In the spirit of the "47 Rules on how to survive a zombie apocalypse" from Zombieland the upcoming horror comedy starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, I decided to share 47 things I saw, heard, did… and yes, even smelled, on the set.
1. Jesse Eisenberg shot Adventureland and Zombieland, both of which have important scenes set in amusement parks, back-to-back. When asked why he did that, Eisenberg deadpanned: "Limited range."
2. In the makeup trailer, the "zombies" are being airbrushed to the dulcet tones of Guns 'N Roses by makeup artists Steve Prouty and Jamie Kellman. I just happen to be wearing a G'nR tee-shirt. Coincidence? I think not. And in the immortal words of Axl Rose himself, these zombies are like freshly "dead flowers" — pungent, and semi-putrid.
3. I saw a chubby zombie brained by a bat and a banjo in Blaine's Grocery store in the Nuts & Crackers aisle. Woody Harrelson was doing the bashing, and you know what? A few weeks later when he smacked a paparazzi at La Guardia airport and said, "I wrapped a movie called Zombieland in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character." I totally believed him.
4. First-time director Ruben Fliescher was equally attentive to his task at hand as well as the press. He ask us our opinions as genre-professionals and aficionados and, seemed very respectful of the fans (it's not like he sees Zombieland as a means to an end: He really cares about the film). Harrelson said he decided to take the role mainly due to the director's enthusiasm. "I thought the script was phenomenal. And then I met Reuben and really liked him and I thought this guy is a go-getter. He's really going to make a terrific movie and so far I'm really impressed with him."
5. Zombieland was shot in Atlanta, GA., using mostly practical locations. The grocery store (and some of the rotting food) was real, as was the amusement park, in which a big battle between the living and the undead play out. Eisenberg said of Harrelson, "He's swinging from the ferris wheel chairs, shooting zombies… [it] flies around and swings in a circle. He's shooting hanging off of that thing, and I run through a haunted house and I don't know if the things are zombies or if they're the fake skeletons that are coming out. Everything was so creative and specific and funny, so they really utilized the park to their great advantage."
6. Shortly after interviewing him, I saw Harrelson juggling chainsaws. (No, really!)
7. These are fast-moving zombies, intent on feeding. They're not Romero-style.
8. Today's trip to the store is prompted by Harrelson's character's craving for Twinkies. "All the man wants is a Twinkie!" Could it because the spongy cream cake is jam-packed with preservatives? Sounds like the zombie of snack-foods to me.
9. Harrelson and Stone, who just met for the first time the day before, are easy and playful with one another. Near the end of the shooting day, as the sun dips, they joke around as she sits inside a pickup truck, and he stands at her open driver's side window. She then speeds away, across the parking lot (stunt driver) — several times.
10. We saw the Deliverance "you've got a purty mouth" — whack! — homage scene, shot in the stinky supermarket. There was lots of improving from Harrelson throughout this scene, each take different and fun. Harrelson and Eisenberg changed it up a lot, improving all the time, "Regardless of whether we're on camera or not," said the latter.
11. Screenwriting team Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick took their inspiration for Zombieland, style wise, from comedies not horror or zombie movies.
12. Each character has a nickname for the gun he or she carries in the film. These include "The Baker" and "The Farmer".
13. Harrelson does some pushups before getting into his scene, so he'll actually be out of breath. I can only imagine how filthy that floor is on his bare hands. Well, I suppose that which does not kill him will only make him stronger!
14. When the crew was shooting the scenes in the amusement park, it was, according to Eisenberg, "Freezing, strangely freezing." Harrelson concurred: "They were saying like in 700 years it's never been that cold, so we were privileged to be there at that time, but it's kind of fun in that amusement park. It really was. It was odd to [do] because a lot of that is in the end of the movie, so it was really weird shooting the end of the movie first."
15. "My character is obsessed with sticking to the rules," said Eisenberg, "and if I do that I'll survive, is his logic. So they're like very specific and practical things like check the back seat when you get into a car because you never know if somebody's hiding in the back seat. Or wear your seatbelt because you're already stopping short and you'd go through the windshield or stretching because you have to…and the funniest one is cardio. Just do a lot of cardio because you're always running from the zombies."
16. When Harrelson and Eisenberg first encounter Stone and Breslin in the film, the sisters are a pair on con artists. "They're not trusting so they don't want to trust us and they want to take what we've got," said Harrelson. "…What limited resources we got, like our vehicle, our weapons." But then they pool their assets in their fight to survive the zombie apocalypse.
17. The day we were on set, a Genesis digital camera was being used.
18. Fleischer describes Zombieland as "28 Days Later meets Shaun of the Dead."
19. In order to not get too attached to anyone, none of the characters in the film use their "real" names. Instead, they ID themselves by their hometowns. Harrelson plays gonzo cowboy Tallahassee; Eisenberg is Columbus, a classic video-game nerd with OCD; Stone is Wichita, and Breslin is Little Rock. ("They are sisters, but I don't know why they have different names," said Stone.)
20. Even though the movie was shot in GA., the story's to take place cross-country, road-trip style. Their final destination is Los Angeles, where there's an amusement park called Pacific Playland. They figure if they can just get that far, they might be safe. They are so, so wrong.
21. One particularly cutthroat zombie-death scene takes place at Kemo Sabe's Trading Post. "Kemo Sabe" is an Apache expression meaning "trusted friend," and it was the name of Tonto's horse on the Lone Ranger TV series.
22. Wernick says of the script, "It's funny. This movie really has, we have the same excitement that we had with The Joe Schmo Show, sort of this lightning in a bottle feel, being on set every day and feeling like, ‘Oh my God, this is absolute gold.' "
23. The whole time I was in GA., I didn't see any peaches. But I did see a lot of Roscoe Chicken & Waffles chains.