Palmer spoke to Moviefone about fighting hard for the part of Julie, whether Aussies are tougher than the rest of the world and the scene that had her and Hoult in hysterics.
Did you imagine this is the type of Romeo & Juliet story you'd be making? Oh, no. I love it, because it is sort of that classic love story but we do it in a very quirky, wacky way. It's been a real wild ride. I'm really enjoying it.
Why did you want to do it? I read the script and I loved it. I instantly felt connected to the character of Julie and I love Jonathan Levine's work. I think he's so talented and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it after reading it. It's such a strong script. I fought really hard for the role. I love her so much.
What did you have to do to convince them to cast you? Lots of auditions. Oh gosh, I met with Jonathan, I did an audition with Nick -- a chemistry read -- I came back in to do another audition, and then I sent Jonathan an email telling him how much I wanted to do the movie and then I had to put myself on tape doing a scene. And then finally I got the movie. It was really worth it.
Did it help that producer Bruna Papandrea is also Australian? Maybe, I'm not sure. We definitely got on very well. Bruna's from Adelaide, which is where I'm from as well. That was very helpful. In these bigger films, there's always a whole gang of people you have to convince. I think that's why the process took such a long time. I was really happy that it did. It gave me a lot of prep time to get into who this character was and then to get into the story.
Papandrea said you had the edge because Australians are tougher. True? Ha! Oh, I think that's a generalization. I haven't met everyone from all different cultures, but I do know Aussies are very tough. They always say "hard yakka" down under and that just means hard work. I think Aussies try to stay humble.
When we first see Julie, she's kind of a badass, before R. takes her prisoner. Julie's a little warrior, yeah. She can hold her own. I think she's been trained ever since she was a little girl, which is why she's amazing with a shotgun. But there's only so much you can do when there's a pack of zombies chasing after you.
Did you get to have any input into the script or suggestions for your character? Definitely. Jonathan Levine is such a wonderful director in the fact that when he picks an actor to portray a character, he really puts all of his trust in that person. That meant giving us liberties with the script and with the characters. If we didn't feel comfortable saying something, he was not married to the script at all. He told us to just do what feels right. And then he would say, "All right, give me one take and you can have your take where you can say it the way you want to do it. There's something very liberating in that. It just gives you a sense of confidence when your director believes in you in that way. And keeping it loose like that creates an environment where you can find those magical, spontaneous moments.
Were there any spontaneous moments of yours that made it into the final cut? Yeah, I think my decision to really ham it up with the zombie walk. As written in the script, it wasn't supposed to be overly funny or overly bad, but I decided I should just make it really terrible so that his line "too much" really lands.
Nick said he had a really hard time not cracking up on set. Was that true for you as well? Yeah, there was one line in particular where Nick and I couldn't actually stop laughing. It was like the fifth take by the time we actually got it. It's where I'm lying in bed and he's on the floor and I say to him, "I look at you, R.," [and here she started cracking up again], "and god, it must be so hard," and then we'd talk about him not eating me and we were just cracking up. I had to deliver it so sincerely, but then when you think about what I'm saying -- "You haven't eaten me" -- we ended up just laughing. There were lots of moments like that.
How did you tread that line between horror and comedy? I knew that we were poking fun at the story and I knew that it was meant to be quirky and not take itself too seriously. But at the same time, the message of the story is that love breathes passion and life back into people again. I am such a true believer in that and I wanted that message to come across and it can only come across if you do take some of it seriously. That meant really feeling fearful and really feeling love and feeling hope, so I just did that, and then added the little element of humor too. It's not supposed to be a parody.
What can you tell me about "Knight of Cups," which you're making with Terrence Malick? His films are always so clothed in secrecy. Not much. I can say that I had an amazing experience working with Terrence Malick, who's my favorite director of all time. It was a very guerrilla-style form of shooting, which is very typical for his films. We just did a lot of improv for most of my scenes with Christian Bale and some with Wes Bentley and Isabel Lucas. It was an absolute blessing in my life.