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Long-awaited sequels are often a double-edged sword. Audiences are excited to see their favorite characters return after a long time without them, but they often have raised expectations for the reunion. Luckily for Zombieland fans, the core cast is all back in action, along with the original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, as well as director Ruben Fleischer. Each of them have gone on to projects with massive scales since the 2009 zom-com, but their experience working together before was clearly one they were eager enough to come back to a decade later.
Zombieland: Double Tap has Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus, Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee, Emma Stone’s Wichita and Abigail Breslin’s Wichita back amidst the zombie apolcalypse. During the film, there’s an impressive showdown with the undead in an Elvis-themed motel that appears to be shot in one take. When Double Tap director Ruben Fleischer came on the most recent episode of the ReelBlend podcast to talk about the sequel, he explained the making of this scene. In his words:
It appears as a single take, but it actually took a day and a half to film. It’s a series of shots, I think there’s seven total, that have seamless cuts between them. So it was really fun to shoot. Because collectively, as a group, there’s six people fighting together in one space. Everything was pre-blocked obviously. We knew exactly what we were going to do. And the stunt coordinator and the stunt team had laid it all out for us beautifully. But then when it was our turn to shoot the principal cast, we’d shoot it up to a certain cut point, do it as many times as we could for that take to make sure it was perfect. And then carry on forward with the next piece.
Wow! It’s always incredible to hear how filmmakers pull off magic tricks such as this unbroken shot. It may look like a single take, but it only needed to be carefully planned to look this way. Which honestly sounds a lot more difficult. Fleischer had seven shots choreographed so they could fit next to each other without looking like they include any cuts. That's organization at its finest. The Zombieland director delved further into the behind-the-scenes of it all, saying:
And I was having the guy who runs the video tap output all the clips to me. And I was editing them on my laptop on iMovie as we were shooting it, just to make sure all the cuts were seamless. It was really fun because at the end of each new piece, it was like we were building this sequence linearly. And so the cast would watch after each chunk was added and say ‘Yeah that looks good, is everyone cool? You like what you did?’ and then we’d move on.
So additionally, Ruben Fleischer was editing in the scenes on set just to make sure they had what they needed to make the scene work. It’s a smart way to cover all your bases, and it’s not something often done during the shooting of a movie. Fleischer continued with:
And at the end of the whole thing we got to watch the whole fight in real time, right there on set. I think we all felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
Typically, the feeling of getting a scene right as technical as this one doesn’t come with instant gratification. It’s often after it hits the cutting room floor and becomes avaliable in theaters when everyone can bask in a job well done! That wasn't the case for this motel fight scene in Zombieland: Double Tap.
So far, it seems as though Zombieland 2 has greatly satisfied fans, despite all the time and anticipation in between. Early reactions called it a satisfying successor that's just as funny as the original. Double Tap introduces newly evolved zombies to the world called T-800s, thanks to Columbus’ self-awareness of pop culture the audience will appreciate.
Zombieland: Double Tap is in theaters now!