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Zombieland

Dazed Digital speaks to Ruben Fleischer about guns, gore, the undead and working with screen legend Woody Harrelson

Set in a zombie ridden post-apocalypse wasteland that was once America Zombieland has been attracting bloodthirsty cinema-goers in droves. Starring thinking girl’s crush Jesse Eisenberg, and screen legend Woody Harrelson, in his most exciting role since 1996’s The People vs Larry Flynt, it's a hilariously gory romp that rates high in the splatter stakes. Here, Dazed Digital speaks to debut director Ruben Fleischer about guns, gore and Bill Murray's killer cameo...

Dazed Digital: Congratulations on Zombielandeveryone seems to love it.
Ruben Fleischer: It’s crazy how well audiences are responding. I worked in music videos before this and never got to see people’s reactions. My new favourite thing is to go to screenings and enjoy the laughs with an audience. Sometimes, when I know a big laugh is coming, I’ll turn around and just watch the crowd freak out!

DD: Which music videos did you work on?
Ruben Fleischer: Lots of British ones actually – Dizzee Rascal’s "Fix Up Look Sharp" and MIA’s "Galang". It’s a shame that record companies are making fewer music videos now. Lots of great directors came through that route.

DD: And now you get to work with legends like Woody Harrelson.
Ruben Fleischer: Woody is so much fun to watch in this movie. You can’t take your eyes off him. He’s so charismatic. It’s like seeing an old friend you haven’t hooked up with in a while. But it’s a great cast all round – Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin… we got lucky. Jesse is so talented. We considered people who were definitely more well-known than him, but I would rather have a great actor than someone who’s just commercially popular.

DD: What was the atmosphere like on set?
Ruben Fleischer: It’s impossible to have a serious set with Woody Harrelson around. He’s just so funny, and that’s my vibe, too. I don’t get stressed out or yell at anyone. If it’s not fun, then what’s the point?

DD: Were the Pacific Playland scenes filmed in a real theme park?
Ruben Fleischer: Yeah, it was a place called Wild Adventures in Georgia. It was awesome because we could do whatever we wanted. We re-wrote all the action sequences once we got to the park and saw what rides were there. We were like, ‘We want to hang Woody Harrelson off that rollercoaster, and he’s going to spin around firing a machine gun!’

DD: Were you a fan of zombie movies before this?
Ruben Fleischer: I wasn’t a fan growing up. Before Zombieland, I made sure I educated myself on the genre because zombie purists are a really devoted fanbase, and they would the movie bullshit if it wasn’t right. I had to make sure I knew how much gore there should be, what the zombies should look like, how they should move…

DD: Some zombie purists say that, technically, zombies shouldn’t be able to run.
Ruben Fleischer: I know. But zombies don’t actually exist. Who’s to say what the rules are? They will fight about that one until the end. It’s an insane argument.

DD: You must have had a lot of fun with all the gore.
Ruben Fleischer: I had never experienced ‘splatter stuff’ before, but it became increasingly fun. We shot the opening credit sequence right at the end of the schedule, and I’d built up such an immunity to gore by then, I was like: ‘Fuck it! More blood! Rip it open!!!’ So the movie actually starts with some of the goriest stuff because I was a bit over-zealous.

DD: I want to ask you about Bill Murray’s cameo…
Ruben Fleischer: I’d love to talk about it but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. You should experience it for yourself.

DD: What was it like working with him?
Ruben Fleischer: It was so beyond a dream come true. To me, he’s the funniest guy ever. He has something of a reputation for being difficult, but he couldn’t have been more gracious and willing to try anything. I think Woody had told him that it was just going to be fun – and they’ve known each other since Kingpin – so he came in with the right attitude. It turned out as one of the most memorable moments in recent movie history.

DD: Wasn’t Patrick Swayze going to be involved at one point?
Ruben Fleischer: Yeah, he was originally scripted in the first draft, a long time ago. And the Swayze sequence was incredible, so funny. But then he got sick, and it didn’t seem right to have him play a zombie.

DD: Will there be a Zombieland sequel?
Ruben Fleischer: I hope so. And I know that Woody’s down for it. 

Zombieland is in cinemas now