3 Fascinating Facts about the Production of Zombieland

3 Fascinating Facts about the Production of Zombieland
zombieland cast
Image courtesy Daniel Sempértegui | Flickr

Presented by Columbia Pictures, Pariah, and Relativity Media, Zombieland offers a unique blend of horror and comedy that proved to be a hit among critics and everyday moviegoers alike. The film debuted on October 2, 2009, inviting audiences on a perilous journey through a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested version of America. It follows the efforts of four travelers as they struggle to survive in a lawless wasteland, each striving to reach their destination. The protagonists introduce themselves only as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a Texas college student attempting to find his parents in Ohio; Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a boisterous southerner whose search for the world’s last remaining Twinkies has drawn him toward Florida; and Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), two sisters searching for a fabled zombie-free amusement park.

Now, it seems their adventures will continue. At Las Vegas CinemaCon in April 2016, Sony sent cinema lovers into an excited frenzy when it unveiled a logo for a potential Zombieland sequel. Nearly six months later, Zombieland screenwriters and executive producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick answered many of fans’ eager questions in an interview with Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg, hosts of AMC’s Geeking Out. During their appearance on the show, Reese and Wernick confirmed that Zombieland 2 has entered the early phases of development and will feature the return of not only the original screenwriting team—with the addition of Godzilla (2014) and The Expendables (2010) screenwriter Dave Callaham—but also director Ruben Fleischer and much of the original cast.

Although it still lacks a concrete release date, Zombieland 2 is shaping up to be one of the most-anticipated cinematic sequels in recent memory. Although it’s been seven years since the release of the original film, the following facts might surprise even the most dedicated Zombieland fans:

  1. Director Ruben Fleischer takes great pride in Zombieland’s opening sequence.

Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer is the talented filmmaker behind movies such as 30 Minutes or Less (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013), as well as the producer of television series Rob & Big (2006) and Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory (2009). Having broken into the industry as a director of commercials and music videos, he draws inspiration from a number of noteworthy directors who followed similar career paths, including Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, and David Fincher.

For Zombieland, Ruben Fleischer channeled Fincher in particular, citing his admiration for Fincher’s unique and visually engaging title sequences. He wanted to greet audiences with a title sequence as memorable as the introductions to Fincher films like Se7en (1995) and Fight Club (1999). To create his own iconic opening sequence, Fleischer used a digital Phantom camera capable of shooting at 1,000 frames per second. The result is a vivid slow-motion compilation of various people fleeing (and fighting) the emerging zombie horde—including a rather stylish cameo by screenwriter Rhett Reese—as Metallica’s driving metal anthem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” provides a suitably ominous backdrop.

  1. The movie began as a concept for a television series.

Image courtesy Daniel Sempértegui | Flickr

Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the initial draft of Zombieland as a spec script for CBS. While the network declined to develop the idea any further, it went on to appear on the 2007 Blacklist of the industry’s most-liked unproduced screenplays, and eventually became the number one film in America. Zombieland brought in approximately $102 million at box offices worldwide, and until World War Z in 2013, the film held the title of Hollywood’s highest-grossing zombie movie.

A number of scenes in the finished film harken back to its origins as a TV series concept, including the iconic “zombie kill of the week” scene, which would have been a recurring feature of Reese and Wernick’s television show. Some have also described Zombieland’s ending as a cliffhanger without concrete resolution, and this is another remnant of its original intended format.

  1. Zombieland features four Oscar-nominated actors.

As of 2016, all four stars of Zombieland have garnered Oscar nominations for their performances in critically acclaimed films. And based on comments by the project’s writers and executive producers, all four of these major cast members are likely to return for Zombieland 2 in 2017.

After starring in Zombieland, Jesse Eisenberg went on to receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010). Since then, his performances have included the leading roles in the magic-inspired mystery thriller Now You See Me (2013) and its 2016 sequel, and he recently portrayed the iconic villain Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).

Zombieland marked the third-largest opening weekend in Woody Harrelson’s prolific career, following 2012 (2009) and The Hunger Games (2012). His many noteworthy film credits have also included The Messenger (2009), for which he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and the 1996 biographical drama The People vs. Larry Flynt, which garnered him a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Emma Stone landed several noteworthy roles after making her Hollywood debut in Superbad (2007), starring in Easy A (2010), The Help (2011), and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). She also appeared in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), for which she received nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

Abigail Breslin is widely recognized for one of her earliest roles. When she was just 10 years old, she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance as young beauty pageant hopeful Olive Hoover in the 2006 dramatic comedy Little Miss Sunshine. Since then, she has performed in movies including My Sister’s Keeper (2009), August: Osage County (2013), and Ender’s Game (2013).

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