Nobody ever said making the most expensive zombie movie of all time would be easy. For Brad Pitt and the filmmakers behind the upcoming thriller World War Z, it certainly hasn’t been. This week’s issue of EW takes you inside the tumultuous production of the blockbuster hopeful, which has involved reshoots, re-writes, and a budget that has ballooned from $125 million to over $170 million. “These movies are very intricate puzzles, and you have to keep winding the mechanisms,” Pitt says, while on the Paramount lot.
World War Z, which is based on the best-selling book by Max Brooks, took six years to develop and shoot, and a carousel of writers had their hands on the script before the project ever moved into production. Even after the initial shoot, the script overhaul continued. In October 2011, Paramount brought on Prometheus scribe Damon Lindelof to help tweak the third act, and Lindelof enlisted The Cabin in the Woods director and co-writer Drew Goddard for some assistance. Their changes called for five weeks of reshoots — not to mention an extensive portion of the film shot in Budapest ending up on the cutting room floor. “At the time I was really interested in a more political film,” says Pitt of the cut Budapest scenes. “[But] we got bogged down in it; it was too much to explain. It gutted the fun of what these films are meant to be.”
Perhaps that sense of “fun” was missing due to reported on-set tension between Pitt and his German-born director, Marc Forster, whose credits include Finding Neverland and Quantum of Solace. When asked to address rumors that they stopped speaking to each other during shooting, Forster and Pitt both shrug. “We’re in here every day, pounding away,” Pitt says.
At the end of the day, both Forster and Pitt, who is also producing the film, want World War Z to be the exciting, franchise-launching hit they both believe it could be. (If it does well, there are plans to turn it into a trilogy.) They hope audiences will respond to the film’s lightning-fast zombies that move in animal pack formations, and — as the new trailer proves — can swarm like a colony of ants to mount a huge wall. “[We asked] how to do it differently because
it’s been done so many times and been done pretty damn well,” says Pitt.
Did their vision of fast zombies come across “pretty damn well” on the screen? That’s for you to decide when the movie hits theaters on June 21. But if you’re eager for more on World War Z’s tough road to production, check out this week’s issue. Also inside, you’ll find a first look at Wolverine, an exclusive preview of the CW’s new Vampire Diaries spin-off, and all the scoop about the battle currently raging between NBC and Leno.