Damon Lindelof Talks ‘World War Z’ Rewrites and the Original Ending

Published 2 years ago by

damon lindelof world war z1 Damon Lindelof Talks World War Z Rewrites and the Original Ending

Paramount’s World War Z adaptation – with Marc Forster directing and Brad Pitt starring – lingered in pre-production for longer than was expected, before it gained the necessary funding to begin production. Unfortunately, the hardest part had yet to come, as the zombie apocalypse blockbuster ended up delayed from a December 2012 release date to June 2013, so as to allow for extensive reshoots (around seven weeks’ worth) after the shooting script’s third act and ending had been rewritten.

Screenwriters Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) were approached by the WWZ producers about how to change – or, rather, how to fix – the final act. However, it was Lindelof, not Goddard, who ended up making the real significant contribution – enough so that, by the looks of it, Lindelof might end up sharing credit with Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom) for adapting Max Brooks’ original novel.

Lindelof was recruited to lending a helping hand on the WWZ adaptation by Pitt, as he explained to Vanity Fair:

“[Pitt] took me through how excited he was when he read the book, what was exciting for him, the geopolitical aspect of it. [Then Pitt explained to me,] ‘But when 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 differences between Brooks’ WWZ novel and the movie – which abandons the oral history structure for a more generic “Hero races to save the world” storyline – resulted from the adaptation process, presumably in order to make the project (which was originally budgeted at $125 million) an easier sell and lend it greater appeal to a larger audience; that includes those who would’ve not been interested in Brooks’ original zombie socio-political allegory.

world war z trailer brad pitt Damon Lindelof Talks World War Z Rewrites and the Original Ending

Brad Pitt in ‘World War Z’

However, as Lindelof soon found out, there wasn’t enough planning in advance to ensure that WWZ had a solid ending; much less, one that could lead into future installments, as was (reportedly) being considered earlier on. Lindelof described the original conclusion as “abrupt and incoherent,” which is something echoed by the statement that Paramount executive Marc Evans gave to Vanity Fair:

When it came time to watch the director’s cut, Holson reports, the room was silent. “It was, like, Wow. The ending of our movie doesn’t work,” says Evans. “I believed in that moment we needed to reshoot the movie.” After 10 minutes of polite discussion, everyone left. “We were going to have long, significant discussions to fix this,” he recalls thinking.

As a result, the studio heads elected to re-write and reshoot 40 minutes of World War Z, in order to produce a satisfactory ending to the movie. That decision – which contributed to the budget swelling from $125 million to $200 million – was based on the second of two options that Lindelof offered the filmmakers, with regard to how they might correct the problems in the first director’s cut:

“I said to them, There are two roads to go down here. Is there material that can be written to make that stuff work better? To have it make sense? To have it have emotional stakes? And plot logic and all that? And Road Two, which I think is the long-shot road, is that everything changes [in the third act]. So when I gave them those two roads and they sounded more interested in Road B”—which meant shooting an additional 30 to 40 minutes of the movie—I was like, ‘To be honest with you, good luck selling that to Paramount.’ ”

world war z zombie wall Damon Lindelof Talks World War Z Rewrites and the Original Ending

Surprisingly, Paramount gave the WWZ filmmakers the go-ahead on the route that would require far more time and money investment; as a result, the marketing for this blockbuster has been some of the more timid out there. In fact, the studio is (apparently) so concerned about making sure this adaptation proves a hit at the box office, it has completely shunned any connections to zombie lore while building hype. Even the cast and crew have (refused? Not been allowed?) to use the “Z” word during interviews about the film.

It bears repeating: the whole reason WWZ took so long to begin shooting in the first place – and underwent such a drastic transformation story-wise – was due to the studio’s concerns about the project being too risky to invest as large a sum of cash as $125 million. How’s that for irony?


We’ll find out if this story has a happy ending or not, when World War Z opens in regular and select 3D/IMAX theaters on June 21st, 2013.

Source: Vanity Fair

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  1. If it becomes a surprising hit then they can thank themselves for it but I agree with them being cautious about using zombies since the market is so over-saturated with zombies on TV and in movies and videogames over the last decade that I’d worry about audience boredom too.

    Lets hope it works out for them and that those who loved the book realise that material like that can’t work in a more general medium and therefore had to be changed. Audiences don’t seem to like being dictated to, which is why a lot of socio-political movies have either played down that aspect in trailers or removed it completely or became flops when they embraced it.

