SciFiNow had the opportunity to sit down with Zombieland screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to talk about Zombieland’s success, the sequel, writing for 3D and the new wave of zombie comedies sweeping entertainment.
Were you expecting the film to be as successful as it was?
Rhett Reese: A man can hope, you know? Yeah, it was a small movie, it was a low budget movie, and it was in a genre that people largely don’t accept or accommodate – it doesn’t necessarily have the best track record in the United States. So there were certainly reasons why it might not have worked, but we had a wonderful, eclectic cast, we had a wonderful crew and director and somehow lightening struck, and we’re just really thankful. We’ve seen situations in the past where it doesn’t strike and that’s very disappointing, and also where it does when you’re not expecting it, and I think this is one of those times.
Paul Wernick: Rhett and I always had a debate over whether you’d rather be a commercial success or a critical success, and we never really threw in there: ‘Well, we’d actually prefer to be both’. And somehow, we’re fortunate enough that it all came together. The critics loved it, the audience loved it.
And number two will be in 3D, is that right?
PW: That’s the plan.
Does that enter into your minds as writers when you’re scripting scenes, the 3D aspect?
PW: Absolutely, the genre’s just so perfectly suited for three dimensions, and we want to have fun with it. We don’t want it to be a throwaway thing, where people spend an extra three or four dollars for the glasses. We want the experience to be special, so we’ll very specifically write action – Rhett has this living in his head and he puts it on the page – so yes, we will pay particular attention to writing for the 3D.
RR: We’ll have some body parts landing in laps. People will be checking their popcorn to make sure that’s butter on top of it.
PW: Or we’ll just have a stage fight and people will jump out of the screen.
Woody Harrelson’s going to go on tour then?
PW: Believe me, he would love it. If I know Woody, he would love it.
Zombieland is certainly a part of this new modern ‘zom-com’ wave. Do you think it’s possible to even tell what a scary zombie film is these days?
RR: Well, I think that Alex Garland and Danny Boyle did a great job with 28 Days Later, reminding us that zombies can be scary. And I think that one of the key decisions they made in that movie was speeding up the zombies so that one particular zombie could be a threat as opposed to needing a horde of them. So absolutely, I think zombie movies can still be scary as long as people can be creative and take a half step away from everything that’s come before.
There were subtle hints of a grim backdrop in Zombieland. With the sequel, is the plan to steer wide from this subject matter, or do you plan to investigate the more negative aspects of the world?
RR: I think that whereas zombie movies are largely grim and peppered with moments of humour, I think ours is really the opposite of that. It’s largely sunny but I don’t think we ever want to lose sight of the realism with people who have lost their lives, and that the world will never be the same. I think if we do that we’ll be neglecting the truth of such a situations. So I think we’ll always have the emotion and the negativity of the post-Apocalypse mixed in with the larger dose of comedy.
PW: What’s different about Zombieland is that we looked at the post-Apocalypse largely in wish-fulfilment. Which is a twisted and strange viewpoint, but it totally worked, and yes we put in the grim and the heart break and the heart ache that happens when you lose loved ones and so forth, but it was largely the wish fulfilment of being able to go anywhere, do anything, kill anyone without consequence. We really embraced that aspect of it.
This article originally appeared in the print edition of SciFiNow, issue 39 by Aaron Asadi. To buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe, go to www.imagineshop.com, or call our subscriptions hotline on +44 (0) 844 844 0245.