Bennet. The film also changed hands from Lionsgate to Screen Gems.

Despite the setbacks, producer Allison Shearmur tells THR that “what made me stick with it was the love story, the metaphor of the zombies as the outdated values and the obstacles that became physical between Elizabeth and Darcy. Their pride and prejudice kept them apart, but now you got this other obstacle that allows us to underscore their pride and prejudice and give it life and death stakes.”

James, who portrays Elizabeth Bennet, admits: “At first I didn’t understand the concept of zombies and Jane Austen.” But, she tells THR, “Then I read it and loved it. I think it’s a really brave, exciting and fun version of the story.”

During the original novel’s well known scene between Elizabeth and Darcy, in which Darcy first proposes marriage, Zombies heightens the drama by having the two characters engaged in a knife-wielding fight. Regarding the battle scenes, James says: “We trained really hard. The Bennet sisters all trained together. We learned boxing and kung fu and martial arts, and we had such a great time.”

The novel’s author, Grahame-Smith, who wasn’t able to write the film’s screenplay due to scheduling conflicts, tells THR: “It’s always hard giving up control, but at the same time, then you get to come and experience the movie as a fan. This is really a first for me — just getting to passively experience an adaptation of my work.”

When asked whether he would consider a sequel to the best-selling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (he recently wrote The Last American Vampire, a sequel for his other mashup Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), he tells THR: “I suppose if people want it, I’m always happy to revisit the Bennet sisters.”

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will be released in theaters on Feb. 5.

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