After Ruben Fleischer's "Zombieland" became a surprise hit in 2009, the director was sought after for a slew of high-profile projects, ranging from "Mission Impossible IV" to a Will Ferrell comedy.
Some heads in Hollywood turned when the young filmmaker opted to direct the smaller "30 Minutes or Less," an R-rated buddy comedy about a pizza delivery guy played by "Zombieland's" Jesse Eisenberg who is kidnapped, strapped with a bomb and forced to rob a bank.
At the premiere of the film in Hollywood on Monday night, Fleischer said he selected the project precisely because it was small. He was, he says, "psyched to do something a little bit where I could define my voice as a filmmaker."
"With some of these bigger movies where you tether a big franchise and there's a huge movie star involved, as a young director, you kind of get lost in the process," he said on the red carpet (video below). "So for me, I was really excited just to get a movie where I felt comfortable, where I could define it, and say a little bit more about my tastes as a filmmaker."
The results, he said, give him heart. "I'm proud of it. I think it's as funny as any movie, and it was a good stepping point because my next film now is a more dramatic piece."
He's referring, of course, to "The Gangster Squad," the upcoming period drama about the Los Angeles Police Department's attempt to bar the mafia from Los Angeles in the 1940s. The film, which begins production in four weeks, has a high-profile cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin.
And how is he planning to wrangle all of those egos, exactly?
"It'll be a learning experience, I think," he said with a laugh. "It's almost schizophrenic juggling this film's release and then also the preparation that I need to do for the next one. But I'm not complaining. I'm happy to be in this situation."
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Ruben Fleischer at the premiere of "30 Minutes or Less." Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters