No one could have predicted the cult following that would transpire when the first Zombieland was released. The now iconic zomedy, a genre-bending horror/comedy that cheekily chronicled the fight between the living dead and the surviving ass-kickers, ushered in a new zombie era.
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With director Ruben Fleischer, writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick’s zippy screenplay, and an insanely talented and kinetic cast – Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin — Zombieland achieved critical and commercial success, grossing over 100 million dollars worldwide.
Such a beloved cult classic surely warranted its own franchise, so why did it take over 10 years for fans to get the sequel Zombieland: Double Tap? “The challenge was getting a script worthy of making a second movie,” says Fleischer.
For the director, who has gone on to helm many films including last year’s blockbuster Venom, it was also imperative that the original Zombieland cast approved. Zombieland had been his directorial debut and trying to create that lightning in a bottle for a second time would be like, well, resurrecting the dead. “Their feeling was the first movie was so beloved, we can’t enter into this unless we have one that’s at least as good if not better than the original.”
Reese & Wernick were inundated with projects over the course of the past 10 years (including the mega-hit Deadpool franchise), but the cast and crew waited patiently for them to work their magic again. “There were probably 10 scripts over the last 10 years, but it never felt worthy of making a sequel,” says Eisenberg. “Finally the script was just so great, like it would be a fantastic stand-alone movie even if it wasn’t associated with the first one.”
“We had to wink a little bit at the success of the genre, because we feel like we did reinvigorate the genre in 2009,” says Reese. “So when we revisited the genre, I think it was more a question of, how do we find an original story and also justify why we had been away for ten years in the mind of the audience?”
“It’s a mix of comedy and action and drama and romance. The tone’s a delicate dance, especially on this one,” says Wernick. “That includes some of the nods we make to Walking Dead comic and in the White House. The zombie genre has evolved, and so we’re just trying to catch people up with the times.”
“They made it so special, and I think that’s the reason that we all wanted to come back,” says Emma Stone. Woody Harrelson, who Fleischer says was the most discerning about the sequel script, agrees: “They hit a homerun. They’re just incredible writers. And they finally cracked it.”
Says Wernick, “We really wanted to tap into the idea that the post apocalypse is a still wonderful albeit lawless place. Think about it – you could drive any car you want, live where ever you want, or even kill with reckless abandon. Anything goes.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the cast had developed into a family of their own, staying in touch over the years and carrying their onscreen chemistry to real life.
“It’s just such a fun dynamic,” says Eisenberg. “The random luck of us being nice, normal, funny people makes it work so well. You can put us in any kind of context, and it will always be interesting and entertaining because the interactions we have are endlessly workable.”
“We’ve all remained pretty close, so it doesn’t really feel like a reunion in the sense that we haven’t talked to each other, including Ruben. It feels like getting to hang out with my buddies and goof around. It’s been really special and very uplifting to be around everybody again,” says Stone, who was the first to acknowledge the 10-year anniversary.
“Emma said, ‘This gives it real purpose, and think we should make Zombieland every 10 years,’” says Fleischer. “We all know Woody’s going to outlive us all, so we can just do this every ten years until one of us, probably not Woody, is gone. And so, I’m on board with that.”
In Philippine cinemas October 23, Zombieland: Double Tap is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Use the hashtag #Zombieland2