Director Ruben Fleischer, Jesse Eisenberg talk ‘Zombieland,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ student filmmaking

Noah Levine

Audiences stepped foot into “Zombieland” in 2009, and a decade later the original cast and director have returned to the iconic undead stomping ground.

To celebrate the release of “Zombieland: Double Tap,” The Daily Texan attended a 15-minute roundtable interview with actor Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and director Ruben Fleischer (“Venom”) to discuss all things Zombieland.

Daily Texan: With the onslaught of zombie-related content since 2009 like “The Walking Dead,” how did you aim to keep “Zombieland: Double Tap” feeling fresh?

Ruben Fleischer: I say this sincerely, I kind of had blinders on to everything else. I didn’t watch much of (other zombie content). For us, the touchstone was the original movie and just wanting to honor that. There’s a little nod in the film to “The Walking Dead,”  but other than that acknowledgment, our focus was truly capturing the spirit and magic of the first one and letting that be our guiding light and not worrying too much about what other people were up to.

DT: Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers or actors?

Jesse Eisenberg: Acting is an incredibly competitive field with no direct path. You don’t have to get a degree in order to excel in it, so there’s no really clear way to do it. My advice is understand fully how difficult it is and to study something else. I studied anthropology in college and would be happy teaching anthropology because it’s a passion of mine. Also, you have to really love doing it for free because most likely when you start you’re gonna be doing it for free for a long time.

RF: There’s no excuse not to be making stuff because you have all the tools in that one phone in a way that I never did. I was a history major in college with no intention to become a director. And like Jesse said, there’s no path. If you do want to be a director, in addition to making stuff, get access to sets and work on films. (Filmmaking is) a craft that you can learn by watching other people. Hopefully by doing this yourself and learning from others, you can build a reel and show your work to people.


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DT: As an actor, what is it like to play so many extremely versatile roles like Mark Zuckerberg, Lex Luthor and now back to Columbus from the 2009 film?

JE: It’s the great joy of my job. One of the things they tell actors who go to acting school for is (to learn how to) play characters you’ll never actually get cast for. Explore your own creativity before you go out into the world and just get cast as the same (type of role). If you’re getting to act in a superhero movie as the villain or something, you’re getting to do that thing that you always got to do in acting class and never thought you’d get to do (for a job). I kind of suspected I would (play) a character like the character in “Zombieland” because it’s kind of similar to me … but then when I got to (play meaner characters), it was exhilarating.

DT: In the film there’s a scene where the survivors fend off the undead on and around an RV. Was this the reference to “The Walking Dead” you mentioned?

RF: No, in the film (Columbus) is literally reading a magazine that says “The Walking Dead.”

DT: Oh yeah, I’m an idiot. But there is also an RV in “The Walking Dead.”

RF: Oh really?

JE: Are they standing on top of it (in “The Walking Dead”)?

DT: Yes.

JE: Oh seriously? We’ve got two “Walking Dead” references in there!