    That’s why the original Robocop was never trailed as being a social commentary on the industrial cities being turned into ghost towns through modernization etc despite the abundance of commentary throughout the movie (including the commercials, like the one for the gas-guzzling 6000 SUX).

    • I’d buy that for a dollar!

  2. I can’t wait for this movie!!!

    It’s going to be awesome. Looking forward to the special effects as well. Love seeing the poeple swarming like ants.

    Thrilled this movie won’t be like the book, which would have made a terrible 2-hour movie.

    • It could have worked as a serious mocunentary as long as it had quick cuts between talking heads instead of a collection of individual anecdotes as well as intercut it with photos and “actual footage” just like any real documentary.  It could also be interesting to cast famous character actors for the parts but that would distract from the illusion of an actual documentary.  One thing is for sure though, if they adapted the novel this way, or any other way stays truer to the source material, it could not gave been a mega-blockbuster.

    • That’s fine and all you’re excited that it has nothing to do with the books but it pisses me off. Why buy the name and rights to the novel if all you are going to use is the name just to build hype. If they wanted to make their own zombie movie they should have given it a unique title allowing somebody else more capable to adapt the novel properly.

      • Thankyou!!!!!!!!!

    • ^^
      This is what people who hate books sound like.

  3. Hope it’s watchable. Sounds like this years biggest disaster though. Hope I’m suprised!

  4. I refuse to see it until they change the name to “attack of the Black friday shoppers.” These zombies do notl ook like zombies. They look like a people at walmart at midnight on black Friday.

    • Arent black friday shoppers basically zombies? On paper they fit the bill quite nicely.

    • You know what? I work for Wal-Mart, and you are right!

  5. I saw an early screening of this a few weeks ago. About 90% finished. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all, but it really blew me away. Pitt is great, the story moves at a brisk pace, and there are some genuinely tense moments. The ending is still a little abrupt, but it really hits home. I would definitely recommend it, and I can’t wait to see it again on the opening weekend.

  6. Spending another whopping 75 million after
    125 is a lot more than just fixing an ending.

    This film may qualify as the first film where the
    original and the remake are the same movie :)

  7. I think its hilarious Lindelof advising someone about plot logic lol.

    • Agreed. Wasn’t the finale of Lost incoherent and abrupt. What a joke.

      • Disagreed, it tied up Lost nicely, it was Jack’s story mostly, yeah, sure it was funny with that circle jerking in the church. And everyone moved on together. The island was a plug, to keep the darkness out of the world. But pulling out the plug, causes the island to be ruined, yet, destroy’s the monster’s immortality, but lol, then Jack loses his immortality. Doesn’t matter, though, Lost will also be a great show, to me, anyway.

  8. yeah.. I think after the changes its just gonna be a middle of the road generic “hero races to save the world” flick like they say in the article. I hope that I’m surprised tho, the trailers look pretty sick and I love me a good zombie movie.

  9. Love all the responses from people who have already decided it’s going to suck.

    See you on opening night hypocrites!

    • I don’t think people are being hypocrites, it’s just the fact that from day one there hasn’t been a lick of good/positive news and when you couple that with trailers that not only look ridiculous but fail to give you an idea of what the movie is even about how can you not assume the worst????
      I’m not going to say I’ll never see this movie but I’m sure not going to shell out theater money for it.

    • There is not evidence anyone who thinks
      this will suck will be there for opening night.
      There is no grounds to call people hypocrites.

      Personally, while I cannot say this will suck,
      based on what I have seen and the stories
      of production difficulties I won’t be there.

    • You sound like a studio plant.

  10. The book was horrible. There is no actual story its separate short interviews with people who survived world war Z. Just like Robocopalypse.

    Very cliched & copies other more successful stories that the younger generation probably never heard of and they’ll think this is great.

    • I thank you for taking the time to remove yourself from my list of people whose posts I find credible.

      • I agree with you, DarkE. The book was NOT horrible — it was gripping. After reading it and hearing that a movie based on it would be made, I imagined it would be similar to how District 9 was made, as it too relied quite a bit on oral history.

  11. If I see good reviews when this comes out, I might go see it. I loved the book, but have had zero interest since I first saw the trailer. I’ll see what happens, but I think all my movie money in June is going to belong to Man Of Steel.

