by Ben Marques
The director of “Finding Neverland,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” and “Quantum of Solace” is bringing both the living dead and deeper meaning to a theater near you. Brace yourself. “World War Z” follows United Nations worker Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) who is trying to solve the zombie epidemic plaguing the world.
WSN attended a phone conference with director Marc Forster to discover the innovative way he adapted the source material, “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks, into an epic summer blockbuster. He explained, “[The book] is more of a template as it is not a standard linear narrative… in Max’s book you have short stories told from the past and our film starts in the present.”
Forster took the documentary-like style of the book and shifted it into a more traditional story while retaining the book’s “hyper real” feeling in order to make the characters and the reality of the situation both pressing and present. Now, Lane is the one at the forefront actively searching for answers, rather than just interviewing survivors in the aftermath in the book.
The film’s release was pushed back after the ending was completely rewritten and reshot. Forster’s response to an inquiry into this was simple: “We went to the studio and asked for additional photography to make the film stronger and the studio supported us entirely.” Even with such a large-scale production, Forster was able to retain an admirable level of artistic integrity.
The metaphorical strength of the zombie tale is something that drew Forster to this material, with the ever-present issues of consumerism and overpopulation. Remembering his childhood, Forster recalled, “I was fascinated with biology, with ants, fish and flocks of birds, swarming mentality – the feeling that a [swarm] has a brain of its own.” He was interested in making a fun film that would allow an audience to look deeper if they wish. By providing that second, deeper layer in conjunction with the madness, he said he hoped “everyone will have his or her own interpretation.”
Rather than looking for inspiration in films like “Dawn of the Dead” and “28 Days Later” or television shows like “The Walking Dead,” Forster picked them apart in order to know what to avoid. By acknowledging what was already available to audiences, he was able to bring innovation to his “Z’s.”
“I wanted to create a feeling within the movie that this could happen ‘in reality,’ and thus we worked to make the film as real as possible.”
Though there are massive, sprawling sequences featuring both real actors and CGI zombies, it was important to Forster that everything maintained a degree of plausibility. When the challenges of coordination and technology appeared daunting at times, Forster had to remind himself that he was the one in charge of communicating his vision to his crew and to the rest of world. And thankfully, he said, ” I’ve been lucky enough to say I’ve walked away at the end of the films I made, with the thought of, yes, my vision was there. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Ben Marques is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.