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.
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.’ ”
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