Cara Lynn Shultz
January 18, 2013 05:00 PM

It’s the age-old story: Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl has trouble introducing the boy to her best friend, because the boy is a zombie and ate her last boyfriend.

Wait, what?

In the upcoming comedy Warm Bodies, Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man, X-Men First Class) plays R, a lonely zombie who is dissatisfied with his life of shuffling around an airport, eating brains and grunting out conversations with his best friend (Rob Corddry).

But R’s still heart begins to beat when he lays eyes on Julie (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of a zombie-killing general and girlfriend of R’s last meal. So he embarks on a mission to befriend Julie and, as he haltingly reminds her, “keep safe.”

“I understood that feeling of wanting to connect and caring about someone a lot and wanting to look after them,” Hoult tells PEOPLE about why he chose the role. “The great thing about [Julie] is she’s bubbly and there’s a spark about her. And she’s obviously very open to the world around her, and I think that’s a good thing. She’s positive.”

Julie and R form an unlikely bond, with Julie’s best friend Nora (Crazy, Stupid, Live‘s Analeigh Tipton) giving him the requisite inquisition before accepting that R is, indeed, good.

“As much as [Julie is] saving my character and making him human again, she’s just as trapped in the human world where the humans have gone down this road of closing themselves in and giving up on finding a cure,” says Hoult. “She’s the one person who steps out from the crowd and sees hope in my character.”

But it’s not all romantic glances and swoony zombie love – since R meets Julie after dining on her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco). And yes, there is the requisite brain-eating (but Warm Bodies delivers a good reason for why the undead prefer the gray matter).

“It was kind of a wet, soft, cold cake mixed with grapefruit and peachy stuff,” Hoult says of filming those scenes. “It was quite sweet. Pretty tasty. It’s going to be one of my odd requests wherever I go. ‘Delicious brains,’ please!”

Warm Bodies opens Feb. 1.

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