For 26 year
old actor Jesse Eisenberg – who was awarded lots of attention
for his troubled teenager in The Squid and the Whale –
becoming a zombie-killing machine offers a curious shift in gears.
Interspersed with his first-person voiceover as the wussy Columbus,
Zombieland spotlights two survivors who forge an uneasy
alliance to live in a world destroyed by a plague that turns nearly
everyone into zombies. Both are trying to get east to see if anyone
is free of the infection. The multiweapon-toting, bad-ass
Tallahassee (the darkly funny Woody Harrelson) distrusts bonding as
much as he hates zombies – but that's only because he doesn't want
to pummel a friend if they've morphed into the living dead.
bamboozled by sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail
Breslin), they establish a relationship with this duo to form a
dysfunctional and desperate ersatz family. All four have found their
own ways to vanquish zombies, so when the sisters steal the boys'
SUV and guns, they catch up to the girls and go along with their
determined effort to visit their favorite amusement park in
macabre horror comedy not only brings out the mayhem-making on
Eisenberg's part, it shows he's capable of spoofing the kind of
post-collegiate, sexually repressed nervous wreck he played so well
in Adventureland who, lo and behold, worked in a local
amusement park. And, if it's successful, he will be doing a lot more
than just the San Diego Comic-con and the recent Fantastic Fest in
Austin. Ironically though, as Eisenberg admits in this exclusive
one-on-one interview, he's more of an art house rather than genre
fan and proud of it. Maybe his next few roles – as Allen Ginsberg in
Kill Your Darlings or possibly, as the founder of Facebook –
may better suit him, but I think he has a long future in geekdom.
healthy 20-something. How have you avoided watching your share of
horror movies? Maybe you read little too many Greek tragedies. I
saw a performance of
by Euripides the other day and that could be translated into a
directed a Greek play and then he did like a horror movie version of
it. It's not actually that different. I just don't really like
horror movies. They're either scary, or if they're not scary,
they're terrible. If they're not scary then they're a failure, and
if they are scary then they scare you. So either way, you kind of
walk out lost. But this movie is really not that. As you saw last
night, it's mostly comedic, and it's a real fun experience. The
horror of it is really secondary.
you've done this movie, and you're a zombie-slayer, are you going to
investigate a lot more horror films?
I have my own
narrow view of cinema, but no, not really.
to see Robert Rodriguez's
From Dusk Till
Dawn with the slaying of the vampires, or John Carpenter's
Vampires. Bride of Frankenstein is one of the great movies of all
time. Didn't making this film intrigue you as to what is behind the
psychology of horror films like the old Universal pictures? What
would you want to see?
they're great. There was a movie out last year that everyone said to
go see, called Let the Right One In.
Is it really
For those who like indie films, you get your dose of indie art from
of it. It's teen angst via the vampire genre without too much teen
idol-making. Now that you've done the kind of movie that might make
you a teen idol, are you worried that Robert Pattinson's
fans will switch over to you?
That's not my
nature or the character in this movie. The only people that will be
interested in me from this movie will be grandmothers, and they
don't have websites. No, I think there's no threat.
think that you've made a valid play for Wichita (Emma Stone) to fall
madly in love with you?
Yeah, but he's
not that kind of character. Thank God because who wants to be in the
tabloids for anything, ever.
movie does well, you're going to be doing lots of comic-cons and
things like that now.
I know. I
realize that... I know.
collect anything that you might find at the comic-cons so you should
be looking forward to them?
I had no idea
what anything was there. We had to go to this year's [San Diego
Comic-con]. I was out of my element.
get turned onto any cool graphic novels?
couldn't be further from my comfort zone.
collect something. What do you collect?
I don't know.
I don't have any space for anything. We have collector's half-photos
of Fidel Castro at my house. I don't know why. We have like three
amazing collector's editions.
How did you
separate yourself from the character which plays on the type of
characters you've done?
All the acting
is very naturalistic, so it seems like we're all these people. It
takes a lot of effort to establish this tone of this movie. The
movie asks a lot of you comedically in a very specific world and in
a very specific way. It's a unique world that the movie takes place
in. I don't see the character as exactly like myself, but I'm sure
when people see the movie they will think that. Until one acts in a
movie, they realize that it requires effort, even if it looks very
natural or casual.
When you do
a movie like this – you've handled guns, kicked ass on zombies – how
does it change you? Are you inspired to be more of an ass kicker in
No. I don't
want to be promoting violence to children or making it look fun.
Luckily, my character does not want to shoot people. He might close
a door on this girl's foot and she's trying to kill me, and I'll
say, "I'm so sorry that I hurt your foot." I'm glad that my
character and I cannot have too much fun with the violence. People
are going to see this movie that maybe have a proclivity towards
violence, and we wouldn't want to make it look that much fun where
it's inadvertently promoting it.
a damn good job of making it seem like it's a lot of fun. It brought
out your inner shit-kicker. Do you think you're going to get offers
now to do a lot more shit-kicking as a result?
