I just got off the phone with ZOMBIELAND writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Strangely enough, they were on the way to the doctor. Wernick had been bitten by a spider sometime in the 24 hours since I saw him on the red carpet. I've been infected with the plague of the twenty-first century, Wernick said. Reese laughed, It very much looks like a zombie bite if that helps you envision it.
The film is an absolute blast, and I'm loving the genre-busting that's been going on in Hollywood lately. ZOMBIELAND is part horror flick, part buddy film and part comedy...well, it's more than part comedy. It also has the best cameo I've ever seen. Despite being all over IMDB and Twitter, no one was allowed to talk about who it is. Just trust me here. It's cool. Wernick and Reese gave me some insight into their version of zombie mythology, who they'd like to cast in their upcoming big budget sci-fi movie EARTH VS. MOON and how much hurt Marvel will put on them if they let anything slip about VENOM.
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
I love the take you have on how one becomes a zombie. Can you tell me a little about playing around with the mythology?
Reese: One of the things we loved about there being a zombie genre is that people come with an understanding of the genre before they even arrive at the movie theater. It allowed us to dispense with a lot of the exposition and explanation of where this came from and how it originated, and dive right into the story. The virus model as opposed to the undead model...we think the genre was invigorated by 28 DAYS LATER and the new DAWN OF THE DEAD, and that was the route we wanted to go, as opposed to creatures that actually rise from the dead. But apart from that, people understand...people get the drill, so it allowed us to immediately focus on character and comedy.
This is really a genre busting movie. It seems like a trend...
Wernick: Well, we look at the movie as more a mixing of genres. It's a road movie, it's a romantic comedy, it's a stoner comedy, it's a drama and so yeah...when we look at a genre, we like to turn it on it's head, you know? We feel that that's the thing that we bring to a project. A unique voice. We set out when we wrote this to not do the everyday zombie movie.
On the red carpet last night, you guys told me that you were on set a lot. Were you ever jealous of the extras and all the goo?
Wernick: Interestingly, Ruben (Fleischer) wanted us to play zombies in the movie. When he first told us this...we went out to the makeup effects house in the Inland Empire and saw all the prosthetic things and were so very excited. And when we got out to set and realized exactly what it took to be a zombie and how gross and dirty and absolutely unpleasant it looked, we said 'no thanks'. [laughs] Rhett's in the movie, but he's not a zombie. He's in the opening sequence with the machine gun in a tuxedo. But yeah, we weren't jealous of the zombies by any stretch. We more felt sorry for them.
[laughs] I was a makeup artist for years, so I felt sorry for them too.
Reese: The zombies were dehumanized, even on set. Nobody wanted to eat with them. Because eating next to one of these zombies was so disgusting. I mean, truly. It was so realistic. I was eating my oatmeal one morning and I just had to look away from this guy sitting next to me. I felt bad, but it was too gross.
Yeah, I think it's a good idea to go out to eat before this movie.
I always like to ask writers what action scenes look like in their scripts. Do you guys go punch by punch or let the director handle that?
Reese: No, absolutely down to the detail. We write every detail. Almost to a fault. To us that's the fun part, or at least part of the fun part. We write it down to the moment. This happens, this happens, that happens. We're not those writers that say 'the two armies clash, period, and then let the director figure it out. We try...for a lot of reason and for pacing, I try to walk through how long this scene's going to be and what very specific things happen along the way.
Wernick: Hiding behind the facade of writers are two fledgling directors hoping to get their first shot. [laughs] We write with a director's eye in mind.
You know I have to ask you about VENOM...is there anything you can tell me? Will this be an origin story? Will it take into consideration the earlier SPIDERMAN film?
Wernick: [laughs] We can't really talk about it.
Reese: I'm sorry...we're under pretty strict gag orders.
Marvel...did they threaten your life?
Reese: [laughs] They didn't actually threaten our lives, but they do own our souls.
That non-disclosure agreement must be a book.
Reese: Yeah. It's like making a deal with...it's signed in blood. Let's just look at it that way.
You guys can tell me a bit about EARTH VS. MOON?
Reese: Yeah! We can tell you a bit about that. EARTH VS. MOON is about a civil war between a colony on the moon (and Earth)...it's about four hundred years from now. It is much darker in tone than ZOMBIELAND. It's not a comedy, but it does have some comic relief. It is one one hand about a war between two societies that takes place on a grand scale. A lot of amazing weapons and shields and ships and things like that, but also a story about a fractured family. A personal story...
I know I read somewhere that you guys would love to get Will Smith. Anyone else you'd like to cast?
Wernick: Angelina Jolie
Reese: Yeah, we always pictured Will Smith and Angelina Jolie in the movie.
Wernick: We pictured a small indie movie in our minds. [laughs]
Reese: We're writing the second draft for Universal, so we'll see where it ends up. Mr. Smith, if you're listening, would you like to take a trip to the moon?