There’s never been a zombie film set on an epic and global scale like “World War Z.” Based on Max Brooks’ bestselling book, the film focuses on a United Nations employee named Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) who has to travel across the world in order to find the source of a zombie epidemic and find a way to stop this rampaging disease from destroying the world.
At the helm of this $200 million big-budget film is director Marc Forster. While “World War Z” might be his first foray into the horror genre, Forster is not a complete stranger to the action genre as he directed the 22nd James Bond film, “Quantum of Solace” with Daniel Craig. He has had the opportunity to direct Halle Berry, Johnny Depp and Will Ferrell in films like “Monster’s Ball,” “Finding Neverland” and “Stranger Than Fiction.” I had the opportunity to speak with Forster last week as we talked about transitioning between making a small film and big-budget film, the possibilities of a “World War Z” sequel and reshooting the ending of the movie.
Marc, you started working as a director on small independent films. For you as a filmmaker, how easy or difficult was it to transitioning from making small films to making two big-budget film like “Quantum of Solace” and “World War Z”?
Marc Forster: It’s different in the sense that with smaller movies, you have complete control because it’s small and contained. As for “Quantum of Solace” or “World War Z,” they are set in countries on a massive scale in a sense where you are under more pressure in terms of responsibility. At the same time, you are making a movie that will be watched globally by millions and millions of people. You also have the marketing that supports that. That’s really exciting that you are making a blockbuster for the masses. I like that and I really enjoy making a film for everyone in which the young and old can enjoy. With “World War Z,” I wanted to make this intense ride that keeps at the edge of your seat for the entire movie.
I am a huge fan of the book. I noticed that the first half of the book was prominently featured in this movie. Are there plans to make a sequel or make this into a series?
Forster: If the film is a success, I think it is definitely an option. I hope it will find a huge audience and I hope people would want to see more.
I heard a good portion of this film was reshot. What was it that wasn’t working that lead to doing reshoots?
Forster: We reshot the ending. We had this final, huge battle in the original. Every big, major blockbuster has a third act where you have this huge set-piece and it has to be bigger than everything else. I felt after we did the scene in Israel, which was a big-set piece, that we couldn’t go any bigger than that. I thought it would have been better to go smaller with a reflective and intimate ending. For the final big battle, we never tested it or did anything because it required massive CG work. We spoke with the studio and they said, “Look, instead of spending the money on all that massive CG work, let’s just spend it on a smaller, much intimate ending. I think if you suddenly go into this environment…you have this massive scale on film and then you go into this haunted house kind of environment, which is Brad on his own confronting a Z, I thought it was much more emotional, reflective, tense and an interesting way to go. This movie is not like any other blockbuster out there. It’s different. That is why I love the material because it’s not a sequel, it’s not a comic. It’s something original and I think it very different from the movies that are getting made these days.
Not only is Brad Pitt the star of this movie, but he is also a producer on this film. What was it like working with Brad as a producer of a massive film like this?
Forster: When he is on set and he is shooting, he is the actor at that moment. Once he wraps at the end of the day, he puts his producer’s hat on. He sees these are two different roles and he doesn’t mix them up. Once he puts the producer’s hat on, that is what he solely focuses on. He takes his responsibilities very seriously. Working with a producer isn’t that much different than working with an actor, but the great thing about it was that in having him as a producer, he wants what always best for the movie. With him, you are not working with a producer who feels like “We shouldn’t do that or this.” He is someone who wants to make sure that all the money that was spent is shown on the screen.
From screenwriter’s perspective, I know there were different versions of the script. Can you talk a little bit about choosing a different character instead of a character that was in the book?
Forster: As you know, the book has 54 different stories told to a U.N. investigator. That U.N. investigator eventually became Gerry Lane in our film. It was a great starting off point, but the book wasn’t your typical narrative book. We were looking for a three-act narrative that we wanted to build with a central character that is there from the beginning to the end. We also wanted to include the essence of the book within that and try to make it part of the film. The film sort of becomes this stand-alone piece that is parallel to the book because the book told its story in such a complex way that we not have captured it the same way on film unless you are making a documentary. Our film is more of a companion piece that is trying to capture the essence of the book.
Was there anything in particular about the making of this film that you found difficult to do?
Forster: It would have to be shooting week-after-week with extras on a epic scale, trying to make mass hysteria with numerous cameras, helicopters and an enormous crew. It’s not just the people in front of the camera, but also the people behind the camera. As a director, you wake up at night and say “I wish I could shoot a scene tomorrow with just two people having a cup of coffee” (laughs). You have those moments because it takes a lot out of you to shoot with that many people for a long period of time.
With “Quantum of Solace” being your first action film, what experiences did you take away from “Quantum” that you were able to utilize in “World War Z”?
Forster: With “Quantum,” we had the challenge of the writer’s strike so we didn’t have a finished script to pull the film through. I just wanted to make sure that on “World War Z” that everything works. That is why we kept on writing the script so we can keep on making better and making it as good as it can be. Ultimately, it’s all about the script.
“World War Z” starts playing in Hialeah theaters tomorrow. Click here for showtimes.