Interview: Zombieland Director Ruben Fleischer
Tue, 29 Sep 2009 09:56:42
Zombieland is the place to be this fall.
The Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg horror comedy cooks up pure flesh-eating fun. Director Ruben Fleischer dismembers convention, crafting a raucous and rollicking good time with the undead. In fact, Zombieland is a road movie more than anything else. The four main characters are all just trying to find a little slice of heaven inside hell—whether it be a twinkie in Harrelson's case or love in Eisenberg's. It all culminates in the creepiest theme park since Euro Disney…
While kicking back at the Santa Monica Pier, Ruben talked to ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino for this exclusive interview about how funny death can be, the music in the film and why Columbus is close to his heart.
Don't miss Zombieland this Friday October 2nd!
Right from the film's first moment, the humor comes through. Was that something you wanted to hit the audience with from the jump?
Yeah, I think the name of the movie is a little bit misleading because people will just assume it's a zombie movie or a horror movie, and they might not appreciate that. More than anything else, this film is a comedy. It was really important to let people know that this is a comedy as soon as possible. When the zombie belches and there's a big burp, that's the first laugh of the movie and it says, "Okay everybody, we're not going to take ourselves too seriously." These zombies aren't simply going to try and eat you. You're also going to laugh at them.
Zombieland does have an emotional strain to. Would you also say that the film is also about growing up?
I approached it like a character-based comedy in the vein of my favorite '80s John Hughes and John Landis coming-of-age movies. It was really important for me to have the audience connect to the characters emotionally. I feel like once the audience is connected to the characters, you can do anything. You can put them jeopardy and you can get laughs out of them, scares, action and anything else.
People will be able to come back to it because of that.
Hopefully people do come back to it, again and again and again [Laughs]!
Were you really hands-on about the music used?
I tried to be! I definitely wanted to set the tone with the music. I think it's a combination of our score, which was done by Dave Sardy, who's a Grammy Award winning music producer, and the song choices. Having somebody with a really rock vibe make the score help set the tone. To add on top of that, all of the kickass songs from Metallica and Van Halen to The Black Keys and The Raconteurs were great! We really tried to build the soundtrack with some cool songs.
It's a really rock n' roll flick.
It's fun! It's also really loud, which I like [Laughs]. That opening sequence is almost like a rock concert. It's like, "Bang, bang, bang" hitting you over the head with Metallica and all of these really insane images of super slow motion zombies vomiting. It sets the tone for the movie.
Being a road movie, the four main characters could be a band!
Yeah, I never thought of it that way, but they're on the road and they're doing their thing. That's for sure!
Which character resonated with you the most?
Jessie's character, Columbus, was the one closest to my heart. I was a nerd. I never got the girl. My whole life growing up—I was just scared of everything. I don't know if I've even overcome it yet, but I definitely can relate to that—really longing for a girl and not ever actually getting her.
All of these other storylines have equal importance. It's like a zombie Pulp Fiction. Was juggling that kind of narrative on your mind?
The difference maybe with that movie is theirs is a true ensemble with a ton of different characters whereas we're really just limited to four with the exception of a very conspicuous cameo. For the most part, it's just the main four characters. So it's less about the storyline and more about the timeline and juggling between the straightforward linear narrative and going to these flashbacks. We show everyone before Zombieland, and with Woody, we even get to see another memory in his Zombieland existence, when he has the chainsaw.
Was Jessie's first zombie sequence with Amber Heard particularly special for you?
I love the fight sequence in that. Now when I watch it, I just can't wait to get to the zombie part. You need to let the movie slow down for a minute and let them have this connection and again invest in the characters so when we fade to black and pull out and she turns, people jump in their seats which is pretty incredible.
Was the voiceover always a part of the script?
It was in the script. Jessie's character was always the narrator and a really integral part of the storytelling. It allows you to go anywhere. You can go to a flashback, skip around or show the girls who he's never been around, but as the omniscient narrator he can show you these different worlds and pieces happening in other parts.
Would you want to come back to this world?
Yeah, in a heartbeat, I'd be very lucky to come back to it. These actors are amazing to work with. They're so talented and funny. The characters are so well-drawn, and now we know who they are. We can go anywhere with them which is cool. Woody's character is especially larger than life. He really made a point of making a memorable cinematic character that would stand the test of time and he really jumps off the screen.
What was your favorite zombie kill?
I guess I've got to go with the three zombies that get wiped out by that amusement park ride as Jessie's being chased. It's called "The Rattler." When we were scouting that location that ride was there and we were like, "Somebody's got to get hit with that thing!" It really is this big powerful swing. So were psyched to get to wipe them out!