Plus the Ghostbusters tribute that didn't make it into the sequel.
Did you check out Zombieland 2 over the weekend? What did you think--did it live up to the original or was the hype too high? Let us know in the comments.
Bill Murray's return to the Zombieland franchise with the just-released sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, hasn't been a secret since the esteemed comedian appeared in a trailer for the movie earlier in October. What remained mysterious, however, is how Murray's return would be explained, since he was pretty definitively killed in the original when Columbus shot him point blank in the chest, he spent a lengthy scene bleeding out, and the gang dropped his corpse off a balcony. If the buckshot hadn't done for him, the fall certainly would have.
If you haven't seen Zombieland 2 yet and don't want to be spoiled on how Bill Murray comes back, stop reading now. This is your last spoiler warning.
Given the events of the first film that we just described, Murray appears only in a flashback. That's not surprising, since Zombieland features plenty of those--usually to flesh out what the characters were like pre-apocalypse. But if you went into this movie waiting for the Bill Murray flashback the whole time, you probably felt pretty confused once the credits started rolling. Luckily, Zombieland 2 has one last surprise after that point.
As Columbus explains shortly after the credits begin, he feels bad about killing the legendary actor in the first Zombieland--which Rosario Dawson's character Nevada reminded him of so poignantly in the sequel--so he's showing us this flashback to the day the apocalypse began to make up for it.
The post-credits scene shows Bill Murray at a press junket for Garfield 3: Flabby Tabby, a fictional third Murray-starring Garfield movie, when all hell breaks loose. It features cameos from several real entertainment journalists, some zombie-killing action from Murray, and even the famed Garfield line "I hate Mondays." At the end of the credits, there's one more snippet, this time of Murray coughing up a hairball in Spanish (however that works).
This credits stinger conveys one important fact: Bill Murray is apparently always down to keep making fun of Garfield (recall his death scene in the original, when he told Little Rock that his one regret is doing the franchise). During a recent interview, Zombieland 1 and 2's writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, told GameSpot that that all comes from Murray.
"We never would have had the guts to make fun of Garfield, because that's a project of his, not ours. You would never do that," Reese said. The writers explained that when Little Rock asked Murray if he had any regrets in the original, Murray spent several takes ad-libbing different lines. "And he said, 'Garfield,' and of course it became one of the funniest lines in the movie," Reese continued.
Reese and Wernick have been working on Double Tap's script for years, which means it's gone through plenty of changes. Originally, they wrote an extended Ghostbusters gag for the sequel's credits scene. In that version, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson take Bill Murray golfing in order to convince him to do Ghostbusters 3.
"And then Dan Aykroyd of course throws up and becomes a zombie and attacks Bill, and they're hitting each other with golf clubs, and the golf cart's going into the lake," Reese described. Of course, Harold Ramis died in 2014, and now there really is a new Ghostbusters movie featuring Aykroyd and Hudson--and possibly Murray as well.
"Time passing can kill jokes quicker than anything," Reese said.
So they decided to pivot to Garfield instead, since Murray had set it up in the first film. "So without knowing [whether Murray would be into it], we wrote it and sent it to him, and he did get a kick out of it," Reese recalled.
"Our movies have become therapy for actors who have done projects that they wish they hadn't," Wernick added. The duo also co-wrote Deadpool 2, which features a post-credits stinger showing Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool going back in time and shooting himself in the head before Green Lantern could ever be made--which they contend was Reynolds' idea.
"We would never presume," Reese said. "The last thing you are going to do is go to Ryan and be like, 'Hey, let's make fun of Green Lantern.'"
"Although, once he opened those doors, we dove through," Wernick added.
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Reese and Wernick are also working on Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman's Clue reboot, for which they said they've written a gag dunking on one of their own previous films, 2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
The writers said they had some reservations way back around 2009 when it came time to decide whether they'd kill Bill Murray in the original Zombieland.
"We thought, well, one, there was concern, if the movie is a success, you can't bring him back. And two, we thought, does it really bring the audience down at a point where we don't want them to go, 'Oh, my God, you actually killed Bill Murray, what a buzzkill,'" Wernick recalled. "But ultimately I think story-wise it worked best and made it the most fun."
"And there's nothing funnier than a death scene to us," Reese chimed in. "And the fact that we've got one with Bill Murray and one with Ryan Reynolds, who we consider to be the two funniest actors on Earth--it has been a true pleasure watching those guys die onscreen."
For his part, Zombieland 1 and 2 director Ruben Fleischer--who also directed last year's Venom--said he remembers Murray's death being the biggest laugh in the whole movie.
"When the first movie came out, I'd go see it in public theaters, and I'd go and sit in the front row and watch the audience at that moment," Fleischer said. "I would just go to the front, at that time, knowing what was going to happen. I wouldn't watch the screen, I'd watch the audience, because they just couldn't believe that it happened. So I have no regrets, because it was such a great moment from the first film."
And Murray's return to the franchise is undoubtedly a great moment in the second. Zombieland Double Tap is in theaters now. For more, check out our Zombieland 2 review, not to mention our explanation of how much time has passed in between movies.