“Movement is life,” Brad Pitt‘s Gerry Lane famously said, advising survivors in Paramount‘s 2013 zombie/outbreak movie “World War Z.” Momentum is everything in Hollywood, and perhaps a lack of it hurt “World War Z”‘s chances for a sequel, because it’s now curtains for the followup film. Sources close to the project for years tell us that Paramount Pictures pulled the plug on director David Fincher‘s film last night.
The film’s budget was definitely an issue but only to a degree. Fincher and his team were proposing something less than the budget of the original ($190 million according to Box Office Mojo, before the costly reshoots). However, Paramount’s known about this figure since at least last year and had hemmed and hawed about the project for months. One might think it not entirely coincidental that Paramount, which makes far fewer films than the average studio, just designated a lot of money for two significant blockbusters: “Mission Impossible 7” & ‘8‘ which will arrive in the summer of 2021 and 2022, according to their official release dates.
Paramount simply dragged their heels, at one point eyeing a 2018 or 2019 summer release, but never feeling bold enough to put it back on the schedule. Pitt, who has worked with Fincher several times, began to court Fincher for the job back in August of 2016 and a few months later the director agreed and started to look for writers to develop a new script. Dennis Kelly, the creator and writer of the original U.K. “Utopia” series—which Fincher almost adapted himself for HBO— was hired to rewrite the script from Steven Knight.
The officially untitled “World War Z 2” was roughly aiming for a summer shoot—Fincher is currently still busy editing “Mindhunter” season two for Netflix—but the writing might have been on the wall given how tentative Paramount was with the project.
“World War Z” took a hit in the summer of 2017 when Paramount Pictures’ Brad Grey suddenly died at the age of 59, and the film lost a critical ally. Grey was Pitt’s former manager, and they co-founded Pitt’s Plan B Production company. Paramount served as Plan B’s home base until just one month before Grey’s death, when the production company signed a new deal with Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures.
This isn’t the first time Fincher’s spent years developing an expensive, big-budgeted tentpole that studios were nervous about and eventually abandoned. This “World War Z 2” story echoes Disney‘s “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” a project Fincher developed for years, with the studio eventually getting cold feet and deep-sixing the project (Fincher had Channing Tatum starring and a script from his “Se7en” writer Andrew Kevin Walker).
Perhaps a lack of movement is slightly disingenuous. “World War Z 2” had been staffing up for a lengthy shoot this year, across five different countries and with a six-month stint in Atlanta, which is why various tracking companies like Production Weekly had been listing it lately (last year, erroneous reports surfaced that the film was shooting in the fall), but the film simply never received its green light, and none of these hires were officially made. Brad Pitt is apparently not a happy camper.
“World War Z 2” was originally scheduled to be directed by “A Monster Calls” director J.A. Bayona, who departed, ironically sighting a rushed timetable for releasing the film as the reason for his departure, and went on to make “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” instead. The “World War Z” sequel was last dated for a June 9, 2017 release date but Paramount removed it from the schedule earlier that same year.
While Fincher developed the film, hired Kelly, etc., and Paramount procrastinated on giving it a thumbs up, the “Fight Club” filmmaker went on to direct two seasons of his aforementioned serial killer Netflix show “Mindhunter,” the second of season of which may debut this summer if it’s ready.
“World War Z” is now six years old and given that Pitt held out for years, waiting for Fincher’s schedule to clear and Paramount to greenlight the movie, it’s not inconceivable that the project is now dead for good, though who knows what Paramount will ultimately do. The studio, which just suffered a round of minor layoffs, is desperate for big franchise films, with a struggling “Transformers” series, ‘Ninja Turtles‘ getting the reboot treatment (again), and only “Mission: Impossible” showing signs of life.
Directed by Marc Forster, 2013’s “World War Z” was a notorious runaway train of a project which soared over budget (reportedly costing skywards of $250 million) and had to halt production to fix the ending. Several writers were enlisted to “fix” the movie including Damon Lindelof who is widely credited with saving the film (much of that drama detailed here).