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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Zombieland

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

Zombies could replace vampires (again)

October 12, 2010 |  7:22 pm

With major franchises about vampires and wizards coming to a close (in the next couple of years), Hollywood, always looking to the next really big thing, or at least the last sort-of big thing, has been putting its faith in a new genre breed: zombies.

As several recent articles have noted, a number of potential films and a new AMC television series ("The Walking Dead") seek to replace the bloodsuckers and wand-wavers. But getting the movies going could be as difficult as dodging a pack of the undead.

The project suddenly with the most questions around it: “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies." The alternative take on Jane Austen's dorm-room classic looked like it was full-speed ahead with Natalie Portman and David O. Russell , in what may have been the most logical or the most surreal pairing you can imagine. But Portman has decided against doing the movie, and Russell opted last week to go off and make the "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune" movie, leaving "Pride & Prejudice" as stranded out there as Mary Bennett, or one very lonely zombie.

Ostensibly moving forward is "Warm Bodies," a love-triangle-ish tale about a zombie who falls for the woman whose boyfriend he kills (we've all been there). That movie is said to be casting now, as writer-director Jonathan Levine meets with actors. (It's at "Twilight" studio Summit, so apparently they believe zombies are the next big thing too.)

The hitch: Levine is getting a lot of buzz for "Live With It," the so-called cancer comedy starring Seth Rogen, and he's rumored for various high-profile projects. Levine could still make "Warm Bodies" his next movie -- it would probably start shooting in early 2011 if he did -- but don't rule out another big gig for Levine that could put "Warm Bodies" at least temporarily on ice. Meanwhile, long-standing rumors of an "I Am Legend" sequel/prequel seem to have quieted down.

In the meantime, there are other zombie franchises that could pick up the slack, for one, the pliable "Resident Evil" franchise. With the fourth movie an unquestionable hit, a fifth film in the Milla Jovovich franchise probably will follow soon enough. And then of course there's the likely sequel to "Zombieland," which could come as soon as next year.

Zombie movies are historically more ghoulish, and less romantic, than vampire films, which means they usually appeal less to women (and thus to studios in general).

But it's hard to ever should count zombies out in Hollywood. Unlike vampire movies, which tend to live on the screen in sharp but powerful busts, as it is right now, zombies have a longer, steadier life.

Some of the better known vampire movies of the 1980s -- "Fright Night" and "The Lost Boys" -- were concurrent with a number of zombie hits; "Fright Night," for instance, came out the same year as the zombie reboot  "Return  of the Living Dead." Twenty years later, that vampire wave had long gone, but the "Living Dead" series was still going. And even as that series petered out, there was the zombie comedy "Shaun of the Dead" in 2004, and then, three years later, "I Am Legend," and then "Zombieland" two years after that. The trend of zombies in Hollywood always comes back;  it's just a question of how quickly it's able to rise.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Return of the Living Dead 4" Credit: Aurora Entertainment


 Resident Evil movie hits new high

Zombieland director was courted for Mission: Impossible

David O. Russell now back with Drake's Fortune


'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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