  12. It’s a PG-13 zombie movie with digital zombies, a ballooned budget, extensive re-writes and re-shoots, not to mention that the star and the director were hardly on speaking terms through the shoot(according to rumor). This will make some money… but it has S.U.C.K. written all over it

  13. This is exactly why you don’t screw with the source material [too much]. You end up with a movie that might have a vague resemblance to the book it was adapted from but nothing more.

    If you can’t commit to faithfully adapting a book, DON’T do it. Very simple rule to remember. Go make another movie, hell make a movie with themes/material similar to a book but don’t blatantly steal the title and then make something completely different expecting us to fall for it.

  14. I really don’t want this to flop but it really looks like it just might

  15. A studio starts shooting a movie that costs 125 mil to make and doesn’t even have the ending locked down in the script. How does this even begin to happen? Sounds like Plan B has no idea what they’re doing and will have to resort to plan b – find new careers.

  16. I love how much they try to spin it and give explanations for why they had to do reshoots! The movie was bad, they hired someone to rewrite and turn a horrible film into a watchable film! I had no hopes for this as soon as Marc foster and brad Pitt were attached. Why are you gonna call something world war z and not even follow anything from the book? the geopolitical and the whole oral history is the sole purpose of the book! That would be like taking magic out of Harry potter movie. The movie just looks bad, And The trailer proves it, cgi looks terrible, acting looks bad, I can’t stand all of Marc fosters shaky camera movement, quantum of solace anyone? If the movie is even decent I’ll eat my words If I don’t die of shock first!

  17. Technically, Based on the trailers its easy to say that the whole script still needed a Rewrite..

  18. Is there a ‘story’ Lindelof has actually closed that made sense? Why is this man still getting paid to do the work that 1000 monkeys on typewriters could do?

    He has 14 Titles where he is listed as the writer. Most of them are from TV.

    I cant speak for Nash Bridges or Crossing Jordan but I saw LOST and it was a train wreck. Oh the ride was fun it was a fast train but it wrecked at the end killing everyone, not a worthwhile trip.

    What has he done that he hasn’t ridden the coat tails of the property itself that would explain any type of success?

    Nothing. Please just lock him and M Nightshamalamadingdong in a box.

    And before you ask yes I could do better, im sure YOU could probably do better. Heck Ive got a cat that could probably do better.

    • I cracked up on the M Nightshamalamadingdong part :D

      I agree that Lindelof is the wrong guy to be brought in to fix the ENDING. I mean, why? They should’ve gone with Andrew Kevin Walker. He’s fallen off the face of the Earth, he’d be better suited for writing an ending, eventhough this material may not be dark enough for him.

      But I digress. I have to give props to Lindelof in some ways. He knows how to shape a story, so if that were the case, then I wouldn’t be so skeptical about him being the rewriter. But for an ending, I have a bad feeling about this.
      I mean, his suggestion already sounded like wtf a bit.

      Then again, if the rest of the movie is a disaster already then perhaps Lindelof’s ending may be the best part of the movie.

  19. Not only will this be a great movie…but you can count on there being a sequel.

    Even if this bombs, like so many of you are hoping, in the domestic market…it will make millions on the international market.

  20. re-shots , change the end of the film, rewriting the script by Lindelof, PG 13 age category , the end
    Only malcontents go for this to cinemas.

  21. World War Z is one of my favorite novels of all time. I wish they had made this movie at least somewhat similar to the book; however, I’ll be going to see it with an open mind.

  22. I just watched this movie at the sneak preview. It was very poorly done. I have read Max Brook’s book and thought it was very original and amazing. That being said, the book is also almost unfilmable as it stands. So I didn’t expect them to do a literal translation to the screen. I was only looking for a decent apocalyptic/zombie/catastrophe movie.

    They did not deliver. They should have gone more in the direction of “Contagion” rather than try to go for the explosions/action/Ipad crowd. Lindelof’s writing is VERY apparent in this – since he is very bad at characterization (especially women) and almost never has a believable resolution to any plot he has.

    My recommendation? Wait for this to be released on DVD and watch it then. Do not waste your money on a theater ticket. And since this film is almost surely going to do poorly in the box office, it will probably show up on DVD by the end of the summer.