Zombieland Interview: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

We already talked to the Zombieland gang at Comic Con but once again we had a chance to sit down with them and talk about the rules of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Staying alive in a world overrun by fast moving zombies isn’t easy, but when you’re afraid of being eaten alive, fear can be a powerful motivator. MoviesOnline sat down recently with Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg to talk about their new horror comedy, “Zombieland,” and we got some valuable tips on how to survive a zombie invasion.

The Pacific Park amusement park at L.A.’s Santa Monica Pier was the perfect location for our interview since “Zombieland” unfurls like a giant, freewheeling amusement park ride. It’s a wildly funny, violent, and even romantic cross-country road movie that takes us from the Heartland to Hollywood, then pulls in for a climatic finish at a local amusement park.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, “Zombieland” is refreshingly different -- a delicate balance of genres that’s elevated by a terrific cast including a killer cameo in full zombie make-up by an Academy Award winning actor who just happened to be working on location in Georgia while “Zombieland” was filming.

Survival in “Zombieland” requires killer instincts, a good aim, fast wheels, and a perverse sense of humor. In short, you need to be prepared for anything -- and these characters are.

Emma plays a hot looking, car stealing con artist named Wichita who teams up with her kid sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The two have learned how to survive entirely by their wits and they know how to use the post-apocalyptic zombie world to their best advantage. 

Woody plays an AK-toting badass named Tallahassee who’s a bit of a loner. He’s gone through a lot of heartbreak in life, but he’s determined to get the last Twinkie on earth before he succumbs to the zombie onslaught.

Tallahassee joins forces with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a compulsive-obsessive wuss with a set of 47 rules for survival and a bottle of Purell that’s become essential survival gear since the zombies took over. When the unlikely duo bumps into Wichita and Little Rock, they join forces to combat major zombie mayhem.

Emma Stone, Wood Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg are fantastic in “Zombieland” and we really appreciated their time. Here’s what they had to tell us about their zombie killing adventures:

Q: Woody, did you have any input into your character’s wardrobe?
 
Woody: I’ve never worked so hard on the outfit before. That’s the stuff I usually don’t put so much time into, but there were so many fittings and attempts to get that right. Ruben and I almost endlessly went back and forth on how much color to put in this or that, and I liked the way it turned out.
 
Q: Was it your idea to have the Willie Nelson reference in the film, or was that already in the script?
 
Woody: That Willie Nelson section was pretty much the last day and (director) Ruben [Fleischer] was like, “You guys sit in the car and just improvise stuff.” So, that was a cool, lucky section. And, also, that stuff about Hannah Montana was improvised. This was a wonderful script, but that particular section was improvised.

Q: Jesse, you get to play the mild-mannered guy that gets to kick some serious ass. Was that what attracted you to the script?

Jesse: No. I prefer the mind-mannered parts of the script. They usually have another guy in my clothing do all the stuff that's exciting looking. I prefer the scenes that are quiet and talking and the action stuff was okay. It keeps you in shape I guess but otherwise, it's really just exhausting.

Q: For all of you, what was your favorite zombie kill in the film?
 
Emma: I like when I get to butt a zombie in the back of the head with my shotgun. It also has the added effect of being in slow motion in the movie. He really got hurt, but I never saw him bleed.
 
Woody: My favorite kill was the one with the butter knife to the jugular.

Jesse: This script was endless violence. All the kills were so creative. I guess my favorite was the top of the toilet. What do you call that part? They called it the porcelain lid but the 15-year-old demo isn't going to appreciate that so we called it the killer toilet.

Q: How did Bill Murray end up in the movie?

Emma: No comment. Right?

Jesse: Are we allowed?

Emma: We’re not allowed.

Woody: I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about it. I never felt more censured. (Laughs)
 
Q: Emma, did you think about your character’s backstory at all? Why were Wichita and Little Rock already doing cons, before Zombieland happened?
 
