With a face so handsome it could probably stop a zombie horde in its tracks, Douglas Booth has quickly become one of the nation’s favourite rising British stars.
In the upcoming Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, the actor takes on the role of the dashing Mr Bingley, as the classic Jane Austen novel is given a frighteningly undead twist.
We sat down with the gorgeous guy himself to talk about period classics, the importance of equality, and who he’d take with him to the zombie apocalypse…
You’ve starred in quite a few period dramas, but this one has a big twist – zombies. What were your initial thoughts when you joined the film? I’d heard of it before, because a lot of my American friends were fans of it, it was a New York Times bestseller. I was a little skeptical at first, but I knew that David Russell and Natalie Portman had commissioned it, so I knew there must be something there. As soon as I read it it was just so fun, it was really entertaining, and there was an amazing cast and crew attached. We had the most amazing time filming.
They’re two wildly different genres, a period romance and a horror, but they work surprisingly well together, don’t they? Yeah, it’s just so cleverly woven, and the zombies in this movie almost accentuate the themes of the original novel in some ways. It’s a testament to how brilliant Jane Austen’s writing is really that it can withstand that, because she has such brilliantly drawn characters, and it’s great fun seeing those characters that we know and love so well change when a zombie plague is taking place.
And yet it still manages to stay faithful to the original Austen novel… That’s what I liked about it. With the Pride & Prejudice aspect, we played it completely straight, but the world around it just made it ridiculous. It was entertaining seeing how it differed from the original – a lot of her real lines were there, but with a twist because of the new situation.
There’s such a wide array of talent in the film, and a lot of recognisable British faces. How was it working with all these actors? The whole thing was amazing, there was such a great group of us, it was fantastic. I was looking at the poster yesterday and thinking, ‘wow, that’s such a cool bunch of people.’ You’ve got the younger ones coming through the ranks like Lily James, who’s just killing it right now, and Jack Houston is becoming one of the biggest young actors in Hollywood, and Sam Riley, one of the coolest actors out there. It was such an amazing ensemble cast, it was just a great cast of people, and it was an absolute privilege to work with them.
You’ve worked with Matt Smith before, how was it reuniting with him? I worked with Matt on Christopher And His Kind, and Lily I’ve known since she was at drama school, so it was just like working with mates really. It was a pure joy to go into work everyday. It was easy and fun, and there were a lot of parties…
One of the great things about the film is how it completely subverts the typical Hollywood gender roles, was this appealing to you? That was one my favourite things in this movie, because it just flips it on its head, and it was so refreshing to see women kicking ass instead. I remember growing up me and all my mates would watch the King Arthur movies, and it would be so cool to have a group of strong guys kicking ass, but then my female friends had things like Mean Girls – which is a great movie – but they all seemed to be movies about stereotypically feminine things, so it’s kind of cool that young women now have a movie with five independent strong women that take their destiny into their own hands.
You’re a strong campaigner for gender equality, what makes you so passionate about this cause? I think it’s partly the way I was raised, with strong women in my life, and of course there’s Emma Watson who I’ve been friends with for a while, I feel like I’ve been educated by her as well. I find her very inspiring. I used to hang around with my mates and we’d say, ‘stop being such a girl,’ things like that, but now I’m like, ‘what does that mean? How is that a negative thing?’ I would never say things like that anymore, ever. It’s exactly the same thing as people saying, ‘oh, that’s so gay.’ Like, where did that even come from?
Are LGBT rights something you’re supportive of too, then? Massively, yeah. I’d say about 70% of my friends are gay, and the beautiful thing is that it’s just not an issue anymore. I think we’re really going to see the complete disintegration of those walls and barriers soon, and I don’t think we’ll even need labels in the future. Sometimes it’s good for people to say, “I am gay,” and for people to come together and say, ‘this is something to own and to be proud of’, but I also think it’s going to become less and less a thing. Labels and barriers are just breaking down, and I think in a hundred years everything will have changed.
I’ve had the great fortune to work with some very talented LGBT people like Lana Wachowski, who co-created The Matrix, she’s transgender and she’s the most amazing woman, so to speak to her about what it was like to go from being born a guy, I think that’s very important. Then you’ve got people like Olly Alexander, who’s amazing and wonderful, doing great things for mental health as well.
One of your first major roles was in Worried About The Boy, playing Boy George, who’s obviously a huge gay icon – how was that experience? I was only 17, but it was one of the most amazing experiences, he’s an incredible man and I was very, very lucky to play him. I also got to wear some of his original clothes that he had made when he was young, he had sat there putting pins in his leather jackets, and I got to wear them. I feel like I have a bond with him in some way. I feel – weirdly – that he’s a part of me, I adore him. He’s just the best, and it was so fun to completely take myself away from who I am and play a character like that, those opportunities don’t come around all the time. So, hopefully, I’ll get more opportunities like that to play such an interesting character.
Are there any other musical icons you’d like to portray? There are a few, yeah. How many musical icons am I allowed to play? [Laughs] It would be amazing to play David Bowie. There’s even a movie being made about Elvis, I’d have to put a bit of weight on my face, but I could try and play Elvis. Freddie Mercury would be great too, I’d be up for playing them all if I was given the opportunity.
So, after starring in the film, do you think you’d survive a real life zombie apocalypse? Yeah, I think I’d be alright! I’d either be absolutely fine and survive until the last minute, or I’d be the first one to go, one of the two, I’m not quite sure. I’d either fall at the first hurdle or stumble at the last. There’s too many people in London though, I’d need to head up to the Highlands or something.
Which three celebrities would you pick to battle the zombie menace with? Ah, who would I take? I’d take Matt Damon, Daniel Craig and Angelina Jolie. There you go, Bourne, Bond, and Tomb Raider. That would be a great movie with those three together!
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is released in UK cinemas on Thursday 11 February.