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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Ruben Fleischer

Fleischer: Why I followed 'Zombieland' with '30 Minutes or Less'

August 9, 2011 | 11:13 am

Ruben Fleischer grew as a filmmaker while shooting 30 Minutes or Less

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."


This time, Aziz Ansari has more than a cameo

'Tales From the Gangster Squad' pinpoints its target

Ruben Fleischer was courted for 'Mission: Impossible IV,' others

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Ruben Fleischer at the premiere of "30 Minutes or Less." Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters

'Tales From the Gangster Squad' pinpoints its target

November 10, 2010 |  6:52 pm


EXCLUSIVE: Amid all things superhero conjured up by the movie business these days, "Tales From the Gangster Squad" is a refreshing exception.

As my colleague Patrick Goldstein wrote this summer, this story of the Los Angeles Police Department  fighting gangland wars and trying to stem the invasion of East Coast Mafia in the 1940s and '50s is a  complicated tale filled with colorful characters -- an origin story, in a sense, of modern Los Angeles.

Or as producer Dan Lin told Goldstein, it's "The Untouchables" on the streets of L.A.

But bringing that kind of story to the screen in today's Hollywood isn't easy.  Which may be why Lin, producer Kevin McCormick and studio Warner Bros. are moving very deliberately in choosing the person to do that -- and showing some imagination as they do.

Rather than considering the usual suspects and hired hands, producers are in discussions with Ruben Fleischer, who's best known from "Zombieland', two sources familiar with those discussions said. (One can only imagine how a man who tracked trigger-happy gunslingers fighting the undead in a post-apocalyptic world will interpret the battle of cops vs. gangsters in a pre-apocalyptic Southern California.)

If that wasn't a bold enough choice, producers, the sources said, are also talking to Jose Padilha. If you haven't heard of him, you may soon enough. Padilha is the young and well-regarded auteur behind the Portugese-language "Elite Squad," which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival several years ago with its story of crime and corruption on the streets of 1990s-era Rio de Janeiro -- a Rio, incidentally, that has a few similarities with the colorful chaos of midcentury L.A.

[Update 7:18 pm: And "Crazy Heart" director Scott Cooper is also in the mix. So the directors behind a country-music drama, a zombie movie, and a Brazilian action film -- it really doesn't get more diverse than that.]

Conceived as an action movie with humor and snappy dialogue, "Gangster Squad" is based on Los Angeles Times reporting. (Not that we're implying a connection.)

Original drama with commercial hooks struggle to get made even with the biggest filmmakers and stars (see under: the many years it took Mark Wahlberg to get "The Fighter" made). Producers are, it seems, trying to get this one going with some young blood and fresh vision. We'll see if they can dodge the firing squad.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: The L.A.P.D. investigating the 1949 shooting of gangster Mickey Cohen. Credit: Los Angeles Times


The inside story on the 'Gangster Squad' movie


'Zombieland' director Ruben Fleischer was courted for 'Mission: Impossible IV,' others

March 19, 2010 |  2:24 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Back when "Zombieland" turned into a sleeper hit last fall, Ruben Fleischer became one of the most wanted directors in Hollywood. The rookie filmmaker behind the horror-comedy phenomenon met with and/or was wooed by producers for a slew of projects, including a potential Will Ferrell vehicle called "Daddy's Home," a female version of "The Hangover" titled "The Bachelorette" and a number of others.

Fleischer chose to play it more deliberate, declining to attach himself to any of the films in that crop. But about six months later, his stock still remains high. Really high.

Most notably, sources say, Fleischer has engaged in conversations to direct "Mission: Impossible IV," the latest installment in Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt franchise. Fleischer likely won't direct the film in the end, but Paramount's keen interest in Fleischer highlights just how hot he remains.

The director is, however, close to a deal to direct a comedy called "30 Minutes or Less." The log line is being kept under wraps, but financier Media Rights Capital is developing the project with comedian Danny McBride attached to star (leading us to wonder what shape McBride's bluff, sometimes politically incorrect brand of comedy will take under Fleischer, a director who got plenty of good, snarling comedy out of "Zombieland's" Woody Harrelson).

Sources also say Fleischer has had conversations about directing a movie called "Babe in the Woods," an action-comedy written by Mike White that's been at Sony for some time. The project, which focuses on an ordinary Midwestern woman who gets caught up in a Mafia plot, would reunite Fleischer with White, the writer of  "The Good Girl," on which Fleischer worked (White also had a quick cameo in "Zombieland"). But a Sony spokesman said Fleischer was not involved with the project.


Still, all the interest in Fleischer, who's made only one feature, highlights a truth that's increasingly axiomatic in Hollywood: a director with a short but strong track record often trumps one with a longer but more mixed pedigree.

It also shows the power of a movie like "Zombieland," which of course combined elements of comedy, action and horror. If you're a freshman who's deciding what film to make, best to ensure it incorporates plenty of genres.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photos: Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg in "Zombieland;" Ruben Fleischer on the set of "Zombieland." Credit: Glen Wilson/Columbia Pictures


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