Why Brad Pitt’s ‘World War Z’ Scrapped the Entire Ending and More Dramatic Details

Credit: Paramount Pictures

How hard is it to build an entire global civilization ravaged by zombies and still allow Brad Pitt to stand at the center as the blockbuster-worthy shining beacon of heroism at the end? Pretty hard. Go figure.

It’s no surprise that World War Z has had a long road leading up to its June 2013 release. The adaptation itself, from a novel that reads more like a scientific report of a worldwide zombie outbreak than the plot of some shiny summer movie, was a huge undertaking at the start. But add to that the other unplanned problems — like a government seizure in Budapest when a shipment of prop guns that were supposed to be disabled were found to be functional — and it’s starting to feel like a miracle that we’ll see this movie in theaters this June at all. 

Now, with new details straight from the mouths of one-time hired re-writer Damon Lindelof, director Marc Forster, and Paramount execs Marc Evans and Adam Goodman in June’s issue of Vanity Fair, it’s clear we didn’t even know the half of it. Lindelof, who was originally brought in to help repair the first cut’s climactic issues, says he saw two very difficult ways of fixing the film that Pitt told him “‘didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.'”

Epic Roadblock #1: The Movie’s Ending Was Awful

Lindelof told the magazine that the ending of the movie was “incoherent,” something Evans knew the moment he saw the first cut. “It was, like, Wow. The ending of our movie doesn’t work. I believed in that moment we needed to reshoot the movie,” he says. And with that realization came a world of pain, including numerous rewrites, with the final one going through Lindelof’s Lost writing partner Drew Goddard after Lindelof became too busy. 

Even More Epic Roadblock #2: The Extensive Re-Shoot

But before any decisions were made as to how to fix the terrible ending, Lindelof gave the producers two options: the easy road, and the long, expensive, complicated road. Take a wild guess as to which one they chose.

“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 after Brad leaves Israel,” says Lindelof. The second option meant throwing out the ending of the film and reshooting about 40 minutes of the movie, and despite the improbability of that option, it’s the one the film’s producers went with.

“Are You Serious Right Now?” Roadblock #3: The Mysteriously-Inflating Budget

It seems even more impossible that the zombie epic went into such extensive reshoots considering just how far over budget it was already. According to Evans, there was an “unthinkable” budget snafu after the crew shot in Malta, and the penalty was millions of unbudgetted dollars swirling down the drain. They found missing cast and crew purchase orders stuffed in a drawer and just like that, the budget swelled. “It was literally insane. Adam [Goodman, president of the Paramount Film Group] and I believed we’d gotten out of Malta good, and I found out we weren’t. That is a nightmare,” says Evans.

It wasn’t long before the zombie epic, which started out with a budget of a whopping $125 million, shot up to a bloated $200 million. 

So please, go see this film, if not for the serious take on a zombie epidemic or for Brad Pitt’s Robert Langdon-esque ‘do, for the sheer fact that despite every possible roadblock, it’s hitting theaters this summer. It’s a miracle there’s even a version that’s being release for our viewing pleasure, aren’t you the least bit curious what all the fuss (and muss and – okay, I’ll say it – clusterf**k) was about?

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

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