Since the release of Zombieland in 2009, the creative team has hoped to return to their apocalyptic, laugh-filled world — and now, 10 years later, they’ve finally done it with Zombieland: Double Tap.
In the time since the original, the profiles of stars Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, and Jesse Eisenberg, who’ve all been nominated for at least one Oscar (Stone has a win), have only risen, making it seem less and less likely for a reunion.
“Everyone got busy and blew up after the first Zombieland, so the hope faded over time,” admits Paul Wernick, who wrote both films alongside partner Rhett Reese. “We were like, ‘Are we ever going to be able to get this foursome back together again? Because they’re ruling the world right now.’ And the fact that they did all come back was music to our ears and really a testament to the love that everyone collectively has for the universe, and for each other.”
For director Ruben Fleischer, who helmed last year’s comic hit Venom, Zombieland was his first film, and he says it was going off to make other projects that helped him realize how great he had it. “It was only then that I was able to appreciate just how incredible the first film was, both from a creative standpoint and experience,” he tells EW. “It was after [2013’s] Gangster Squad where I was kind of like, ‘Yeah, we should figure out how to do that again.’ Fortunately, in the time that had passed, the movie had become a bit of a cult favorite, so there was enough desire on the part of audiences for there to be a sequel. We started working on the script and it just took a while to get the tone right. The cast, especially, felt very protective of the first film and didn’t want to do anything that didn’t feel like it had the potential to be as good as the first one. It was only when Rhett and Paul had done their final pass that the cast felt comfortable to go make it, and then it was just a matter of getting everyone’s schedules to align and find the date to be able to shoot. For us all, it was just feeling the pressure of wanting to make something that could hold up to the original.”
And maybe the long-wait worked out perfectly. In her review, EW’s Leah Greenblatt says Double Tap “breathes winky, gory life into undead sequel,” while Reese, who originally developed Zombieland with Wernick for CBS in 2005, thinks this is the ideal time for their recipe of “bizarre wish fulfillment and escapist entertainment.” “As sad as the post-apocalypse is, it’s a little bit of a place to escape to,” he says. “The threat isn’t other people trying to tweet bad things about you or people on the other side of the political spectrum; it’s zombies, they’re bad, and we’re all teaming up as humans to fight against them.”
The timing is also interesting, because we’re now in the post-zombie content boom. The original Zombieland opened in theaters the year before AMC premiered The Walking Dead, which is now in its 10th season and a second spin-off on the way. Wernick even says that TWD comic creator Robert Kirkman credits Zombieland for AMC moving forward with the now long-running adaptation. “At the time, zombie entertainment was a cult following, not really a commercial success, and then Zombieland obviously hit,” recalls Wernick, who has also written the two Deadpool films with Reese. “[Kirkman] was saying it gave AMC at least some courage to go ahead and try this on TV.” But now that TWD is a mainstay in pop culture, how did the writers hope to stay fresh in a zombie-filled world? “The burden was on us to make the zombies a little more interesting,” shares Reese. “Not all zombies are alike anymore; there are the real tough ones and the dumb ones and the smart ones, and that helped us differentiate it a little bit. But, ultimately, we’re going to rise and fall on our characters more than we are on the concept of zombies.”
And, ultimately, the chances for another return to Zombieland will rise and fall with audience reaction to Double Tap, considering Stone has already expressed interest in making a new film every decade. “Hopefully it doesn’t take 10 years for another one,” says Wernick. “It’s a special universe and special people, so we would love to make these until the end of the time.” Adds Fleischer: “Like it was this time around, it would be a dream come true.”
Zombieland: Double Tap opens in theaters on Friday.