By Nick Hawks
Hopefully you’ve been following the first rule of “Zombieland” and keeping up on your cardio because zombies are back in theaters with the anticipated sequel, “Zombieland: Double Tap.” Director Ruben Fleischer, who directed both installments, talked about the sequel in a college media conference call on Oct. 11.
Despite being successful both critically and commercially, it has taken a decade for the sequel to the 2009 cult classic. The biggest reason for that was the need to get the script right, according to Fleischer.
“We didn’t want to do anything to tarnish the reputation from the first one,” Fleischer said. “That’s kind of why it took 10 years on the second one. We wanted to make sure the script was really great and that we all felt confident heading into the sequel knowing that we had a great starting point in the script.”
“Zombieland” was Fleischer’s first film as director. He has since directed “30 Minutes or Less,” “Gangster Squad” and last year’s “Venom.” He said after being involved with other projects, he realized just how special the comradery was in “Zombieland.”
“Zombieland was my first movie ever, and after doing a few others, I realized just how amazing that experience was,” he said.
The experience and mutual appreciation with everybody involved in the original production was a big factor in getting the star-studded cast back together. Much has changed since 2009. For example, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson have all been nominated for Academy Awards in that time. Fleischer and Eisenburg both became fathers. Eisenburg would often have his family on set with him, in addition to being reunited with his on-screen family.
“It was like a family reunion in a very real way,” Fleischer said.
This type of film gives everybody a chance to just relax and have some fun. Harrelson has opened up about being on set and just laughing all day long. The entire cast gets a chance to show off their comedic chops, which was a big factor in returning for a sequel.
“For Emma, she’s one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, but she’s been doing more dramatic work recently,” Fleischer said. “I think she was excited to do a comedy and have fun with people that she likes.”
Improvisation was not only used, but encouraged by Fleischer, who said that one of the funniest scenes in the movie was completely improvised.
“I love improvisation, and one of the joys of being a director is being able to cast these incredibly talented comedians to collaborate with,” Fleischer said. “When you have some of the world’s most talented people at your disposal, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of what they bring to the table.”
Of course, “Zombieland” is not just a comedy. It couldn’t live up to the zombie genre if it didn’t produce some pretty gnarly kills. Fleischer knew he had to go bigger for the sequel, so that is exactly what he did, literally. He brought in a monster truck, which was his biggest challenge on the set.
“I just had never spent much time with monster trucks,” he said. “They’re very unpredictable vehicles so you can’t really have anybody in proximity.”
The zombies were added to the scene using CGI, something that was not used for the original, due to safety concerns. Fleischer added that watching a monster truck drive around in an empty parking lot looked a little bit weird, but he knew they would able to add the zombies in later using technology. He said it came out better than he could have expected.
The film itself is also proving to perform better than he expected, as Fleischer has been getting good feedback so far.
“Some have even told me it’s better [than the original],” Fleischer said. “But I’ll leave that for you to decide.”