Isaac Marion’s ‘Warm Bodies,’ in theaters this Friday, is a portrait of zombie/human love
Isaac Marion, Phinney Ridge resident and author of “Warm Bodies,” a zombie love story, talks about his approach to writing and the process of having his work adapted for film.
Special to The Seattle Times
Isaac Marion is on two tracks promoting “Warm Bodies.”
On one hand, Hollywood is demanding precious time from the 31-year-old author’s writing schedule to appear at press junkets for the film adaptation of his 2009 novel of the same title, a dramedy about a zombie boy and a living girl who fall in love.
On the other, the book has been published overseas and requires an imminent publicity push from the Phinney Ridge denizen — though that trip won’t be all he had hoped.
“Of all the countries that have published it, Bulgaria is the one that wants me to come over,” Marion says. “I thought each country that published the book would be somewhere I would get to go — Italy, France. But I’m looking forward to everything dying down, taking a breath and getting to write again.”
However, there might only be more distractions once the film opens Friday.
“Warm Bodies,” the movie, is very good. Adapted with care by screenwriter-director Jonathan Levine — whose cancer tale “50/50” was one of the best releases of 2011 — the feature underscores the originality in Marion’s approach to the zombie-apocalypse genre.
Nicholas Hoult stars as a young zombie named R, whose love for Julie (Teresa Palmer) revitalizes him, sparking a change that affects all the living and walking dead. The visually striking work, blending elements of “Romeo and Juliet,” horror, science fiction and social satire, co-stars Rob Corddry and John Malkovich.
Marion’s novel is even better, digging deep into sardonic observations about humanity, comic takes on zombie behavior and stirring reflections on what it really means to be alive or dead.
“The idea for ‘Warm Bodies’ started with a short story in which a zombie talks about life after the apocalypse,” says Marion. “I’ve always been interested in writing from the perspective of an outsider.
“I thought the story would be a throwaway thing on my website, but it turned out to be the most popular writing I’d ever done.”
Marion eventually expanded the tale into a novel, published in 2009.
“That’s when all the deeper stuff came into it, and it began to connect with my life during a depressed state in which I was struggling to come back to life, as with R’s experience. I had no idea the book would become a defining thing for me. I didn’t think people would even like it — a literary zombie novel.”
While Marion’s agent perused an early draft, a film editor friend circulated the manuscript to film industry contacts. Film rights were sold, and the first money Marion received from the studio bought him time to polish the book prior to publication.
Authors are usually kept at a distance from movie adaptations of their work, but not this time.
“I was heavily involved as a consultant,” Marion says. “I met with the director, answered his questions and gave him notes on the script. The production was definitely respectful of me, but in the end it’s their movie. There are differences and changes, but the spirit is intact and it doesn’t reject the social commentary. It’s lighter, but not a joke.
“It still has a serious side.”
Growing up in Mount Vernon, Marion was a determined writer since childhood. He has also dabbled in other modes of expression, recording music and photographing startling landscape images. Both can be found on his website (isaacmarion.com).
“I used to split my time between writing, music and painting,” he says. “I would work on a book and then abandon it, start a band, do an album, quit music, then do a gallery show. Eventually I decided to give writing a serious shot.”
Marion is writing a prequel to “Warm Bodies” in coming weeks, then will work on a sequel he says will be darker. He recently completed an original screenplay, but is dubious about film or television writing.
“It’s restrictive, and I don’t get to do what I’m best at,” he explains.
“The language itself is almost irrelevant. Unless my script gets made and I have an amazing experience, I probably won’t go back to it.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org