Joe Pesci Almost Starred In An Epic Zombie Film

Joe Pesci almost appeared in the Zombieland cameo that went to Ghostbusters actor Bill Murray.

By Matthew Creith | Published

Actor Joe Pesci was one of the most sought-after movie stars of his generation during the 1980s and 1990s, culminating in a self-imposed retirement that has seen the performer appear in just a handful of projects in the past twenty years. However, reports that Pesci was once considered for the cameo role in 2009’s Zombieland that was eventually portrayed by actor Bill Murray, who ended up playing himself in the epic zombie film. This news was confirmed recently by Zombieland screenwriter Rhett Reese, who had hoped that the Goodfellas star would take them up on their offer for the cameo role, but Pesci wanted more money for a small part that Reese says they simply couldn’t deliver.

Even though Joe Pesci didn’t take the filmmakers up on their offer to play himself in Zombieland, Bill Murray took the opportunity and ran with it, portraying an exaggerated version of himself for laughs and what eventually became quite a few memes at the actor’s expense. In the film, Jesse Eisenberg’s character of Columbus accidentally kills Murray because he thought he was a zombie, and Murray appeared in the 2019 sequel Zombieland: Double Tap in a cameo filmed as archival footage. Other actors’ names that were batted around at some point for the role in Zombieland that Bill Murray took on were Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Bacon, and even Mark Hamill.

Bill Murray in Zombieland (2009)

The revelation that Joe Pesci was once tapped to play a cameo role as himself in the post-apocalyptic zombie comedy Zombieland may end up putting some focus on the actor’s legendary career, since he has mostly stayed out of the spotlight as of late. Pesci is one of the most recognizable frequent collaborators of director Martin Scorsese, appearing in a slew of films for the iconic helmer, such as Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and 2019’s The Irishman. A collaborator and friend to fellow actor Robert De Niro as well, the two have appeared onscreen together in other movies like the 2006 spy thriller The Good Shepherd, which De Niro also directed.

Joe Pesci has not had a film role since The Irishman and his work on screen has been sporadic since costarring in 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4, but his acting has garnered the 79 year-old performer several accolades in the last forty years, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Goodfellas. He is notable for starring in several movies belonging to the Lethal Weapon franchise alongside Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, costarring with Daniel Stern and child actor Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and its sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, as well as recording three studio albums as a musician. However, Joe Pesci may best be known for his titular role in the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny for which he starred with Ralph Macchio and Marisa Tomei, a movie that helped to solidify his career outside of gangster and crime drama, as he applauded Tomei, who ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the film.