×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ Hopes to Recapture Raunchy Zombie Magic, 10 Years Later

Audiences may have a few questions about the sequel to 2009’s hit “Zombieland,” which opens Friday.

Why did it take 10 years to make a second one, after the first grossed $102.4 million worldwide on a $23 million budget, making it the third-biggest zombie movie of all time (second-biggest if you don’t count “Hotel Transylvania,” because why would you)?

Does Bill Murray return, even though as a human dressed as a zombie, he was definitively killed off the first time around?

And finally, will America’s obsession with the undead translate to a Halloween treat for “Zombieland: Double Tap”? The sequel is looking to  take in around $25 million for its Oct. 18-20 opening weekend in North America, and hoping to sustain interest up to Halloween and beyond.

Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin reprise their roles from 2009’s “Zombieland” in addition to newcomers Zoey Deutsch, who portrays a ditzy survivor, and Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. Together, the new cast of zombie killers must face off against new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie and taken over a dystopian America. Sony spent $42 million on the the sequel, which is looking positive on Rotten Tomatoes at 75%.

The zombie killers have also moved into the White House, with a gun-toting Harrelson seated in the Oval Office. “I think I would have made a damn fine President,” he declares gleefully, prompting Stone to retort, “You would have brought a real dignity to the office.”

“Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer also returns to helm following his work on “Venom.” Fleischer is re-teaming with original writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who worked together on “Deadpool” and “Deadpool 2.” Gavin Polone returns as producer.

Polone admits that R-rated comedies are facing a rough road in theaters lately, though affection for the original should help. “Good Boys” is the top domestic grosser among live-action comedies this year with $82 million, followed by Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” with $73 million and Universal’s romantic comedy “Yesterday’ at $65 million.

Pre-Halloween releases can be risky, with competition from straight-up horror titles, parties and events. “Zombieland: Double Tap” will face off against “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” on opening weekend, while STX’s horror movie “Countdown” opens the week after. The new installment should open on par with the original “Zombieland,” but is unlikely to see anything like last year’s “Halloween” reboot, which opened with $76 million.

“There was a lot more stuff allowed when I was coming of age, like ‘Blazing Saddles,’ and studios now have to decide if it’s worth the risk to get it out to 3,500 or theaters or to stream it,” Polone said. “There’s always the concern that it won’t feel like an event. Our movie has stars and it feels like an event. I think ‘Good Boys’ was a bigger risk and it did really well.”

The first trailer plays up the fact that Breslin, Harrelson and Eisenberg are all Oscar nominees and that Stone won an Oscar.

“Zombies are on TV nonstop,” Polone said. “But you still have to have a tone that makes your movie feel unique. And the actors are really good at creating extremely funny comedy that you can tell isn’t in the script, just because they’re in that moment.”

“This movie was about the most fun I’ve had,” Polone added. “I’m friends with Abby, Jesse, Woody and you don’t get that again if you don’t make a third. Emma was willing to fly in from London while she was in the middle of shooting ‘Cruella’ to do promotion for us. Actors only do that when they care.”

Polone also explained the multitude of reasons behind the franchise’s full decade delay.

“There were changes in personnel at the studio,” he recalled. “Matt Tolmach, who was the original executive on it, left. Then Ruben Fleischer went and did two other movies and so he was unavailable. Finally, after a lot of lobbying on my part, Doug Belgrad decided to do a market test where they found that out of 50 comedies, ‘Zombieland’ was the second most desired sequel even after seven years.”

“Then, we went through many drafts of the script with several different writers because Rhett and Paul were not available. Finally, when Rhett and Paul found some time to work on the project, we got a script that all four actors, Ruben, and I could agree should be made,” Polone added.

As for Murray — spoiler alert — he’s back during the end credits sequence.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jack Ryan

    Richard Rutkowski on ‘Jack Ryan,’ Costa-Gavras and Being Nice Abroad

    TORUN, Poland – Speaking at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival on Monday, Richard Rutkowski praised the work of Costa-Gavras, offered sage advice for filmmakers working internationally, and offered a glimpse of the fast-paced work faced by cinematographers on high-profile TV series. Rutkowski, whose credits include “Jack Ryan,” “Castle Rock” and “The Americans,” discussed the methods, [...]

  • 'Honeyland' DP on Low-Fi Shooting With

    'Honeyland' DP on Low-Fi Shooting With High-Powered Storytelling

    Filming the Sundance-awarded “Honeyland” in a remote North Macedonia locale without roads or electricity, it was easy to get lost, confesses cinematographer Fejmi Daut. “It was too hard to decide what would be the storyline in the beginning,” said the debut DP, speaking at the 27th EnergaCamerimage cinematography festival in Torun, Poland. The editing process [...]

  • Q A_Joker_Lawrence-Sher_CKK-Jordanki_fot-Maria-Kowalska_11

    'Joker’ Cinematographer on Joaquin Phoenix’s Transformative Performance

    TORUN, Poland – “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher received a rockstar welcome at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival on Monday as attendees struggled to squeeze into a standing-room only conference room for a lively and in-depth Q&A session on the making of the box office sensation. Sher appeared equally excited to be at the event. “Obviously [...]

  • Igor Drljaca, Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo

    Verve Signs 'Disappearance at Clifton Hill' Director Albert Shin (EXCLUSIVE)

    Verve has signed Albert Shin, the director of the buzzy new thriller “Disappearance at Clifton Hill,” Variety has learned. Distribution rights for the film were recently acquired by IFC Midnight and the movie is expected to open in February. “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” debuted at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It centers on a [...]

  • John Bailey

    John Bailey Urges Cinematographers to Embrace Story Over Technology

    It’s safe to say John Bailey does not miss the trappings of the president’s office at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Speaking at a retrospective celebrating his five decades of cinematography work at Poland’s EnergaCamerimage festival, where Bailey will be honored with a lifetime achievement award this week, he told an audience [...]

  • Justin Bieber Cupid Movie

    Justin Bieber Debuts First Look at 'Cupid' Movie

    Beware of cupid’s arrow. Justin Bieber unveiled a first-look photo for “Cupid,” his upcoming animated movie from Mythos Studios. The image sees a cartooned Bieber, who will voice the god of love, on the side of a cliff with the sun setting in the background. “Cupid” will tell the story of the eponymous mythical being [...]

  • Robert De Niro

    Robert De Niro to Receive SAG Life Achievement Award

    Robert De Niro will be honored with a SAG life achievement award. The legendary actor, who currently stars in Netflix’s “The Irishman” and Warner Bros.’ “Joker,” will receive the performers’ union’s top accolade at the 26th annual SAG Awards on Jan. 19 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The award is given annually to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content