TORONTO - The stars of the new romantic zombie comedy "Warm Bodies" acknowledge there are similarities between their movie and the mega-hit "Twilight" series.
Both are based on young-adult novels and were picked up by the same movie studio, Summit Entertainment.
Both are supernatural stories about young forbidden love.
Star Teresa Palmer is even a dead ringer for Kristen Stewart — except with blond hair. And in some scenes the pale, zombified Nicholas Hoult looks a bit like Robert Pattinson.
Palmer and Hoult say they don't mind that some are calling their film "'Twilight' with zombies" and even welcome the comparisons.
"I understand parallels have been drawn because there's a mystical element to the relationships in both of these films," says Australia-born Palmer (who previously starred in "I Am Number Four" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice") during a recent interview in Toronto.
"I think tonally it's very different, 'Warm Bodies' to 'Twilight.' There's a lot of comedy, we don't take ourselves too seriously, but having said that, we of course embrace comparisons in a sense because 'Twilight' is a hugely successful franchise and if we can find half the audience that 'Twilight' has I think we'd be very happy."
Hoult stars as R, a semi-conscious zombie who hasn't completely lost his human self. While other zombies in the post-apocalyptic world shuffle around aimlessly in search of their next human feast, R is still thinking and feeling — although he too has found his taste for blood and brains. During an encounter with a group of fresh humans, he sees Palmer's character and falls in love at first sight. He helps her escape and protects her from other zombies until she convinces him to take her home.
There are strong romantic themes running throughout the story but the film isn't nearly as focused on courting the female-teenager demographic as "Twilight" was, says Hoult, who was last seen as Beast in "X-Men: First Class" and is also known for playing Hugh Grant's young foil in the 2002 comedic drama "About a Boy."
Hoult assures male moviegoers that while "Warm Bodies" fits the mould of a teen-targeted date film, there's plenty in it for guys.
"It's more masculine," he says. "I think 'Twilight' was more aimed at females where this, being told from the guy's perspective, is just tonally different."
The film is directed by Jonathan Levine and represents a major departure from his last film, his comedy about cancer, "50/50."
"50/50" hadn't been released yet when casting had begun for "Warm Bodies" but Hoult was able to screen a rough cut and knew he wanted to work with Levine.
"I saw it and I was like, 'Yeah, this guy's the real deal,'" Hoult says.
The lead duo were also excited to work with a strong supporting cast led by Rob Corddry (who plays a zombie friend of Hoult's) and John Malkovich (Palmer's onscreen dad).
"He was fantastic, he made me laugh a lot," Hoult says of Corddry.
"We'd have scenes where we'd literally just be groaning at each other and we wouldn't be able to get through a whole take without collapsing.
"He's great at creating little bits out of nothing and getting laughs and it was nice to have him as a zombie buddy."
Palmer admitted to being a little intimidated about sharing scenes with the veteran Malkovich.
"The idea of working with him was really daunting and then I met him and he is so gentle and kind and humble and open and very unaffected by his great level of success and fame," she says.
"And being John Malkovich," riffed Hoult.
The film was shot across Montreal in a number of neighbourhoods and locations and the local food was a hit with the cast. Naturally, poutine was served on set.
"When that came out on set as a snack, whew, we went nuts!" says Hoult.
"Warm Bodies" opens Friday across Canada.