Last week out on Santa Monica pier Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, director Ruben Fleischer and the two writers of the film Rhett Reese and Paul Wernic all got together once again (check out the videos from the press conference at Comic-Con) to talk about Zombieland! I kind of wish they would have had some people, better yet, children like the one above dressed as zombies to jump out and scare the journalists. Sadly, that never happened, although they did talk about killing them some zombies, Harrelson’s plea to Hostess to make a healthy Twinkie, their most cathartic moments in making it, and of course, the mysterious CAMEO which shall go un-named… for now.
Check out what the group had to say about making a comedic zombie film…
Woody, did you have some input into your character’s wardrobe?
Woody: I’ve never worked so hard on the outfit before. That’s the stuff I usually don’t put so much time into, but there were so many fittings and attempts to get that right. Ruben and I almost endlessly went back and forth on how much color to put in this or that, and I liked the way it turned out.
Ruben: Woody was incredibly specific about his wardrobe and designed it all pretty much himself.
Can you talk about working and casting Abigail Breslin?
Ruben Fleischer: It was scripted as a 12-year-old con-artist little girl and the whole time we thought it would be great if we could get Abigail Breslin for this, but there’s no way. We ended up auditioning a lot of other actress, but she’d read it and liked it and I think was excited about the opportunity about doing something different from things she’s done recently along the lines of Kit Kittredge and Nim’s Island, more geared towards like a youth audience. I think they were excited about the parallel in sensibility between this and Little Miss Sunshine and we were very fortunate to have her. I think all of us appreciate the talent of that little girl, but I know Woody, that scene where she had to cry, you were just so impressed by her ability to — take after take, to like summon the tears and be so real in that moment. She’s super talented.
Woody : That doesn’t even say it. Not only did she summon the tears every time you shot that scene, but when the camera wasn’t on her she still did it. When the camera was on us, she’s still summoning tears. Amazing!
Emma: She was just amazing. You couldn’t ask for anybody better to play your little sister. We go along so well. I felt really lucky. She’s not just a cool kid, she’s like a really cool person. She’s like a small person, it seems like she’s incredibly developed, but she also really liked Twilight and The Jonas Brothers so she’s still normal. Every chance I got to hang out with her, it was fun and a blast. I was incredibly lucky.
Is there like zombie movie codes you have to respect and when do you decide to break away from the normal?
Paul: Ironically this zombie movie, which is based on The 47 Rules for Surviving Zombieland, started with no rules. We threw out all the rules, all the exposition of how the zombies started out, how they became and I think that’s what makes the movie so fresh and exciting because we didn’t have any rules to begin with. That’s the fun of the genre, as people know where they came from, people understand it that these guys are bloody, their moist and mean and they’re going to try and kill you. That’s all that everyone needs to know to get the movie.
Can you talk about the music?
Ruben: The music was one of the funnest parts in the post-production process and I got super fortunate to work with this guy called David Sardy, who scored the whole movie, and he’d only done one other movie as a composer, but he has four grammy’s for producing rock bands. I think he’s worked a lot with Oasis, Johnny Cash, Slayer, and I think the score that he made for our film is rocking, but Metallica was a late entry to the opening title sequence. We had another song in there for a long time, but it didn’t end up working out and Metallica, as soon as we put it in, we knew, you can’t do any better than For Whom the Bell Tolls, at the beginning of a Zombie movie.
During your opening voiceover, you mention a virus which seems very timely given what’s been in the news lately. Was that something that was planned?
Jesse Eisenberg: We actually planned the swine flu to coincide with the movie. You know, there’s some collateral damage but ultimately we’ll have a big opening weekend.
Was that in mind, or did that come in towards the final of production?
Rhett Reese: It really wasn’t in mind, but I think these feel like post-apocalyptic times and I think that could probably be said of any moment in history. Those [post-apocalyptic] movies are almost always relevant in a society were things can and do go wrong. There was a swine flu in 1918 also, so these things recur.
Woody, do you have a fondness for Twinkies yourself, or was that just in the script?
Woody: I’m not a big Twinkie lover. They made up a bunch of Twinkies that were actually edible for a guy like me, meaning without dairy and sugar, and all that nonsense. They were cornmeal. They were really delicious, good Twinkies. There is the possibility that Hostess could do a healthy Twinkie. It’s a thought. Maybe this movie could spark a revolution.
If a zombie attack happened right now and you had to sacrifice somebody, who would it be?
Jesse: Well, there are two writers.
Woody: We’ve gotta keep Ruben. We have to protect him at all cost.
Ruben: I would hide behind Woody because obviously he can handle the zombies when they attack.
Woody: I think I might be more scared than my character was.
Emma, were you attracted to this because of all the action you got to do in the film? Was that aspect of it fun?
Emma: I’m terrible at action. I really am. I’m just bad at action movies. But, it was definitely interesting. It was something I had never done before. I loved the character, but I just can’t run to save my life — literally. I did not limber up, or do cardio. I hurt my muscle. I had to do some ultrasound physical therapy while we were shooting. After every take, I was crying and in so much pain, and it was nice of Ruben to be like, “You’re not cut out for this! That looked horrible!” But, it’s true that I’m horrible at it.
If you were to do a sequel, where would you like to see your characters go? Is there anything you’d like to see them do?
Jesse: If god wills a sequel, I say we go to New York.
Emma: Let’s go to New York!
Jesse: It’s such a short trip.
Woody: Or, maybe Paris or something.
