Every filmmaker who has ever made a zombie movie has approached the monsters in different ways. Some prefer the slow, shambling type, while others portray them as Olympic sprinters. Some are completely mindless and driven only by basic impulse, while others actually show so intelligence and problem solving skills. Some go straight for the brain while others are more than happy to just tear up whatever organs are available. No two representations of zombies are ever completely identical, and that holds true in the upcoming World War Z.
Following a 20-minute footage screening last week, director Marc Forster gave his time to sit down with members of the press to talk about his upcoming movie and the undead monsters that live within it. Check out the conversation below in which the filmmaker discusses the zombie rules for World War Z, the drama surrounding the rewritten ending, the metaphor of overpopulation, and keeping tension at a constant high.
What kind of rules are there for the zombies, I mean, generally head shot will kill them, but here the bullets go anywhere…did you guys have any sort of rules?
No, the rules all say head shots kill them, but there’s a line in the movie also, which is not in here, but sort of, “spines are divine, but knees are just fine.” So, just basically, if you hit them in the knees, they start crawling or in the spine and so on, but it’s the same rules. Head shots kill them.
There’s a lot written about changes made to the third act and doing some reshooting of scenes. Sort of talk about what happened and what made it change.
Yeah, I mean, we shot the movie and put it together and we all felt the ending wasn’t what we wanted it to be and could be better. And we showed it to the studio and us as the filmmakers agreed and made a proposal and they agreed and we went back and did some additional shooting and we are really happy now with the result.
Is it a big difference from the original?
I think towards the ending it’s a big difference, a different ending, yes. I prefer it. I think it’s more powerful and really works in the favor of the story.
So many zombie movies and especially stuff like The Walking Dead, we see these hero shots of the zombies, in zombie makeup and sometimes they have personalities that are lent to them, but this it seems like they are more like a force of nature. You don’t give too many identities to these people and the people who are turning into zombies. Do you have those moments or is it more like I said, a force of nature?
No, we do have those moments, but you didn’t see them in this version, but we do have these moments of identity with zombies, one on one as well, later in the film. But, at the same time, the idea was that the zombies came out of nature, sort of this flocking, swarming or sort of George Romero films of the 70’s where the zombies were such a great metaphor for consumerism. For me, the metaphor was more about overpopulation today and less and less resources and this swarming of them is almost like them going after the last resources, especially when the feeding frenzy starts.
So, are they given some sort of superpowers? They seem to jump further, they run faster...
No, no, they don’t have any superpowers.
I meant more so than a regular human, the way they are able to jump and fall.
No, they just, basically don’t know the difference of height and stuff. They just go because they don’t know the building is ending. They just keep moving, wherever they move, they just keep on moving. So, they just don’t know any boundaries.
Ok, so maybe not super, but more enhanced, like speed? I mean, those guys were running pretty fast and bouncing off things...
Yeah, when the feeding frenzy starts they just run, but not faster than any human being.
Can you talk about Brad Pitt’s character and why he has the expertise that they need here?
Yeah, basically Brad Pitt’s character is a U.N. employee and his expertise comes from working in a lot of global places which were in crises, Africa, Bosnia, and so forth and I think you guys saw where the captain sort of gives him his resume and he was able to basically always come out alive out of these places with crises and was able to either identify the problem or the issues at these places and so at this point of the story. It is about him “going on the quest to find patient zero,” or find the root of the problem, and they feel like he is the right person to assist one of those scientists to find the root of it all.
I’m curious what the time frame is in the movie. Is it something that takes place in a few days or over a month or two?
It’s basically a couple of days. It’s pretty compressed.
One of the most common scenes that we see in the zombie genre is when somebody hides their bite and they have that huge moment when you have to decide if you’re going to shoot your loved one. In this film, it looks like it takes about 8 seconds for that conversion to be made. So, I’m curious, what was the motivation behind that?
It’s 12 seconds. We basically discussed, in the film, when you see the entire film, there are some people who turn faster than others, but it’s sort of this idea of how a virus also mutates. We all sort of based in biology, in a sense that some viruses start to mutate very fast and sometimes it takes a bit longer ...like when you saw the countdown in Philadelphia, it takes 12 seconds and then he comes to another place where someone reports that it takes longer. So, he’s trying to figure it out. That’s one of his quests.
How much did Max Brooks have to do with the movie?
Basically, I met Max a couple times when we just spoke about the book and his intentions and I think ultimately, he just gave his blessings. I don’t think he hasn’t seen the finished film yet, because I want to show it all finished. He has seen some of the material, but I am looking forward to showing it to him. I hope I get his blessings.
Did you get UN advisors to work with you on the accuracy of the film?
If we had some U.N. advisors, you said?
Yes, yes, we did have some advisors.