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If you sold it as a purely action-packed, big-budget zombie Hollywood movie, I don’t see why Marc Forster’s “World War Z” couldn’t be a commercially successful film. (And to be sure, the film’s trailers and TV spots certainly are selling that aspect of the movie. Hard, too.) As for trying to be both commercial and artistic, well, look, that’s probably not going to happen.
Much has been written and whispered about the film’s ending, as well as big chunks of re-shoots that had to happen in order to keep that ending, well, from sucking. In an interview with Vanity Fair (via Yahoo), Forster and screenwriter Damon Lindelof reveals what happened, and what they did to try to salvage a movie with a $200 million original price tag.
According to Lindelof, he wasn’t involved in the film until the movie was finished, after which Pitt, apparently unsatisfied with the product, brought him in. That could have been because Forster and Pitt started shooting “World War Z” even before the script they were shooting was even finished. Yikes.
As Lindelof tells it:
[Pitt] took me through how excited he was when he read [Max Brooks' novel], what was exciting for him, the geopolitical aspect of it… [W]hen we started working on the script, a lot of that stuff had to fall away for the story to come together. We started shooting the thing before we locked down how it was going to end up, and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.
The movie does jump around the globe, but you can probably forget about long, substantial political discussions taking place when zombies are trying to eat your face. The movie is being sold purely as a big-budget zombie flick from what I can tell.
The film’s director, Marc Forster admits the original ending, well, kinda sucked:
It was, like, Wow. The ending of our movie doesn’t work. I believed in that moment we needed to reshoot the movie… I didn’t feel like it was a big drama. I feel like, yes, the ending didn’t work. Yes, we all thought it was going to work. Yes, we decided it’s not the right ending. Yes, we decided to change it and spend more money. Yes, it never happened to me before on any of my other movies. But I think this movie is more original and bigger and more special than I have ever done before.
The result? Lindelof completely re-wrote the film’s ending, and Forster went off to re-shoot a whopping 40 minutes of new footage to accommodate the re-write. That’s, uh, a lot, in case you’re keeping track at home, kids.
So everything’s saved now, right? Says Lindelof:
They completely and totally embraced the emotional ideas and the character ideas that were going to really help center the movie on Gerry and prevent him from spinning off into ‘save the world’ syndrome.
Really? From the looks of the trailer, it sure feels like Gerry goes off to save the world while his family waits for him on an aircraft carrier. I could be wrong, of course.
“World War Z” was said to have originally spent $200 million on the initial phase of production. Adding in the extra 40 minutes of footage, who knows where the film’s real production budget is at the moment. $250? $300? This thing is going to have to make a mint or it’s going to go down as another “Waterworld”. (But hey, I liked “Waterworld”, so that bodes well for me. I don’t know about you, though.)
Find out if Brad Pitt has saved Paramount’s bank account when “World War Z” opens July 21st.