Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, which kicked off this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is all set to deliver its comically terrifying zombie mayhem in UK cinemas. The indie auteur’s latest outing sees him sticking to his genre vices after having tackled vampire lore in Only Lovers Left Alive; this time digging into the animated after-life of zombies in the seemingly sleepy town of Centerville.
Definitely one of the film’s biggest draws is the sheer diversity of its cast members, along with their individual quirks and sense of humour. And we’re not just talking about the film’s protagonists here: Jarmusch unabashedly riffs off of George A. Romero’s apocalyptic consumerism by giving each zombie its own specific persona, with each one gravitating back towards its old devices — so much so that all of the zombie cameos will have your own head spinning.
So, to celebrate the film’s imminent release, we thought it would be a good idea to deconstruct the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled into this easy-to-follow guide…
The iconic Stooges frontman is the first to rise from the grave and, truth be told, he looks pretty much like he always does, clad in a leather waistcoat and velvet flares. He doesn’t take too kindly to being fended off with a “Bee mop” and promptly tucks into his aggressor before craving coffee (for reasons unknown) to help wash down the intestines. Curiously, he is said to have gotten quite sick after eating the prosthetic guts, so that probably explains the look on his face when he does finally get his caffeine fix.
Iggy’s coffee mate
Iggy isn’t the only coffee craver here, as he’s accompanied throughout the film by a woman who is in fact Jarmusch’s long time partner, Sara Driver. She is also an indie filmmaker and actress with a couple of films under her belt, namely Sleepwalk and When Pigs Fly.
The next ghoul to rise from the dead is the town drunk, Mallory O’Brien, played by Carol Kane (The Sisters Brothers, Thanks for Sharing). We’re not sure if it’s the Chardonnay working here, but she saunters around the town’s police station and manages to endure Adam Driver’s character’s extended string of cringe-inducing hacks to the neck quite a bit longer than anyone could have expected.
Kane wasn’t the first choice for this cameo, though. Jarmusch had actually hoped to tap Bruce Campbell to play Mallory, but he turned the role down as he wasn’t all that keen about signing up for yet another make-up heavy scary movie. With Campbell no longer on the cards, Jarmusch rewrote the role for a woman and reached out to Kane, who he’d worked with on In the Soup and she accepted the part, no questions asked.
This wasn’t her first run-in with Bill Murray either, as she had previously worked with the much-loved actor in the 1988 cult classic Scrooged.
This next one is a lot less obvious, but it’s a moment that made it into the film’s first trailer — so we’ve had plenty of time to figure out exactly who it was. While the cop trio are navigating through the hordes they pass a zombie girl in her tennis whites, aimlessly swinging her tennis racket around. Said Wimbledon wannabe is in fact Julia Morrison. Aside from having a fairly prominent career as an actress (Eddie Alcazar’s Perfect and Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia), she’s made quite a name for herself recently as the vocalist of film score-based electronic music duo Alien Bay, whose debut track, ‘Carpal Tunnel’, was recently featured in the Blumhouse/Netflix psychological thriller Cam.
Next up is a zombie that, according to Tilda Swinton, isn’t wearing the right tartan but has a lovely, hackable neck. The ghoul in question is the all-terrain talent, Charlotte Kemp. The singer, songwriter, writer, model and film director has been in a relationship with Sean Lennon since 2005 and performs with him in the musical duo The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Here we see her strike a pose in the middle of the road before succumbing to Swinton’s superior samurai swordsmanship.
Once you’ve seen the film, you’ll realise why only one person could play “the Guitar Zombie” — and that person is Sturgill Simpson. The zombie we see meandering along the road with a guitar in tow is the man responsible for the film’s adamantly recurrent theme tune. Believe us, you’ll be repeating this song like a mantra for weeks to come and kicking yourself for it.
That Us zombie moment
The final cameo is not a cameo in the strict sense of the word, but it’s by far one of the funniest Easter eggs we came across so we just had to include it here. Also, surely a sheer coincidence, one could suggest that it’s an unabashed tip of the hat to Jordan Peele’s Us in the fact that one of the zombies Driver slices the head off is Murray’s doppelgänger. It’s not actually Murray – which would have been way funnier – but the zombie is wearing the exact same get-up Murray wore in his role in Zombieland.
The Dead Don’t Die is released in the UK from July 12.