There are many memorable moments in 2009’s Zombieland. There’s Woody Harrelson’s obsession with Twinkies. There’s Jesse Eisenberg’s specific guidelines for surviving the zombie apocalypse, including cardio and seat belts. And of course, there’s that insane Bill Murray cameo, in which our band of survivors encounters Murray only to think he’s a zombie and shoot him dead. As he lies there, dying, he’s asked if he has any regrets. His only response? “Garfield, maybe.”
That ridiculous cameo, however, almost didn’t happen. Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick sat down recently for an episode of Kevin Smith’s talk show Geeking Out, where they revealed that not only was Murray’s cameo a last-minute addition, but the role was actually written for someone else: Patrick Swayze.
Wernick and Reese, who most recently penned Deadpool, revealed that in the original Zombieland script, Murray’s role would’ve been played by Swayze. Unfortunately, Swayze was battling pancreatic cancer at the time and was too sick to make it to set. (He died in September 2009, just a few weeks before Zombieland hit theaters.)
So, Reese and Wernick reached out to a dozen other stars to see if they would play the cameo role.
“We offered it to probably 12 other actors,” Reese said. “And every time we did, we rewrote the script to make jokes specific to that actor. So, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Bacon, Mark Hamill… Jean Claude Van Damme passed, and subsequently, we heard through the grapevine he said it was the biggest mistake of his career.”
With only two days left before the scene was supposed to shoot, Reese and Wernick were desperate, so they asked Harrelson if he had anyone he could recruit. To their delight, he said he could call Dustin Hoffman and Murray, and when Hoffman was unavailable, they emailed a copy of the script to a FedEx Kinko’s store so Murray could print it and read it.
Elsewhere in the Geeking Out episode, Reese and Wernick also confirmed that they’re currently working on Zombieland 2 and that they’re talking to the original cast. No word yet on whether that includes Murray. After all, if there’s ever a movie where a character could believably return from the dead, it’d probably be Zombieland.
Watch Reese and Wernick recount how they got Murray on board in the clip below.