Few sequels live up to the original. Ten years later, the Zombieland world returns to the big screen in “Zombieland: Double Tap,” with the original director Ruben Fleischer, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and cast Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Abigail Breslin (Little Rock) and Emma Stone (Wichita).
Fleischer shared his experience directing the sequel to his first-ever movie, “Zombieland,” in a conversation with us and several other college newspapers, including Cleveland State University’s The Cauldron, on Oct. 11.
“I felt the best path for Zombieland Two was to try and harness the spirit of the first one as much as possible, because it has such a distinctive tone and style,” Fleischer said.
Though the movie maintains the same tone and style, there are new additions, like writer Dave Callaham and actors Rosario Dawson (Nevada), Zoey Deutch (Madison), Thomas Middleditch (Flagstaff) and Luke Wilson (Albuquerque).
“In the audition, I googled [Deutch] while she was acting opposite me,” Fleischer said. “I was like, who is this girl? I couldn’t believe that there was someone that funny and that pretty, that I never heard of before.”
Fleischer cited Middleditch, Eisenberg’s doppelganger, as a “natural fit,” something he emphasizes was important for all new cast members to have chemistry and feel comfortable enough to improvise.
“I love improvisation and one of the joys of being a director is getting to cast these incredibly talented comedians,” Fleischer said.
He recollects “one of the funniest things in the movie,” an improvised scene in which Madison looks through some binoculars but holds them the wrong way so the objects look smaller rather than bigger and she goes “tiny, big; tiny, big.”
Improvisation unexpectedly played a big role in the film, especially “when [Middleditch] and [Eisenberg] face-off, it’s like these two doppelgangers and so much of what they say back and forth are improvised,” Fleischer said. “And there’s some really huge laughs within that, that are all just improvised moments.
The cast list isn’t the only thing that has changed in the past decade. Stone, Harrelson and Eisenberg have all been nominated for Academy Awards, and Eisenberg and Fleischer are now fathers.
Fleischer has come a long way from his first film, with a few more films under his belt, including “30 Minutes or Less,” starring Eisenberg and “Gangster Squad,” starring Stone.
“[The film] was born from a desire to work with those guys again,” Fleischer said. “But we all had a lot of respect for the original and we didn’t want to do anything to tarnish the reputation of the first film.”
These high stakes did not come without challenges. Fleischer explains the biggest challenge was the monster trucks in the finale.
“They’re very unpredictable vehicles, so you can’t really have any people in proximity,” he said. “So that entire zombie monster truck sequence was done with all [computer-generated] zombies … and that was just something that was a whole new level of scale for me and it was a little daunting.”
“Some have even told me it’s better [than the original],” Fleischer said. “But I’ll leave that for you to decide.”
Zombieland was released on Oct. 18 and is currently screening at local theaters.