Woody Harrelson (left) and Director Ruben Fleischer on the set of Columbia Pictures' comedy ZOMBIELAND.
Woody Harrelson and Director Ruben Fleischer © Columbia Pictures

After dodging genre movies for his whole career, Woody Harrelson stars in two of them this year, Roland Emmerich’s end-of-the-world drama 2012, and the action comedy Zombieland, about an America which has been taken over by zombies, that culminates in a rousing face-off at a deserted amusement park.

Portraying Tallahassee, an AK-toting, zombie-slaying badass whose single resolve is to get the last Twinkie on earth, he joins forces with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a big wuss who is afraid of being eaten by zombies, and two con artists, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), relying on each other so that they don’t succumb to the zombies.

What made you want to do this for your first horror film?

Woody Harrelson stars in Columbia Pictures' comedy ZOMBIELAND.
Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) prepares for an approaching zombie! © Columbia Pictures

I guess it took Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to write it and Ruben Fleischer to ask. That had never happened before. When I read the script, what I loved about Tallahassee was that he was a guy who essentially lost everything, so he has nothing left to lose, and as a result, he’s fearless when it comes to his approach to the zombies.

Natural Born Killers was kind of a horror movie. Was there any of Mickey Knox in Tallahassee?

I disagree. I think Natural Born Killers was more of a misunderstood romantic comedy. (he laughs)

Did you have any input into your character’s wardrobe?

I’ve never worked so hard on the outfit before. That’s the stuff I usually don’t put so much time into, but there were so many fittings and attempts to get that right. Ruben and I almost endlessly went back and forth on how much color to put in this or that, and I liked the way it turned out.

Woody Harrelson stars in Columbia Pictures' comedy ZOMBIELAND.
Woody Harrelson with a Zombie but this was not his favorite kill! © Columbia Pictures

Amid all the action there is a ton of comedy. Was it hard for you to keep a straight face?

It was. During our mysterious celebrity cameo, it was real hard to keep it together. In fact, I think we probably lost some good jokes of his because he was framed with us in it, and they couldn’t use it because we were laughing so hard, which was really unprofessional, but understandable

What is your favorite zombie kill in the film?

My favorite kill was the one with the butter knife to the jugular.

Do you have a fondness for Twinkies yourself, or was that just in the script?

That was my biggest acting challenge. I’m not a big Twinkie lover. So, they made up a bunch of Twinkies that were actually edible for a guy like me, meaning without dairy and sugar, and all that nonsense. They were cornmeal. They were really delicious, good Twinkies. There is the possibility that Hostess could do a healthy Twinkie. It’s a thought. Maybe this movie could spark a revolution.

Woody Harrelson (left) and Jesse Eisenberg (center) star in Columbia Pictures' comedy ZOMBIELAND.
Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) on the floor © Columbia Pictures

How much fun was it for you to smash up the tourist shop?

I think all of us can attest to the fact that it was really cathartic to come in and just smash the shit out of that place. With respect and reverence to all the items in there, I thought it was helpful for all of us, emotionally, to just get that out.

Can you talk about your friendship with Paul McCartney? Does he want to see this movie?

I don’t know how psyched he is about seeing the movie. I haven’t asked him. Naturally, I’ve sent him trailers and one-sheets. But, I did actually take Emma over for dinner with him, one night. That was fun.

Do you ever listen to music to get into character and, if so, what’s on your playlist?

The new Paul McCartney album. To get fired up for something, there’s almost no better album to listen to than U2’s Pop. That’s probably their least popular album, but to me, it’s their best and most under-rated album. It just rocks! I think that’s a good one.

Was there a certain degree of playing in the backyard as a kid, with Tallahassee’s last stand in the film?

Well, I really didn’t kill anybody, honestly. That was more just fiction. But, it was fun. I remember thinking about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid during all those cool shots. I wanted to go back and look at that, but naturally being lazy, I didn’t. But, it was a fun thing to get to do that.

Did you enjoy reloading the two guns on the counter?

I think that was already in the script like that. That is a really hard thing to do, which is why my stunt double did it.

How was it to shoot the guns while you were going down the roller coaster?

That was a lot of fun. We had to do the roller coaster ride quite a bit, and shoot one person after the other. It was good times! It was cathartic.

Who do you play in 2012?

In 2012, my character is a radio DJ who believes that the world is gonna come to an end, and he has an attitude about how it’s going to happen. Of course, a lot of people think he’s nuts, but he turns out to be not so far off.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.