Emma: Let’s go international! Let’s take this overseas.
Jesse: The producer wants the Caribbean because it’s there. Haiti. That’s where it began. Zombieism.
Woody: The point is to get to a place where there aren’t going to be zombies. Then, maybe they show up on a boat or something.
Jesse, what can you tell us about your character, Mark Zuckerberg, in The Social Network? In preparing for that, what have you learned about the whole Facebook revolution?
Jesse: I’m learning more about the creation of it than about the site itself because I haven’t been on it yet. But, the story is really remarkable – like the creation of the website and the legal aftermath. It’s a really fascinating story. I supposed if I say anything else, I’ll be sued probably by the movie company and the internet company, but it’s a fascinating story. There’s a book that was written about it, if people are interested, called The Accidental Billionaires that details the story pretty thoroughly.
Woody, tells us about your character in 2012?
Woody: In 2012, my character is a radio DJ who believes that the world is gonna come to an end, and he has an attitude about how it’s gonna happen. Of course, a lot of people think he’s nuts, but he turns out to be not so far off.
How much fun was it for you guys to smash up the tourist shop?
Woody: I think all of us can attest to the fact that it was really cathartic to come in and just smash the shit out of that place. With respect and reverence to all the items in there, I thought it was helpful for all of us, emotionally, to just get that out.
Emma: I agree.
Ruben: We built that from scratch. There was a couple of buildings and we put in the giant indian and the neon. Filled it completely so that we could smash it. One of the funny things is that between and after takes, Woody and the rest of the gang would still smash things as well. It wasn’t just on camera. There was so much joy in smashing.
Woody, can you talk about your friendship with Paul McCartney? Is he eager to see the movie?
Woody: I don’t know how psyched he is about seeing the movie. I haven’t asked him. Naturally, I’ve sent him trailers and one-sheets — No. But, I did actually take Emma over for dinner with him, one night. That was fun.
Emma: Yes, it was. It was fucking awesome!
Do you guys ever listen to music to get into character and, if so, what’s on your playlists?
Emma: A lot of Paul McCartney.
Woody: The new Paul McCartney album. To get fired up for something, there’s almost no better album to listen to than U2′s Pop. That’s probably their least popular album, but to me, it’s their best and most under-rated album. It just rocks!
Ruben, were you able to use the elements from previous work?
Ruben: As a music video director, I think it’s a pretty visual medium. The opening credits sequence is something that I’m very proud of. I feel like it’s almost a music video for that Metallica song. The combination of the song with these stunning visuals is pretty cool. I wanted to make sure we satisfied the zombie audience so there’s a lot of blood in there.
Emma, how did you identify with this character?
Emma: I felt more like I was living vicariously through her. I just tried to key into that one part of me that feels brave and like a bad-ass, in a situation where you feel out-of-control. I tried to key into that and do that constantly, instead of just as a fleeting feeling in me. There were also parts of her that were vulnerable and scared and human. She wasn’t brave all the time. There was a lot about her that I could relate to, just as a human being.
Did you enjoy reloading the two guns on the counter?
Woody: I think that was already in the script like that. That is a really hard thing to do, which is why my stunt double did it.
What about shooting the guns while you were going down the roller coaster?
Woody: That was a lot of fun. We had to do the roller coaster ride quite a bit, and shoot one person after the other. Good times! It was cathartic.
As writers, did you change a lot of things, with the actors? Or the director?
Paul: We were on the set because of Ruben. He fought for us to be there, he’s so collaborative and so inclusive, and he allowed us on set, which is just a dream come true for us. It was like going to film school everyday. In terms of us rewriting on set, we did some rewriting. Actors would come to us and a line wouldn’t work here or there. Or Ruben would have some things that he would want to address and we would dive in. There was also some improvisation on set. We didn’t spend our entire time there rewriting, but we were there when asked and when needed. A lot of the script that we went out there to shoot got shot.
Ruben, action and comedy share one thing that is very important for a director. What was the most difficult?
Ruben: I had the good fortune of getting to work with extremely talented people from the cats to the crew on set. One of the most talented people that I worked with was our editor Alan Baumgarten and he elevated the comedy and the action. I learned a lot in the editing room myself. It’s been really rewarding getting to see the movie with an audience and hear the laughs. When you’re all alone in the editing room, you’re just going on instinct. My favorite thing in the world is to hear the laughs.
Woody and Emma, which scene was the hardest for you do to with a straight face?
Emma: Woody always keeps a straight face. I never keep a straight face, ever. I constantly break, all the time. I should not be in comedies, or action movies. I just shouldn’t be doing movies. Anytime anybody does improv, I laugh. Anytime a joke is funny, I laugh. I’m like an audience. You should just bounce it off of me. If it’s gonna be funny, I will laugh. Woody doesn’t break.
Woody: No, I did. During our mysterious celebrity cameo, it was real hard to keep it together. In fact, I think we probably lost some good jokes of his because he was framed with us in it, and they couldn’t use it because we were laughing so hard, which was really unprofessional, but understandable.
Woody, your character is very particular about his car in this movie. How are you in real life?
Woody: I’m particular, in the sense that I either ride a motorcycle, or electric or bio-diesel vehicles, pretty much exclusively.
If you’re to lazy to read, watch or listen to the videos from the press conference. Or if you’re looking for more on the film, check out the photos from the set, the red band or international trailer now.
Zombieland will be in theaters October 2nd! Don’t miss it!