Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg On Set Interview ZOMBIELAND

     July 7, 2009

Zombieland movie image Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg (4).jpg

If the chemistry between Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg in director Ruben Fleischer’s “Zombieland” is anything like what I witnessed on set back in March, the movie is going to be very funny. That’s because unlike some sets where everything is serious between takes, Woody and Jesse were laughing and improvising almost the entire time we were there. I don’t think Woody said the same line of dialogue on any two takes as he was constantly one upping himself and making people laugh. It was a lot of fun to watch.

So you may be asking what’s “Zombieland”. It’s a horror/comedy by director Ruben Fleischer and it takes place in a world overrun by zombies. The film stars Jesse and Woody and they play a big wuss and an AK-toting, zombie-slaying’ bad ass whose single determination is to get the last Twinkie on earth. I think you know who plays which part.

Anyway, after the jump is the interview I participated in with the two stars on set. They talked about improvising, filming, the amusement park sequence, zombie killing, and a lot more. Take a look:

Finally, before you read the interview, I suggest watching the first trailer from “Zombieland”. It’ll explain what he film is about and who they play. Here’s the full synopsis:

Columbia Pictures horror comedy Zombieland focuses on two men who have found a way to survive a world overrun by zombies. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a big wuss — but when you’re afraid of being eaten by zombies, fear can keep you alive. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is an AK-toting, zombie-slaying’ bad ass whose single determination is to get the last Twinkie on earth. As they join forces with Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who have also found unique ways to survive the zombie mayhem, they will have to determine which is worse: relying on each other or succumbing to the zombies.

And one last thing, I’ve also posted a video blog about my adventures on set, so click here to watch.

Question: We just saw you outside playing with chainsaws.

Woody Harrelson: Two chainsaws.

Two chainsaws, so let’s talk about where do 2 chainsaws come in on this movie.

Zombieland movie image Woody Harrelson.jpgWoody: Well, it’s actually…it comes from a voice-over that Jesse has after he meets me and he says to my character Tallahassee’s in the ass kicking business and then you see me with the chainsaws and business is good.  There’s some great lines in this script.

So is that what originally brought you to the project was you read the script and you said I want to do this?

Woody: Yeah, 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.

It’s kind of surprising to see you do this kind of genre at all?  Are you a fan of this genre at all?  Do you like these kinds of movies?  Are they something you wanted to try to do?

Woody: No, I never thought about it honestly until I saw and read the script.

So I’ll just throw out there the two of you working together, what kind of dynamic has that been?  We saw you earlier, Woody, improvising a little bit, so what’s that been like with improvising?

Woody: Well we generally try to warm up each other.

Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah, shout out the last line in the scene.

Woody: We drag this thing out.  We’ll have a 45-minute improv over…

Jesse: Regardless of we’re on camera or not.

Woody: It’s weird, but it’s fun.

What’s it like carrying that shotgun around?

Jesse: Oh its good.  They make me carry the real one.  I want to carry the rubber one because it makes me look stronger.  And there’s like four characters in the movie and we all have names for our real guns and then for our rubber guns.

Zombieland movie image Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg.jpgWoody: So yeah, his real gun is named Farmer.

Jesse: The Farmer.

Woody: The Farmer.

Jesse: The rubber gun is The Baker.

Woody: The Baker.

Jesse: What do you have?

Woody: That’s too private (everyone laughs)

What was it about the script that you liked that attracted you to it?

Jesse: Yeah, the same as him.  The characters are so well-defined and done in a multi-dimensional way, which is rare in a movie like this which is so fun and theatrical to have characters that are also really great and real.  And you also meet him [inaudible] encouraging to make the characters even more real and emotionally honest and stuff that is attractive to an actor.

Well, let’s be honest.  It really is about fighting zombies, too.  So could you talk a little bit about being in a film that you guys are fighting zombies?

Jesse: Again, I’m only really into the soliloquies and… I get somebody else to do the other stuff.

Woody: I just say personally it’s very cathartic.  Zombie killing.

Jesse: My mother was a zombie and so it also feels cathartic to finally get that stuff out.

Jesse, you did a werewolf movie so who’s more killer? Werewolves or zombies?

Jesse: I guess we’ll find out if we survive or not.  Yeah, no werewolves are much more aggressive but zombies come in mass.

Woody: And they’re persistent.

Jesse: Yeah, and they’re persistent. Yeah.

You guys filmed for a few weeks at the amusement park, which actually I just realized Adventureland, this, amusement parks, what’s going on?

Zombieland movie image Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg (1).jpgJesse: I think limited range. (everyone laughs)

Well, being serious for a second, could you guys talk about…I mean we heard there’s a lot of stunts there, there’s a lot of action, you guys shot there for a number of weeks, could you talk about filming at the amusement park and what challenges there were with all these stunts and action sequences?

Jesse: Oh the challenges of that kind of stuff?

Woody: The primary challenge was the cold.

Jesse: Yeah, it was freezing even though we were in South Georgia shooting, that amusement park it was strangely freezing.

Woody: 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 shoot because a lot of that is in the end of the movie, so it was really weird shooting the end of the movie first…but in the end it was kind of cool.

Jesse: All like the various plotlines that happened there are so creative. Like he’s swinging from that thing with the chairs shooting zombies…that chair thing that flies around and swings in a circle. He’s like shooting zombies 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.

It definitely seems like you’re letting him do more of the zombie killing.  Is that true?  Did you kind of hang back a little bit or do you eventually jump forward and try to do a little bit of it yourself?

Jesse: Yeah, I do towards the end as our arcs….but he’s kind of like an older brother and maniac.

Woody: Thank you for saying that.

Jesse: Yeah.

Woody: I’m glad you didn’t say father figure.

Zombieland movie image Jesse Eisenberg.jpgJesse: Yeah, yeah.  Like a step-brother wherein the father is so old that the step-brother can be so much older.  Even older than a father naturally would be just based on the age gaps in America.

Woody: Almost like older than the grandfather.

Jesse: Yeah.

Where do your characters first meet?  Do we know that?  Is that something….?

Jesse: Yeah, like we all assume we’re like the last kind of people on Earth because the world’s been over-run by zombies so we kind of run into each other hitchhiking and he picks me up.

We know that you have a number of rules or your character has a number of rules, we saw an animatic of the 4th one. Could you talk a little bit about…they seem to be very funny.

Woody: Yeah, yeah they are.  Like my character is obsessed with like sticking to the rules and if I do that I’ll survive is his logic. So they’re like very like 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.

Can you talk a bit about your relationship with the girls in the film-the ladies?

Jesse: It’s good.

Woody: It’s a little terse at first.

Jesse: Yeah, there’s kind of like con-artists and I forget what I was going to say….yeah and…

What were they conning in the post apocalyptic wasteland?  What can you be conned out of?

Jesse: Well the limited resources that exist compared to the limited people that…

Zombieland movie image Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone.jpgWoody: Yeah, they’re not trusting so they don’t want to trust us and they want to take what we’ve got, what limited resources we got like our vehicle, our weapons.

You guys are filming with the Genesis camera so you’re filming in digital, could you talk a little bit about how that moves pretty fast, not like film where you take some breaks and so a much quicker setup.  Much quicker to do faster takes?

Woody: Incredible how fast they’re shooting, I think.

Jesse: They get so many shots per day, angles per day.

Woody: I mean I don’t know is that a product of Genesis or Michael?  I’m not sure because it requires lighting and I just think it has more to do with just the speed of this crew, you know, but certainly in terms on not of having to reload as much and things like that–big benefit.

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