SPOILER ALERT: We’ve been holding off on writing about the big secret in “Zombieland,” but now some time has passed so Patrick Kevin Day has some of the back story … but stop reading now if you haven’t seen the film and want to keep the surprise intact. — G.B.
By now, the secret’s out…
…Bill Murray has a showstopping cameo midway through director Ruben Fleischer’s surprise hit, “Zombieland.” But the back story to Murray’s appearance is almost as interesting as the bit itself. According to Fleischer, it was originally scripted for Patrick Swayze to appear as a zombie. “We had hilarious jokes written referencing classic Swayze movies. At one point, Woody [Harrelson] holds him up in the Jennifer Grey pose from ‘Dirty Dancing.’ “
With Swayze’s illness, they moved on through a whole roster of candidates: Sylvester Stallone, Joe Pesci, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, even Mark Hamill. They finally settled on a notable (unnamed) action star, who got cold feet at the last minute and backed out, leaving Fleischer and his crew just two days to find a replacement. That’s when Harrelson picked up the phone and persuaded his friend Murray to come down to Atlanta to shoot the cameo. You see the body wrapped up and perched on the ledge in the scene above? Those feet belong to Murrary.
And what if Murray hadn’t shown up? “We had a whole alternate direction planned where they encounter an old Jewish couple named Bubby and Peepaw. We cast two stunt people who we flew in and fitted, designed their zombie makeup and everything.” All we can say is, thank God for Bill Murray.
– Patrick Kevin Day
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Photos: Top, Columbia Pictures. Bottom, David Strick / Hollywood Backlot