It's not every day that you visit a movie set to interview its stars and veteran director, only to find a decomposing zombie, still oddly attractive, sitting across from you. Staring at you innocently through dead-white irises while she politely answers your questions, it's disconcerting to say the least. And that's exactly what happened when I met Ashley Greene on the Los Angeles set of her rollicking new "Zom-Com," Burying the Ex, along with her very alive-looking co-star Anton Yelchin and Gremlins director Joe Dante.
And that's also the reason why, in my video interviews above, there is no footage of Ashley from that particular December day on the set; the producers wanted to keep her horrifying look under wraps until the film is ready for release later this year.
"[My character] gets to decompose and break down as the script progresses, which is a very fun thing to be able to experience," says the former Twilight vamp. "The [eyes] I had yesterday before [my character] Evelyn turned full-fledged zombie, it's two contacts in each eye, and it's a milk screen basically, and then red over the top of it, and that has a really cool effect – but you can't see anything." After a moment, she adds with a laugh, "It's just really irritating. You have to drink tons of water [to stay lubricated], so every five minutes it's like, 'I have to go to the bathroom!' But my eyes look great."
Burying the Ex finds Anton as Max, a kindly young man whose relationship takes a serious nosedive after he moves in with his girlfriend Evelyn (played by Ashley), who turns out to be a controlling, manipulative nightmare. A freak accident tragically takes her life, but weeks later, once Max meets a cute and friendly new girl (Percy Jackson star Alexandra Daddario), Evelyn returns from the dead as a dirt-smeared corpse, determined to get Max back -- even if that means turning him into one of the undead.
"It is a story of a love and relationship that just won't die – literally," says Ashley of the film's amusing premise. "Death takes her, and he mourns, and then decides to move on, and Evelyn comes back from the dead believing that true love has brought her back and that they're supposed to be together. The humor in all this is she doesn't realize that she's decomposing. She's quite hideous to look at, and rancid, and now this poor Max character is faced with the challenge of how to break up with a zombie without getting his brains eaten."
Director Dante adds, "[Max] feels it's not working, but doesn't want to hurt her feelings by breaking up, and so he stays with her. I think a lot people out there can relate to the idea of staying in a relationship longer than you would have ordinarily done because of that reason, which sometimes ends up being more hurtful to stay together than it does to break up. So I think that underpinning makes all of our zombie comedy stuff seem a little bit more palatable."
"What's great about the tone of the script is it's in a lot of ways a screwball horror film," says Anton. "That's, I think, my favorite thing about the film -- that it's very aware of the genre, and self-reflexive in the sense that it's about a guy that loves horror films and sort of that B-movie/pulp Americana, and ends up being a character in one of those movies."
One of the tougher elements in pulling off the somewhat complicated humor of Burying the Ex is the fact that Ashley Greene is especially easy on the eyes. Dante points out, "We have a specific dilemma in that our main zombie is played by an attractive woman, played by Ashley Greene, and it's hard to make her look bad. … In the realm of attractive zombies, I think she's fairly unique. A tremendous amount of makeup time goes into that, and she's been extremely patient about it. I think doing the Twilight movies was a good warm-up for this."
"It sounds kind of sick, but we wanted people to almost go, 'Hmmm, she's still kind of hot,' which is not the typical zombie," agrees Ashley. "And, of course, as the film goes on, she's not hot at all." She offers that Burying the Ex, "is smart and it's funny and it's outrageous and it's not meant to be taken seriously, and there are some grotesque moments, but they're laughable, and there's always something that brings you back up from that terrifying moment. To me, it's not the typical horror genre film."
But will Ashley's Twi-hard following support her as her career path diversifies into more comedic roles and other genres? "I feel like I got a really great deal with Twilight," she beams. "Because it obviously launched all of our careers and gave us this platform, and with me, the fans love Alice and they love me, and it's an incredible thing to have. But [the fans] also accept me doing different roles, and they're excited about them. I feel like sometimes with other actors, they see them as that one character and it's hard to branch out, so I think I kind of lucked out."
Of course, Anton battled vampires in Fright Night, and he says that he welcomes another opportunity to tangle with the walking dead: "I've never worked on a zombie film. Fright Night was a similar genre blend, but it's a different monster, and I think that's kind of what's great about the Universal Horror pictures [that my character loves] … it was always an intelligent approach, and a kind of perverse, almost transgressive approach to different monsters, and I think that's exciting. It's fun to play around in different monster worlds."
Watch ET for more when Burying the Ex shuffles its way into theaters…