By The Playlist | The Playlist January 10, 2012 at 9:47PM
Every few years, Hollywood annoints a new star. Sometimes it's a Tom Hardy, other times it's a Taylor Kitsch, and it can also be a Jeremy Renner. What these actors all share in common is that they're considered leading men long before they're actually stars: meaning, they're leading films, but the public doesn't know who they are yet. In the case of Hardy and Renner, The Weinstein Company and Paramount are bumping the releases of their smaller films ("The Wettest County" and "Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters" respectively) in hopes that their upcoming tentpoles ("The Dark Knight" and "The Bourne Legacy" respectively) will match the signal to noise ratio of their Tinsteltown buzz (in the case of Kitsch, both Disney and Universal are gambling hard).
This is a long-winded way of saying that for the early twenties set, "Warm Bodies" actor Nicholas Hoult is that type of quote unquote star (age 22). Known for his debut in "About A Boy" in 2002, Hoult did little in terms of noticeable roles until an impressive supporting turn in 2009's "A Single Man." And then something happened. He apparently started wowing casting agents in Hollywood and generating a heat that a great many agents wanted to be a part of. That's not to say that he isn't worth the hype. Like Hardy and Renner, Hoult has proven he's the real deal so far. It's just interesting to see Hollywood look over its shoulder and want a piece of the pie, even if they're not sure of the value of that confection, simply because everyone wants a slice.
So Hoult then found himself in a supporting role in "X-Men: First Class," and this year he'll be leading two fairly big pictures. One is Warner Bros.' big and expensive tentpole, "Jack the Giant Killer," the other is Summit's more modest zombies/romance film, "Warm Bodies."
Directed by Jonathan Levine ("The Wackness," "50/50"), "Warm Bodies" also features up-and-coming starlet Teresa Palmer alongside Analeigh Tipton, John Malkovich, Dave Franco and Rob Corddry. The flick puts a new spin on the zombie tale that we won't have seen before on screen: humanizing them. 'Bodies' centers on a zombie (Hoult) who becomes involved with the girlfriend (Palmer) of one of his victims, their romance sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
While other zombie films are in the works, including two in development that will also try to flip the script by injecting humanity into the genre, ("Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" and "Breathers: A Zombie's Lament") director Jonathan Levine will be the first one out of the gate when "Warm Bodies" arrives later this summer on August 8th. In fact, he'll have the first zombie-related movie of the year, as "World War Z" won't be in theaters until December.
"We’ll beat them six months to the screen, which is cool," he told us last September while promoting "50/50." "Even if there are similarities, I can’t imagine they’ll be very similar. Hopefully, I don't fuck it up for them. Or hopefully I do fuck it up for them. I mean, it's so good that no one could possibly make another one again, ever."
Back to our original point. Is Hoult a star yet and can he carry two summer tentpoles, one albiet much smaller than its fairy tale predecessor? It's anyone's guess, but "Warm Bodies" will at least have the benefit of "Jack The Giant Killer" appearing in theaters almost two months before it. Can Hoult connect, or can the film appeal to audiences beyond its star? Will Hollywood feel burned by vaulting new stars to the A-list before the box-office has deemed them worthy? Meanwhile, here's three new images, plus one you saw this morning, you can chew on until we know the answers to those questions.