It’s been ten years since the first Zombieland, just long enough now that it’s difficult to say if Zombieland: Double Tap is a product of making a sequel to a hot and valuable property, or if it’s nostalgia. But, regardless, after ten long years, we finally have our sequel.
Director Ruben Fleischer returns to oversee the characters of his feature film directorial debut, where we find Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) still living together 10 years later, but tensions are mounting because Little Rock wants to explore the world and see what else is out there, but the zombies are becoming smarter and better at doing the things that zombies do.
Ahead, Fleischer discusses what it’s like to return to return to Zombieland after ten years, he discusses a scene with the cast of The Walking Dead that never became a reality. And he talks about why he didn’t return to to direct the second Venom. Yes, there are rumors that he and star Tom Hardy, let’s say, didn’t always see eye to eye, but Fleischer says it was more about scheduling up against Zombieland: Double Tap and it became, “mutually exclusive.”
It’s been ten years. Did you ever give up? Did you ever think this would happen?
Well, it’s funny because I think we all wanted it to happen, but we also have a lot of respect for the first film and it holds a special place in all of our hearts. And so we wanted to make sure if we were going to do another one, that it could harness that same spirit and live up to the original. And so I think that I never lost faith that it would happen, but it definitely took a while to get there.
I heard there were a few scripts along the way, but it had to keep getting updated because everyone was getting older.
That’s right. Yeah, we had to acknowledge the passage of time. And certainly the growth of Little Rock and her wanting to be her own woman and with her own mind to leave the nest and live her own life. And that’s kind of the impetus to her story. So in that way, the passage of time really served us because in the time between the first movie and this one, Little Rock grew up, and Abigail Breslin grew up, and she’s now a young woman and no longer a little girl. And so that was the basis for the whole story.
For the first movie, you famously went through a lot of people for the big cameo before Bill Murray agreed. I just heard the story about Joe Pesci…
Was it just they didn’t know what you were doing?
Yeah, I mean, Woody has said before that when he first got the script for Zombieland and he just saw the title, he called his agent and he said, “Has it really come to this? Am I at that place in my career where I’m doing zombie movies?” I think ten years ago zombie movies were really kind of like a very subgenre of more B-movie type movies. And so I think just had different associations. You couldn’t imagine Brad Pitt being in a zombie movie. Or a zombie TV show being the number one TV show in the world. But, fortunately, things have changed in that time. I think in large part due to Woody’s agent convincing him to actually open the script and read it and appreciate the potential that existed.
Do you feel you helped start the zombie craze?
I mean, yeah, we can’t take sole credit by any stretch, but we definitely, I think, were part of the zeitgeist.
Speaking of the zeitgeist, there is a The Walking Dead reference in this movie.
I think it was good to acknowledge the reality of The Walking Dead. Emma had a funny idea that as our heroes are kind of making their way through the post-apocalyptic landscape, they come across, just in passing, some members of the cast of the Walking Dead. But we never were able to make that happen.
Did The Walking Dead people say no?
No, it just never even became real. I just thought it was a funny, funny idea. But I think the comic book nod is probably a better acknowledgement. Might start to get a little Scooby-Doo, like the Harlem Globetrotters showing up.
In all the marketing it says, “From the director of Venom,” instead of, “From the director of Zombieland.”
I mean, I kind of wish that they’d put in parentheses, after the director of Venom and the writers of Deadpool, in, “AKA the guys who did the original Zombieland.” But I think it’s all just wanting to appeal to a broader audience with this film.
There are scenes set at Graceland in this movie. If Elvis were still alive like some people think, now that would have been a great cameo.
I love that. That’s such a funny idea. Yeah, it was just born from Tallahassee’s love for the King. I mean, it feels totally in the spirit of the Tallahassee character as well as Woody for sure, this deep love for Elvis. He says in the opening scene at Christmas, ”Graceland. Did I ever tell you about it? I want to take you there some day.” So I think it’s sweet that when she’s off on her own, Little Rock, even though she’s fleeing Tallahassee, she still is curious to go to this place that means so much to him.
Look, I realize this one took ten years to get made, but do you have an idea for a third one?
I think we’ll just have to see how it plays out. But I think it would be a dream to do another version in 10 years.
So why aren’t you doing the second Venom?
Honestly, it was just a scheduling thing. They’re in production. They’re very close to shooting now, and I just finished Zombieland on Tuesday. Last week. Tuesday of last week. On Tuesday of last week I finished the movie, and now I have to promote it. I think they’ve been working on that one for a while so it’s just … they were mutually exclusive.
Did it surprise you how well Venom did? At least the level of success?
Definitely. I couldn’t have predicted that result, but I’m very grateful for audiences. I think the movie worked because audiences just really had fun and really enjoyed the movie. And that’s what I set out to do, just make a really entertaining film. And I’m glad that audiences appreciated that.
‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ opens in theaters this week. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.