Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan are possessed of two of the most withering deadpan stares in the business, so they’re perfectly matched in the new film Life After Beth, though the twist is that they both get to play sweet in it. Well, that’s one twist. The other, perhaps more important twist is that this young romance is complicated by the fact that Plaza’s Beth is a zombie, and when she comes back to life, she and DeHaan decide to give their relationship another go. That means he must overlook a few minor things, like her rotting flesh and sudden bursts of super-strong aggression, but hey: We all make compromises in relationships, right? Earlier this month, Plaza and DeHaan sat down with Vulture to discuss how they made it work.
Is it fun to look like a zombie all day?
Aubrey Plaza: My most fun times were driving in the shuttle from the hair-and-makeup trailer to location, because we had to drive in traffic. I would wait for red lights, then pop my head out the window and try to scare the shit out of people.
The makeup doesn’t start to bother you around, like, hour three?
AP: I didn’t mind any of it, actually. It wasn’t that bad. The only thing that sucked was towards the end of the movie, when I’m covered with blood, and fake blood gets sticky, gets in your hair, gets into everything. The blood and the gore was probably the worst part of it, but the zombie makeup and prosthetics were actually cool.
Are people more naturally concerned for you when you’re walking around covered in fake blood?
AP: You know, you’d think they would be. But for some reason, people in L.A. don’t get fazed by anything.
Dane, this is one of the most normal roles I’ve ever seen you play. Is this character much closer to how you really are?
Dane DeHaan: I don’t think I’ve really ever played a character that much like myself. Probably because I’m not very interesting, and a movie about me would be really boring.
AP: It’d just be, like, three hours of you playing golf.
DD: Yeah, exactly.
AP: And being a smartass.
DD: And then taking a nap. But that’s what I love, is playing characters who are different [from] myself, and getting better at acting. I love acting, I’ve always loved acting, and I’ve been really fortunate to get the opportunities to do it with all different kinds of characters. Life After Beth was actually a big departure for me, in terms of it being my first comedy.
Do people not send you many comedies? Are they typecasting you based on your more brooding roles?
DD: I don’t know. I mean, I went from doing a comic-book movie to doing a comedy to doing a James Dean biopic to doing a 17th-century romance, so there’s not really much of a through line in that, I think, except that I’m very fortunate that people keep trusting me with different kinds of films. I think that’s a huge gift. Not only is it a dream come true to work at the level that I get to work at, but I feel like people don’t really see me as one thing or another. They’re just seeing me as an actor, and that’s the goal.
Do you feel like that’s the case for you, Aubrey?
AP: No, I don’t. I think that when you’re on a TV show and you play the same character for seven years, people tend to identify you pretty heavily with that character, and it becomes a challenge to have them see you in a different light. But I like that challenge. It’s fun for me to do things that surprise people, and I always try to do interesting movies for myself. Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to keep doing different things. That’s the goal for any actor, I think: You never want to be doing the same thing over and over again.
It’s interesting that the movie begins, really, after Beth has already died. We don’t get to see what their relationship was like pre-zombie — we have to intuit it.
DD: For me, it’s always important to fully flesh out every relationship in a film, so it was important to have an understanding of who Beth was in my life and the history of our relationship and where we were at when she died, absolutely.
AP: It was important for me to just have an idea of who Beth was when she was alive. In terms of their relationship, when we see her come back in the movie, she’s totally in a weird state of amnesia. She’s only remembering select things about their relationship, so I thought a lot about who she was before that. I tried to have a live Beth shine through some of the zombie moments.
Aubrey, your boyfriend Jeff Baena directed the film. Is it weird to discuss with your real boyfriend who should play your fake boyfriend?
AP: It was actually fun casting the movie and talking about who could play those parts. Dane and I have the same manager and the same agent, and he’s such a good actor that it was kind of a no-brainer.
Had you two met before Dane came onboard this film?
DD: Very, very, very briefly.
Was it at some party where it was like, “You’re famous, I’m famous. Let’s talk to each other!”
AP: We met at Jeff’s apartment, where I was living, I guess?
DD: I think that is what Aubrey said to me. “You’re famous …”
AP: “… I’m famous.”
DD: And then she walked away.
Aubrey, you’ve said that you don’t tend to discuss work with Jeff, but you kind of had to for this movie. Has that gone back to normal yet?
AP: Not yet, because we’ve kept talking about it: I’ve gone through the entire process of making the movie with him, and it’s been a really big part of my year. But it’s been interesting to see a movie go from the very beginning stages to the very end, with all of the weird steps in between. I went to film school — the same one that Jeff went to — and I’m really interested in writing stuff, so it was actually a really great learning process for me to watch all this and go through it.
Are you writing something now?
AP: I’m always writing something, but I have one project, a television project, that I’m working on now. And hopefully, I’ll get to direct it.
Dane, are you interested in writing and directing, too?
DD: Uhhh, nope. [Laughs.] I’m really terrified to write, and I just really love acting, so while people will continue to let me act, I’ll just stick with that.
Aubrey, what accounts for your sudden proximity to superheroes and supervillains? Dane played the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, your Parks and Rec co-star Chris Pratt is starring in Guardians of the Galaxy, you have a movie coming up with Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie from Captain America …
AP: How do you know all that?
I do my research.
AP: Oh, okay. Well, I think it’s just obvious that I need to be a superhero. Or a supervillain. I’m waiting for my chance, and I want it now.
It must be fun to see how Chris Pratt has blown up over the last month.
AP: The cast of Parks and Rec, we all know how brilliant he is, and it’s just nice to see the world [be] let in on the secret of Chris Pratt. I went to the premiere, and it was un-fucking-believable how huge that premiere was. I’ve never seen anything like it. The movie’s gigantic, it made something crazy, like $100 million, its first weekend … it’s really cool.
Is it weird that now people are digging up his old yearbook photos and asking if he’s the new Jennifer Lawrence?
AP: Is that what’s happening?
Yeah. We’re at peak Pratt right now.
AP: That’s cool. Is that weird for me? No, because I don’t have anything to do with it. But I think it’s great.