Emma: We’re both very smart characters. The whole backstory didn’t really make it into the movie, but there was an issue with our father, so we’d been away from home for awhile, before Zombieland even occurred. We needed to find a way to make money, and we both happen to be pretty smart girls, and there’s not much a 12-year-old can do for work, but if she’s as cool as Abigail is, then she can con. So, I think we started, just trying to survive on our own. We had survival instincts kicking in, even before Zombieland.
 
Q: Can you talk about working with Abigail?
 
Woody: Not only did she summon the tears, every time we shot that scene, but when the camera wasn’t on her, she still did it. When the camera was on us, she was still summoning tears. It was really amazing.
 
Emma: We went by Emma-gail. It was just amazing. You couldn’t ask for anybody better to play your little sister. We got along so well. I felt really, really lucky. She’s not just a cool kid. She’s a really cool person. She’s like a small person. She’s incredibly developed, but she also really likes Twilight and the Jonas Brothers, so she’s still normal. Every chance I got to hang out with her was so much fun. It was a blast. I was incredibly lucky.
 
Q: Jesse, during your opening voiceover, you mention a virus which seems very timely given what’s been in the news lately. Was that something that was planned?

Jesse: We actually planned the swine flu to coincide with the movie.  You know, there’s some collateral damage but ultimately we’ll have a big opening weekend.

Q: Woody, do you have a fondness for Twinkies yourself, or was that just in the script?
 
Woody: That was my biggest acting challenge. I’m not a big Twinkie lover. So, they made up a bunch of Twinkies that were actually edible for a guy like me, meaning without dairy and sugar, and all that nonsense. They were cornmeal. They were really delicious, good Twinkies. There is the possibility that Hostess could do a healthy Twinkie. It’s a thought. Maybe this movie could spark a revolution.

Q: If a zombie attack happened right now and you had to sacrifice somebody, who would it be?

Jesse: Well, there are two writers.

Woody: We’ve gotta keep Ruben. We have to protect him at all cost. I think I might be more scared than my character was.

Q: Emma, were you attracted to this because of all the action you got to do in the film? Was that aspect of it fun?
 
Emma: I’m terrible at action. I really am. I’m just bad at action movies. But, it was definitely interesting. It was something I had never done before. I loved the character, but I just can’t run to save my life, literally. I did not limber up, or do cardio. I hurt my muscle. I had to do some ultrasound physical therapy while we were shooting. After every take, I was crying and in so much pain, and it was nice of Ruben to be like, “You’re not cut out for this! That looked horrible!” But, it’s true that I’m horrible at it.
 
Q: If you were to do a sequel, where would you like to see your characters go? Is there anything you’d like to see them do?

Jesse: If God wills a sequel, I say we go to New York.
 
Emma: Let’s go to New York!

Jesse: It’s such a short trip.
 
Woody: Or, maybe Paris or something.
 
Emma: Let’s go international! Let’s take this overseas.

Jesse: The producer wants the Caribbean because it’s there. Haiti. That’s where it began. Zombieism.
 
Woody: The point is to get to a place where there aren’t going to be zombies. Then, maybe they show up on a boat or something. It’s all in the casting. Zombies singing on Broadway.

Q: Jesse, what can you tell us about your character, Mark Zuckerberg, in The Social Network? In preparing for that, what have you learned about the whole Facebook revolution?

Jesse: I’m learning more about the creation of it than about the site itself because I haven’t been on it yet. But, the story is really remarkable – like the creation of the website and the legal aftermath. It’s a really fascinating story. I supposed if I say anything else, I’ll be sued probably by the movie company and the internet company. There’s a book that was written about it, if people are interested, called The Accidental Billionaires that details the story pretty thoroughly.

Q: Woody, what made you want to do this for your first horror film?
 
Woody: I guess it took Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to write it and Ruben Fleischer to ask. That had never happened before.
 
