Brad Pitt tries to build a better blockbuster
This publicity image released by Paramount Pictures shows Brad Pitt in a scene from "World War Z." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk)
NEW YORK (AP) — Brad Pitt wanted to build a better blockbuster.
During the years Hollywood shifted toward increasingly bigger spectacles and superhero tentpoles, one of the movies' biggest stars largely stayed on the sidelines, focusing instead on ambitious ensembles ("The Tree of Life," ''Inglourious Basterds") and unlikely dramas ("Moneyball").
But the zombie apocalypse "World War Z," which opens Friday, is Pitt's bold, long-gestating, big-budget effort to enter the franchise fray. It's his attempt to engineer not just a disaster thrill ride like 1974's "The Towering Inferno" (a beloved film to Pitt, who saw it repeatedly as a kid growing up in Missouri), but to make a thought-provoking action flick filled with geopolitical questions.
It's been a humbling crusade.
"These films are much more difficult than I realized," Pitt said in a recent interview over coffee at a restaurant off Times Square.
Based on the 2006 sci-fi novel "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" by Max Brooks (son of Mel), the $200 million-plus film has had a rocky path to theaters. It's gone through a swarm of screenwriters, several key crew changes, a postponed release date and, most notably, a reshot ending.
Brad Pitt attends the "World War Z" premiere on Monday, June 17, 2013, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
But most moviegoers that make it to the film — far from the flop many predicted — will likely wonder what all the fuss was about. As Pitt's producing partner Dede Gardner points out, no one ever says: "Honey, let's go to this movie this Friday. I swear it was on-budget and on-schedule."
The reviews have largely been positive for "World War Z," a riveting, brisk thriller with a refreshingly — and, for summer movies, atypically — human protagonist who relies purely on his intellect and experience as he shuttles around the world trying to solve the zombie pandemic that's engulfed most of the planet. Pitt's former United Nations investigator has no superpowers, no gun, and as Pitt says, "can't even run that fast."
It may sound paradoxical, but though "World War Z" is awash with gruesome hordes of snarling zombies, it is — alongside Superman and Godzilla-sized sea monsters — one of the most human-scaled blockbusters of the summer.
While Hollywood awaits the film's box office performance with bated breath, Pitt is confident. He's shaped the film as a producer since his production company, Plan B, acquired the book rights in 2006.