This scribe hit earlier today the press junket (which become more like a press conference) on the Santa Monica Pier for Sony Pictures’ forthcoming October 2 release of Zombieland and chatted with the flick’s director, Ruben Fleischer, as well as with film stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Emma Stone and writers and co-producers Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick. It was a fitting locale, given the nearby roller coaster and a similar ride’s filmic tie-in to Zombieland.
“As far the gore and stuff, I think I went a little bit overboard because I wasn’t a big horror fan, video director-turned-first-time feature filmmaker Fleischer admitted in regards to the copious (and I do mean copious) amounts of carnage on display (courtesy of Alterian Inc.). “I just wanted to make sure that we satisfied the zombie audience. (So) there’s a lot of blood, puke, and spit!”
Framed by scantily-clad women carousing in the Pacific, Harrelson, whose dry wit pervaded the conference, commented on the stylized gun-play his character of Tallahassee performs in the film. “It was fun. I remember thinking about all of those cool shots in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and I wanted to go back and look to them (in informing my character), but naturally, being lazy – I didn’t.”
One of the stars of Zombieland was not on hand for the press conference. This was little surprise given Sony’s gag order of “not to reveal the casting,” which was being enforced on talent in attendance as well. Still, the question came up as to the cast’s on-set interaction with the cloaked actor, and Harrelson allowed, “During the ‘mysterious cameo’ it was really hard to keep it together. In fact I think we probably lost good jokes of his because we were in the frame with him and they couldn’t use it because we were laughing so hard – which was really unprofessional.
Stone, who previously told us that she fails as an action star (“I can’t run at all!”), chimed in, “Woody always kept a straight face (on-set). I can never, ever keep a straight face. I shouldn’t be in comedies, or action. I shouldn’t be doing movies! Anytime anyone does improv I laugh, anytime someone tells a funny joke I laugh!”
Of the comedic elements of Zombieland (the film is a perfect balance of horror and comedy built on a touching character-driven foundation according to this writer), director Fleischer said, “It’s been really rewarding getting to see the film with an audience to hear the laughs because when you are all alone in an editing room, you just go on instinct. It’s exciting to see the film with an audience and know that it works.”
Addressing the comparisons already being made to that other recent zom-com Shaun of the Dead, Fleischer said, “There are so many things in the (Zombieland) script which distinguish it. Specifically, the fast zombies versus the slow zombies, and the fact that it (Zombieland) takes place a couple of months into the outbreak as opposed to at the moment of the virus, and tonally I think it’s much more grounded in character than satire. Inherently, I think it’s an American film as far as it falling into the classic ‘road movie’ tradition as well as the nature of the jokes, the film’s landscape, and the character Woody brought to the screen, which is the classic kind of High Plains-drifter cowboy. It’s an understandable comparison, but I think they both (Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead) stand on their own feet as separate films.”
Harrelson concluded with a smile, “What Ruben wanted to say is that Zombieland is the Citizen Kane of action-zombie-horror-comedies.”
Visit Zombieland’s official site here, and look for the film in theatres October 2nd.
– Sean D.
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