By its very nature, the meta horror-comedy Zombieland: Double Tap has its fair share of surprises. The biggest, though, comes during the credits. That is… if you haven’t seen the red band trailer.
We’re talking, of course, about the return of Bill Murray. Murray was one of the biggest surprises in the 2009 film, where he played himself but dressed up as a zombie to avoid detection, before being mistakenly killed by Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Columbus. And though he was dead in the Zombieland universe, everyone involved wanted to bring him back.
“There’s no Zombieland without Bill Murray,” co-writer Paul Wernick told Gizmodo. And so Wernick and his writing partner, Rhett Reese, wrote a flashback scene for Murray in the original script for the sequel.
“They were golfing,” Wernick said. “It was a foursome with Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd, and the three of them were trying to convince Bill to do the next Ghostbusters.” This made sense in 2009 when the original Zombieland 2 was going to be set the day after the first movie.
“The joke doesn’t work anymore,” Reese said. But Murray had to be in this film and so it was back to the drawing board.
“We thought, ‘Well, what is it that Bill Murray hates more than anything else?’ And that’s a junket,” Reese said. “And not only a junket but a junket for a movie that he did only for financial reasons, like Garfield 3.”
So Reese and Wernick wrote the scene you see in the credits of Double Tap with Bill Murray promoting Garfield 3 (subtitle “Flabby Tabby”), being interviewed by the likes of MTV’s Josh Horowitz and NBC’s Al Roker. “Our idea was that Garfield was ready to go. It’s in the can. He was promoting it and that’s when the zombies hit,” Reese said. “That’s why there was never [actually] a Garfield 3.”
Of course, writing a scene with Murray is one thing. Getting him to do it is another.
“You never know with that guy,” Fleischer said. “It’s easy until it’s not or it’s hard until it’s easy. But he hadn’t committed, I don’t think, before production started. So you never really know and then he locked in… once production started. But even then you don’t know.”
“[It was] a lot easier to get him this time than the first one,” Wernick added.
“I think he has a fondness for the original,” Fleischer continued. “I hadn’t talked to him since the first movie so it was fun to be able to hang with him and he just does what he wants when it comes. He just kind of improvises whatever he wants.”
Murray was scheduled to be on set for a day, during which time they’d shoot the fake junket interviews as well as the fight scene where he kills all the zombified journalists. But, during the day, there was a problem.
“The junket stuff actually took a really long time,” the director said. “It was like four or five or six hours and then we had the fight all mapped out. But we had taken so long with the junket that we were running out of light and we had to shoot that whole fight sequence in like an hour and a half. Just three cameras at once and just hosed it down. But it all kind of worked.”
It worked because of the magic of Bill Murray.
“The thing that I think is really cool, though, is [in] that fight he did all his own stunts,” Fleischer said. “He’s getting up there and we had a stunt guy ready to go and he’s like ‘No, I can do all of this myself’ and he did such a good job.”
See that good job and more in Zombieland: Double Tap, which is now in theatres.