No, no, I
don't think so, nor am I interested in that. It's exhausting and
technically difficult to shoot scenes like that. The scenes that I'm
interested in are the scenes where we're creating these characters.
These other scenes, half the time the stunt guy is doing the thing
that's the most fun looking.
If you had
to smash anything like you did in the film, if you had that
opportunity to smash as a result of the freedom to smash, what would
you have had in mind?
laptop computer, because you know how frustrating it is when it's
not doing the thing you asked it to do. It's the most frustrating
thing in the world, and you just want to throw it against the wall.
It would probably feel good for one second – and after that,
terrible. Again, the things that are most fun to watch are usually
the things that are the most difficult to shoot. When we were
filming the scene where we destroyed this store, you had to be very
careful. Then when you watch it, it looks like the characters are
having fun so spontaneously. But it's a difficult thing to shoot.
It's so much fun to watch so you can relive it, almost, through your
discuss a back story as to how the zombie plague began? Did you
elaborate – just for fun – on whether it was some sort of biological
It changed so
much over the course. At first, we weren't sure if people would be
interested in knowing the back story. Then we did the test
screenings of it and realized people actually want to know where it
came from. So the final verdict is that it's now like a mad cow
disease. It came from contaminated hamburger, which is good because
it has some kind of possible practical implications toward the food
industry. Woody is really happy with that because he's a strict
is an incredibly naturally funny guy. I don't know how you get on
set with him without breaking up all the time. Abigail Breslin can
be funny too. But you must have had some interesting conversations
with him, because he's got that passionate, serious side about
politics, philosophy, and other things?
him for many years. I work with a few animal rights organizations,
I've been vegetarian for five years and I was vegan for a year. I'm
not a vegan right now, but when we were filming I ate all the same
food he ate.
You had so
much fun with Woody there, that you must love to have a chance to
work with him again. Do you see that as a possibility?
Yeah, I would
love to. He kind of cast me in this, so I owe him a lot and would
Not only as
a result of this movie, but are there people you'd like to act with
or work with? Now you've done such an interesting range of people,
you're moving on to a new plateau.
exactly it. I would never think that I would get to meet Woody
Harrelson. It always ends up being more shocking than you would have
expected had you tried to fantasize about it.
Do you ever
sit there and fantasize about who you would have as your leading
surprised that they stay on the set after they meet me. As you're
well aware, I'm more than lucky.
have been fun working with Emma. Did you know her from before? She
really doesn't take seriously that role of the sex kitten,
zombie-slayer. It must have been fun to work with her.
It's a great
asset to the movie that she's not the typical hot girl. She's an
incredibly funny person. The character that she has is a very strong
and self-respecting female character, which is not the most common
thing – especially in a movie like this, a horror-comedy.
lucky that you've been able to get some really great directors. Are
there people you want to target? Writers you want?
No. Once you
start doing that, you just open yourself up to disappointment,
because it doesn't work that way. It's best to just be open minded
to whatever new opportunities present themselves, like in this case.
have thought about sequels.
No, no, I
haven't. If you'd asked me a week ago if I wanted to do a sequel, I
would say that would definitely be the last thing that I would ever
want to do. In fact, they asked me when I originally signed up for
the movie, "Could you sign on for a sequel now?" I asked my lawyer
at the time, "Please, please, don't agree to something like that,"
because the worst thing you want to be doing is a sequel to a movie
that no one likes. When I saw the movie the other night for the
first time in Miami, I was so blown away. I think it would be a
great thing to do.
envision that sequel, can you imagine all the possible places to go,
like zombies in New York versus zombies in LA?
I would love
to do that, too, because I wouldn't have to leave home to film it.
That's exactly right; there's so much you could do. Although I
imagine zombies in New York would be so much more expensive they'll
probably end up doing zombies in Tulsa. But there are so many
possibilities because there's such a free-flowing logic to the
pretty young when you started, and you've naturally evolved. Where
do you want to go from here? You've done comedies, but they're with
a more indie heart to them then some of the raunchy buddy stuff that
Judd Apatow's produced and directed. Where do you see yourself going
now that you've added this into the catalog?
Well, I never
expected to be in a movie like this. But because the script was so
good, I wanted to. So I guess it's just project to project,
regardless of what the genre is or the size of the movie. I feel
like if it's good, then that stuff is really not relevant, and
that's what I felt about this. I mean they're sending me a lot of
movies that are similar to this because people are liking this
movie, but they're awful. I have plays that I've written that I'm
trying to get done, and it's certainly helpful to be in movies that
people see. The next movies I'm supposed to do happen to be dramas,
but if something like this came along again I'd be happy to do it.
directing and other things?
That's a whole
different [story], to actually have some command of authority, and I
don't have any of that.
you'd rise to the occasion.
I suppose you
could, but you need a deep voice or something.
undervaluing your magnetic and influential skills.
Thank you, but
you're the same person that wanted to see an action figure of me.
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