Q: So, you didn’t have any prejudice against the genre?
 
Woody: No, I wouldn’t say I was prejudiced. I had no prejudice.

Q: Natural Born Killers was kind of a horror movie. Was there any of Mickey Knox in Tallahassee?
 
Woody: I disagree. I think Natural Born Killers was more of a misunderstood romantic comedy.
 
Q: Woody, who do you play in 2012?
 
Woody: In 2012, my character is a radio DJ who believes that the world is gonna come to an end, and he has an attitude about how it’s gonna happen. Of course, a lot of people think he’s nuts, but he turns out to be not so far off.

Q: How much fun was it for you guys to smash up the tourist shop?
 
Woody: I think all of us can attest to the fact that it was really cathartic to come in and just smash the shit out of that place. With respect and reverence to all the items in there, I thought it was helpful for all of us, emotionally, to just get that out.

Q: Jesse, what rule would you add if you could add your own rule to Columbus’ list?

Jesse: I did add a few because I was filling out my prop notebook. We had some good ones like tie your shoes with double knots.
 
Q: Woody, can you talk about your friendship with Paul McCartney? Does he want to see this movie?
 
Woody: I don’t know how psyched he is about seeing the movie. I haven’t asked him. Naturally, I’ve sent him trailers and one-sheets. No. But, I did actually take Emma over for dinner with him, one night. That was fun.
 
Emma: Yes, it was. It was fucking awesome!
 
Q: Do you guys ever listen to music to get into character and, if so, what’s on your playlists?
 
Emma: A lot of Paul McCartney.
 
Woody: The new Paul McCartney album. To get fired up for something, there’s almost no better album to listen to than U2's Pop. That’s probably their least popular album, but to me, it’s their best and most under-rated album. It just rocks! I think that’s a good one.
 
Q: Emma, how did you identify with this character?
 
Emma: I felt more like I was living vicariously through her. I just tried to key into that one part of me that feels brave and like a bad-ass, in a situation where you feel out-of-control, and do that constantly, instead of just as a fleeting feeling in me. There were also parts of her that were vulnerable and scared and human. She wasn’t brave, all the time. There was a lot about her that I could relate to, just as a human being.

Q: Woody, was there a certain degree of playing in the backyard as a kid, with Tallahassee’s last stand in the film?
 
Woody: Well, I really didn’t kill anybody, honestly. That was more just fiction. But, it was fun. I remember thinking about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid during all those cool shots. I wanted to go back and look at that, but naturally being lazy, I didn’t. But, it was a fun thing to get to do that.
 
Q: Did you enjoy reloading the two guns on the counter?
 
Woody: I think that was already in the script like that. That is a really hard thing to do, which is why my stunt double did it.
 
Q: How was it to shoot the guns while you were going down the roller coaster?
 
Woody: That was a lot of fun. We had to do the roller coaster ride quite a bit, and shoot one person after the other. It was good times! It was cathartic.
 
Q: Woody and Emma, which scene was the toughest for you do to with a straight face?
 
Emma: Woody always keeps a straight face. I never keep a straight face, ever. I constantly break, all the time. I should not be in comedies, or action movies. I just shouldn’t be doing movies. Anytime anybody does improv, I laugh. Anytime a joke is funny, I laugh. I’m like an audience. You should just bounce it off of me. If it’s gonna be funny, I will laugh. Woody doesn’t break.
 
Woody: No, I did. During our mysterious celebrity cameo, it was real hard to keep it together. In fact, I think we probably lost some good jokes of his because he was framed with us in it, and they couldn’t use it because we were laughing so hard, which was really unprofessional, but understandable.
 
Q: Woody, your character is very particular about his car in this movie. How are you about that, in real life?
 
Woody: I’m particular, in the sense that I either ride a motorcycle, or electric or bio-diesel vehicles, pretty much exclusively.

“Zombieland” opens in theaters on October 2nd.

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