Douglas Booth talks shaved eyebrows, kitchen knives and what he’d do in an apocalypse
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is a pretty bizarre film. What did you make of it when you first read the script?
[Laughs] Er, well when I first heard the title I thought it sounded really strange. But then I looked at who was involved – David O Russell had optioned the book, and written the script, and then [director] Burr Steers came on and went back to a lot of the original Austen beats. It just made me happy when I read it. Then Matt [Smith], a friend of mine, got involved and I was sold.
I read you’re drawn to work you don’t fully understand. Was it hard picturing brain-eating zombies in Jane Austen’s world?
I didn’t quite understand tonally how it would play. I thought Burr had a good vision: he wanted it to be played straight. We weren’t going wink, wink, nudge, nudge, look at the camera. The big wink at the camera was the fact that we weren’t winking at the camera. The absurdity came out of the bizarre circumstances. And, of course, Matt [playing Mr Collins] was the comic relief we all needed.
What would you do in a real-life zombie apocalypse?
I’d call up Ray Winstone, go to his house in Sicily, drink a vodka and coke, borrow his shotgun, sit on the terrace and just pick them off. Then chill out until I died.
And if you could only save one object, what would it be?
It’s a cliché: family and friends.
Nope. It has to be an object.
I think you lost that with the shotgun.
All right, um. Photo album? No, wait, you don’t want to sit there and weep over photos. There’s no one left, is there? I’d take a big old kitchen knife. That’s useful.
Or my bike. I could cycle away.
With Riot Club done and dusted, is it nice to not be quizzed on the state of the British class system?
Oh no, I love those questions. I’ve got more answers for that than what I would take in a zombie apocalypse. But after I did Jupiter Ascending, Riot Club and And Then There Were None – all pretty horrible characters – it was so lovely to play the warm-hearted, puppyish Mr Bingley. That was nice after being such a d*ck.
You’ve now covered Austen, Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet), and Dickens (Great Expectations)… Can we see a pattern emerging?
It’s just what comes up at the time. My next film is The Limehouse Golem, set in Victorian London. It’s a dark, gothic crime thriller, and I play a weird musical performer and completely change my teeth, look and voice. I put on a chin. So I don’t really think about period. Oh wait, now I’m actually playing Percy Shelley opposite Elle Fanning [as Mary Shelley in A Storm In The Stars], and that’s period.
Speaking of chins, there’s a trend for very good-looking actors to make themselves look ugly: Johnny Depp in Black Mass, for example. Does that appeal?
Massively. It’s liberating and freeing. It’s interesting to play and completely detach yourself from what you normally look like.
You did shave off your eyebrows.
Exactly. I feel like I’ve been doing that since I played Boy George when I was 17 [in Worried About The Boy]. I’ve always been comfortable changing my look
to the point of shaving off my eyebrows and dressing up in a very androgynous manner. If you put pictures of me as all the characters I’ve played in a row, they look really different: from Boy George to me in Noah with long hair.
So we’ve stalked your Twitter…
Oh God. I’m getting nervous.
Can we quiz you about some of the people you follow?
Oh, he’s in a play with my friend Gemma [Chan]. But I’ve known him for a while, since I played Boy George, because he’s part of that New Romantic scene. I got to know George well when I worked on that job, and lots of people from the Eighties loved it because it reminded them of when they were younger.
This is hilarious. So I’m good friends with Matthew Bourne, and Arthur Pita, who’s another very talented choreographer. I’ve just come across her a bunch of times. She followed me so I followed her back.
You also follow Stylist magazine, but not ShortList.
Oh no! I don’t know how that happened. I don’t read 80 per cent of what’s on there, there’s just so much information, and I’m dyslexic… But I will follow you guys, when we’re finished here.
Thanks! You’ve also modelled for Burberry and are often on the front row of Fashion Week. Do you consider yourself fashionable?
Yeah, well, I like clothes a lot [laughs]. I have a lot of friends in the fashion industry, so it’s great to be involved.
There are a lot of skirts on the catwalk. Do real men wear skirts?
Whatever floats your boat. I saw Jaden Smith in the new Louis Vuitton advert. It’s cool. Fashion is constantly moving. We laugh now, but we’ll all be wearing it next year.
But will we see you in a skirt?
[Laughs] Watch this space.
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is at cinemas nationwide now