From release date shuffling, to extensive reshoots, to a last-minute hustle for a third act rewrite, it’s no secret that Marc Forster’s World War Z adaptation has been plagued with problems. But as this dystopian drama trudges toward five weeks of “complex reshoots,” THR has unveiled some more of the shocking missteps that appear to have marred the Brad Pitt-fronted—and produced—zombie drama that’s had fan boys buzzing since its earliest announcement.
First off, it should be said that with all the bad calls Plan B has made thus far in the film’s production, Pitt has been dedicated to making this movie something extraordinary, outlying his hopes to the magazine:
“Can we take this genre movie and use it as a Trojan horse for sociopolitical problems, and what would the effect on the world be if everything we knew was upside-down and pulled out from under us?”
Perhaps it was his high dramatic aims that inspired Pitt to pick Kite Runner director Marc Forster, who despite having helmed Quantum Solace, is not well reputed for his management of major, effects-heavy productions. Because of this gap in experience, Pitt’s Plan B banner brought in more seasoned crewmembers to surround Forster, cutting out Forster’s usual collaborators. Several sources say this undercutting of Forster’s input caused in-fighting, which led to crew shakeups, morale-sucking discontent, and a lag in many creative decisions including the look of the movie’s zombies. One insider explained, “The director was not empowered. There was nobody that steered the ship. … When you get [a director] who can’t do it all … you get a struggle as to whose is the singular voice.”
But with Plan B bringing in Damon Lindelof to rewrite the screenplay’s final act months after wrapping principal photography it’s clear the production was jumbled before it even began. Second-unit director Simon Crane is said to have requested at least 60 days to capture the film’s extensive second-unit shot list, but was ultimately given only a third of that. This kind of planning—or lack thereof—led to tensions on set which spurred widely heralded cinematographer Robert Richardson (who shot Inglourious Basterds, Hugo, and JFK just to name a few of his incredible credits) to attempt to wrangle the crew himself. It’s also rumored this celebrated DP repeatedly asked to leave the project all together.
But despite all of this, Paramount is insisting World War Z can be salvaged. Paramount film group president Adam Goodman insists, “The footage from this film looks fantastic, but we all agreed it can have a better ending. Getting the ending correct is essential, and we are in that creative process. World War Z is a giant summer movie and we are confident it will be a global hit when it’s released June 2013.”
While the film’s originally proposed trilogy seems to be a pipe dream after all this, it is still possible for Forster and Plan B to salvage World War Z. After all, there are several wildly successful movies that overcame their notoriously troubled productions, including The Bourne Identity, Apocalypse Now and my all-time favorite summer movie: Jaws. Plus, the very fact that Paramount is pouring more money into this production—that is already over the $170 million mark—suggests they and Plan B are still trying to get this right. With a little luck, and some solid script changes and reshoots, World War Z could still be saved.