Zombieland arrives on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK today, and its writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, have become two of the most in-demand scribes in Hollywood. We speak to them about Zombieland, Zombieland 2,
What can we expect from Zombieland 2?
Paul: There are a couple of things you can expect. One, we will hopefully have all our cast back – everyone’s excited to return. We will also introduce new characters; it will be in 3D…
Rhett: It will be a bigger budget so there’ll be more grand zombie killing. In every way it’ll be bigger. The cast will be bigger, the action scenes will be bigger and, hopefully, with 3D you will be looking down to make sure that’s not blood on top of your popcorn.
What’s it like writing a movie specifically for 3D?
RR: We hear a lot of people say, ‘Oh no, we’re not going to write to the 3D, we’re just going to make a great a great story because we don’t want the 3D to affect the story’ or ‘Ee don’t want it to be too gimmicky.’ We couldn’t disagree more. We really want to write to 3D, we’ll be having things fly at camera, we’ll be using the gimmicks, because why not? The new 3D is such a high quality, it’s going to provide us with opportunities that filmmakers haven’t had until recently and why not take advantage of those?
PW: They say that 3D and good character and story are mutually exclusive, you can’t have both, and once you start writing for 3D you lose your drive and you’re paying more attention to what’s coming at you rather than the characters and story. We think you can do both, and do both great.
I hear we’re also going to see a love interest for Woody Harrelson’s character, Tallahassee, in the sequel. Is that true?
RR: That’s true; the specific request from Woody was to fall in love. He’s such a fun character, and it’s such a rich world to play in. Who would fall in love with a guy like Tallahassee? In our imagination it’s really wild.
Are you looking at a 2011 release date for the movie?
PW: We’re just not sure. The studio’s excited to make it, we’re excited to write it and direct it and the actors seem excited to act in it. When that comes together we’re just not sure, but assume it’ll be in the next year or two or three.
Bill Murray’s cameo in the first movie was inspired. How did that come about?
RR: This idea of a post-apocalyptic world is so dour and depressing; we wanted to look at wish fulfilment at the end of the world. You can do anything you want without consequence. You can drive any car, you can shop at any store, and one of the things you can do is go to a huge mansion in Beverley Hills and crash for the night.
That idea first began when we first wrote it as Patrick Swayze. They show up at Patrick Swayze’s house and there’s a big fight between a zombified Patrick Swayze and Tallahassee. Unfortunately, he got sick and we never really got the chance to offer him the role or give him the script.
So, we officially put pen to paper and brainstormed and wrote about 10 to 15 drafts with different celebrity cameos in mind: Sylvester Stallone, Joe Pesci, Jean Claude Van Damme, Matthew McConaughey, Mark Hamill… and for one reason or another they all said no. One being schedule, another bring this idea of actors playing themselves in a movie that was hard to get over the hump on.
We were two days from shooting the scene in Georgia and we didn’t have an actor. We had a backup plan without a celebrity cameo that we were planning on shooting in this mansion. We walked up to Woody and said, “Is there anyone in your Rolodex you can call?” And he said, “Yeah, I can call Bill Murray.” They’re old friends from their Kingpin days, and we said, “Absolutely, but we better start prepping for the non-celebrity version as there’s no way Bill Murray’s going to do a zombie movie.”
So, he got on the phone with Bill and Bill said, “Send me the script,” and he quickly read the script and loved it and had some ideas about where he wanted to take the character. He actually said, “There’s not a lot for me to do,” so the idea of a zombiefied Bill Murray turned into Bill Murray disguising himself as a zombie and we quickly re-wrote a draft for him and sent it out and two days later he was on set with us shooting the movie, which was an absolute thrill for us.
We’re such huge fans. He’s such a comedic icon and he’s just impossible to get on a movie. He’s about the hardest man to get in Hollywood because he doesn’t have an agent or a manager. He’s got an answering machine and he’ll either get back to you or he doesn’t, if you’re even lucky enough to have that number.
If you had asked me a year and a half ago who we had a better chance to getting in this movie, Bill Murray or Bill Clinton, I would have said we would have a better chance of getting Bill Clinton.
The scene where they show Ghostbusters to Abigal Breslin’s character [Little Rock] was brilliant.
RR: It was all serendipitous. Sony had done Ghostbusters, and as soon as we got Bill they shipped out all the Ghostbusters stuff from their warehouse – and even the Twinkie moment in Ghostbusters. We didn’t put two and two together and then they cut it together and there it was. It was just brilliant.
You originally wrote Zombieland as a TV series. Following the success of the movie, would you like to return to that idea, and if so, how would it differ from the movies?
PW: We would very much like to return to it, after nine or ten theatrical sequels. We always envisioned it as a television show so we would love [that]. We think there’s plenty of material, we’ve never lacked for ideas for the characters and new characters. In all seriousness, if we could have one or two or three theatrical sequels, that would be phenomenal. And then at that point turn it into a television show, like Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That would be our dream. In ten or fifteen years maybe Woody would be willing to do television. You never know!
You are now going to be very busy for the foreseeable future. As well as Zombieland 2, you have signed on for the Deadpool movie and the GI Joe sequel. How are both of those projects developing?
PW: They’re going great. We’re excited about them for different reasons. Deadpool is just an irreverent, kick-ass, self-deprecating character and they say ‘write what you know’, so… minus the kick-ass! We’ve been developing that with Ryan Reynolds, who’ll play the character of Deadpool. It’s been great.
And GI Joe is such a fun, fun, fun playground for us. It doesn’t get any bigger than GI Joe. Rhett made his first movie when he was, what, nine?
RR: I was 11 or 12.
PW: It was a GI Joe movie made with stop motion characters, with little action figurines. We were up in Rhode Island where Hasbro is headquartered. It’s such an inspired world and one where excited to play in.
RH: Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to talk about what the movies about, but just know that we have a deep affection for GI Joe, and that we’ll bring our absolute best to it and hope that that’s good enough.
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, thank you very much!
Zombieland is on DVD and Blu-ray now!