Warning: This post contains spoilers for Zombieland: Double Tap.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe I shot Bill Murray.”
Easily the most memorable scene of the original Zombieland was Bill Murray’s cameo and subsequent death at the hands of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), whose screening of Ghostbusters in Murray’s mansion was interrupted by what he thought was a zombified Murray. So with the gang getting back together 10 years later for Zombieland: Double Tap, the question for writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese and director Ruben Fleischer was never if they’d try to bring back Murray, but how?
“It was always intention that we’d find a way,” Fleischer tells EW. “When you think about Zombieland, you think about Bill Murray. It’s a tough cameo to top, just because it was so perfect, so I don’t think we even spent much time of going down the road of other cameos. It was more, what’s a justifiable way to bring him back?”
The idea that they eventually came up with tied back perfectly to Murray’s Zombieland death. After being shot, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) asked Murray if he had any regrets. “Garfield, maybe,” he replied. That ad-libbed line, a reference to Murray’s 2004 movie, inspired Wernick and Reese to write a scene in Zombieland: Double Tap set on Day Zero (when the apocalypse began), where Murray could show off his improvisational skills at a press junket for Garfield 3: Flabby Tabby.
Of course, there was no guarantee that Murray would sign on again. “He’s very elusive and lives up to his reputation, so it was a big question of whether he would even acknowledge or respond to the request,” Fleischer says of the actor. “Fortunately, he had such a fun time of the first one, and he and Woody [Harrelson] and Emma [Stone] are all close, so I think he was excited to just come hang again.”
The mid-credits scene, which Wernick says was originally in the middle of the movie when Nevada (Rosario Dawson) mentions “Murraying” someone, finds Murray sitting through monotonous interviews, in which he’s pressured into “giving a hairball” and admits that he did Garfield 3 because “drugs cost money.” Then, while Murray and Al Roker have a hairball and selfie, the famous weatherman turns into a zombie, prompting Murray to smash him with a folding chair. Attempting to leave, Murray comes across even more undead reporters and showcases his natural skills as a zombie killer.
“The interview part is so fun because he’s just improvising the whole time, so just getting to sit there and watch Bill Murray improvise is like a dream,” shares Flesicher. “And then for the fight, we didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse it. He rehearsed it the day before with the stunt guys and I was shooting so I wasn’t there for it, and then we came in and had taken longer than we should have with all of the interviews, so we only had like an hour and a half to film the entire fight sequence. Bill did the entire thing himself, like no stunt guy — he just did it. We had three cameras shooting him all at once and did like five or six takes, and it just all worked. He was great at all the action. I was honestly surprised at how amazing he was at it.”
And while the Murray appearance was again a highlight in a Zombieland movie, there was one previous idea that would have been worth a call. Since the release of the first film, the creative team has been trying to get a sequel off the ground, and there were multiple iterations of the story over the last 10 years, including one that would have reunited Murray with his own crew of demon fighters.
“We did have another version of the script where Bill Murray is on a golf course with Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson, and the other three are trying to convince him to do another sequel to Ghostbusters,” recalls Reese. “It was something that we had written a long time ago. They’re all bottled up behind Joe Pesci, who is on the golf course and playing too slowly ahead of them, and they almost get in a fight with him. Then, ultimately, Dan Aykroyd turns into a zombie and attacks Bill Murray and there’s a whole fight on the golf course. It became difficult because there actually ended up being another Ghostbusters in the interim, so then we pivoted and got away from Ghostbusters and did this idea of the press junket gone awry.”
Zombieland: Double Tap, which also stars Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone, is now in theaters.