Brad brings zom­bie genre up to speed

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - SIC -

PLAGUED by set­backs and forced re-shoots, World War Z may yet emerge as one of the sur­prise hits of the year.

Per­haps more sur­pris­ing is that it made its way to the screen, courtesy of Brad Pitt and his pro­duc­tion house Plan B. For un­til 2008 when he op­tioned Max Brooks’ frag­men­tary novel Pitt was one of the few Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters with­out his own per­sonal fran­chise.

World War Z was the pro­ject he hoped might turn into a se­ries – a run of movies with Pitt at the core as an ev­ery­day hero faced with global apoc­a­lypse courtesy of the vo­ra­cious can­ni­bal dead. Bil­lions of them.

Pitt has al­ways shied away from the con­cept of the fran­chise. Yet all around him his con­tem­po­raries were slowly build­ing per­sonal em­pires. Johnny Depp has his pi­rates. Bruce Wil­lis has a blood­ied cop in a grubby vest. And Ge­orge Clooney has Danny Ocean and his gang. Of course Brad Pitt is a mem­ber of Danny’s crew. But that was al­ways Clooney’s thing. Pitt was there for sup­port. Never shoul­der­ing the bur­den, just part of the en­sem­ble. Why, then, did World War ap­peal? Brooks’ book pre­dates the TV phe­nom­e­non of The Walk­ing Dead (but not the graphic novel that spawned it a decade ago) and feeds into what ap­pears to be a never-end­ing clam­our for en­ter­tain­ment that in­volves le­gions of shuf­fling corpses.

Z“Those zom­bies are scary as hell and the movie, I be­lieve, works on nu­mer­ous lev­els,” says Pitt. “But pri­mar­ily it’s com­plete sum­mer fun and, frankly, some­thing I wanted to do for my sons to en­joy. Five years ago, I knew noth­ing about zom­bies. Now I con­sider my­self an ex­pert.

“Max’s book treats the zom­bie genre as a global pan­demic, spread­ing much like we’ve wit­nessed viruses such as SARS travel. What hap­pens when this jumps the fire­break… what hap­pens when ev­ery­thing we con­cern our days with is ren­dered use­less? What hap­pens when power struc­tures and so­ci­etal norms are oblit­er­ated? How will we sur­vive?” Teaser trail­ers for the film were built on a se­ries of epic set­piece scenes that de­picted fast-mov­ing zom­bies swarm­ing like ants. Clearly th­ese are not the am­bu­la­tory de­ceased of es­tab­lished movie lore. Thus Pitt finds him­self the hero of a film that is part hor­ror flick, part ac­tion ex­trav­a­ganza, part do­mes­tic drama with a hus­band and fa­ther at­tempt­ing to safe­guard his fam­ily as he seeks to pre­vent the end of the world.

Di­rec­tor Marc Forster, the man be­hind Mon­ster’s Ball and Quan­tum of So­lace, saw his lead­ing man and his pet pro­ject as far more than just an­other run-of-the-mill en­try in the an­nals of liv­ing dead pic­tures. Forster is con­vinced that the com­bi­na­tion of Pitt and Brooks’ oral his­tory ap­proach makes it a very dif­fer­ent beastie.

“It’s not just about zom­bies,” as­serts Forster. “It’s about a global apoc­a­lypse that hap­pens to be spread by zom­bies. “There are a lot of par­al­lels to what we’re liv­ing through, cul­tur­ally, that lend them­selves to a ‘zom­bie movie,’ but the great thing about Max’s book is that he set it in a re­al­is­tic time frame and within a re­al­ity-based frame­work.

“That’s what re­ally in­trigued me – I wanted to cre­ate a movie that feels real, so au­di­ences feel like this could hap­pen, this minute, to any one of us. The gen­eral premise is that any­thing can hap­pen, in any kind of sce­nario, on any given day. No one is spared. Ev­ery­one is sus­cep­ti­ble. That’s the plot­line in the movie but it’s also real life.” For a time World War looked like be­ing Pitt’s per­sonal Waterworld, the soggy sea-go­ing sci-fi shame that al­most sank Kevin Cost­ner’s ca­reer. The in­dus­try has been rife with ru­mours about over­spends, in­co­her­ent sto­ry­lines – Para­mount ditched Brooks’ first-per­son nar­ra­tive ap­proach in favour of in­ter­lock­ing vi­gnettes courtesy of five sep­a­rate writ­ers, script doc­tors and pol­ish men – and costly reshoots that pushed the film’s fi­nal bud­get over the $200m mark.

Most cru­cially the film’s orig­i­nal re­lease date was scrapped when stu­dio ex­ecs

Z

PIC­TURE: JAAP BUITENDIJK/PARA­MOUNT PIC­TURES

AC­TION MAN: Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane in WorldWarZ.

PIC­TURE: DOMINIC LIP­IN­SKI/PA PHO­TOS.

POWER COU­PLE: Brad Pitt and An­gelina Jolie at the world pre­miere of World War Z in Lon­don.

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