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Bill Murray adds zest to 'Zombieland'

October 15, 2009|Patrick Kevin Day

By now, the secret's out: Bill Murray has a show-stopping cameo midway through director Ruben Fleischer's surprise hit "Zombieland." All apologies if that's a spoiler for anyone. 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.' " When Swayze got sick, the joke didn't seem funny anymore. 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 convinced his friend Murray to come down to Atlanta to shoot the cameo. 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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