When the movie Zombieland first hit theaters, I was among the skeptics that doubted it would be worth watching. The trailers didn’t do anything for me, I never got caught up in the whole zombie craze, and I wasn’t convinced the comedic angle would work. Nonetheless, I went to the theater with a group of friends, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the flick.
The humor, for me, was on point, the acting pretty solid, and the entire experience was so much fun that I could overlook how stupid some of the character’s decisions were in the film. Of course, one the highlights and surprises of the film was the unexpected appearance of acting and comedian legend, Bill Murray.
In his extensive scenes, Bill Murray plays a version of himself who disguises himself as a zombie in hopes of blending in with the cannibalistic hordes. This works out fairly well until (SPOILER) he agrees to play a prank on a couple of the characters, and ends up getting shot in the chest with a shotgun by Jesse Eisenberg’s quick-thinking character.
It was both hilarious and disheartening seeing one of film’s heroes die on screen like that, and if you can believe it, the role wasn’t originally even written for Bill Murray.
Speaking with AMC’s talk show, Geeking Out, Zombieland and Deadpool writing duo Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick revealed that the part was originally intended for another film icon: Patrick Swayze. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, as the Ghost, Road House, and Point Break star got sick with pancreatic cancer, and passed away a month before the film’s release.
Reese and Wernick elaborated on the whole ordeal. Surprisingly enough, Murray wasn’t even the second, third, fourth, or fifth option for them:
“Reese: We originally wrote that part for Patrick Swayze. And Patrick got sick. We offered it to probably 12 other actors, and every time we did, we re-wrote the script to make jokes specific to that actor: Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Bacon, Mark Hamill, Jean-Claude Van Damme–
Wernick: All said no. Everyone said no.
Reese: Jean-Claude Van Damme passed and subsequently — we heard through the grapevine — said it was the biggest mistake of his career.
Wernick: (laughing) He’s made some big mistakes in his career, so that’s saying something.
Reese: We were two days away from shooting the screen. We had written an alternate scene with no celebrity, where they just fought a bunch of zombies in this mansion. Paul, to his great credit, doesn’t like to take no for an answer, walked up to Woody Harrelson on the set and said, ‘Woody, anyone else? Do you have any other ideas?’ He said Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray, and we were like ‘Yes, and yes.’ Dustin Hoffman couldn’t do it, but Bill Murray said, ‘Send me the script.’
Reese: He got the script and he read it, and he told Woody ‘I love the script, but there’s not enough for me to do.’ In the original draft, he was actually already a zombie. It came back to us and we were like, ‘What about if he’s alive, and what about…?’ and then we were all brainstorming… ‘and then we kill him.’ 36 hours later, he’s on the set.”
This is a story that goes to show how down-to-the-wire a lot of great decisions are made in Hollywood. What do you think of Murray taking on the role? Is there any other celebrity you would have preferred to see in that scene? Let us know in the comments down below!