The problems involved with getting Max Brooks’ “World War Z” to translate fluidly to the big screen in the Marc Forster-directed and Brad Pitt-starring film of the same name have been documented seemingly since the film was first announced, with a significant emphasis placed on scripting troubles that eventually turned into final product troubles that necessitated massive reshoots. Even in its early stages, the script for World War Z seemed plagued; as far back as April of 2010, a long-promised final script by Matthew Michael Carnahan (as originally written by J. Michael Straczynski) was continually dangled over both fans and the production itself. Even when that incarnation of the script was (finally) finished, World War Z still wasn’t ready for the big screen – though it was eventually filmed as such. After filming was completed last year, the scripting problems of the film made themselves so obvious to the Paramount brass that the studio brought in not one, not two, but three well-known scribes to “crack” the ending of the film – a rescripted final act that led to weeks of reshoots, millions of dollars spent, and the complete scrapping of a reportedly epic battle set in Russia.
A banger of an article written by Laura M. Holson in the June issue of Vanity Fair has so far presented the most wide and researched look at the troubles that ate away at the zombie film, but even that piece wasn’t able to answer the big question – who wrote what? While we know that the clean-up team of Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof wrote “about 60 pages” for the film, with a primary focus on the ending, their exact contributions have remained unknown. Until now!
Over at The Huffington Post, senior entertainment writer Mike Ryan shares details about just what was tweaked by Goddard, Lindelof, and Christopher McQuarrie (who oversaw the reshoots and was available on set for advisement and necessary script edits), thanks to a source close to the production. It should go without saying that there are spoilers ahead.
While the original cut of World War Z included not only a massive battle in Jerusalem (which still serves as the major set piece of the film’s second act) and a huge-scale battle in Russia, Lindelof said in the Vanity Fair article that “everything changes after Brad leaves Israel.” Of course, that’s a nebulous statement, especially because Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, leaves Israel on a clearly branded airline from Belarus, a former piece of the Russian Empire that shares a major border with Russia proper. But Ryan’s source elaborates enough to remove any doubt that ol’ Belarus Flight Whatever had anything to do with the Russia battle, as he writes, “our source gets more specific, explaining that the dividing line between the original version and the final cut comes when Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, boards the plane on the Jerusalem tarmac. Everything starting with Lane entering the aircraft, including every incident on the flight, was written by Goddard and Lindelof.”
And while what follows after the flight certainly feels like pure Goddard (and, to a lesser extent, like pure Lindelof), it’s not just the ending of World War Z that benefitted from the pair’s work, because the two also added in scenes in the beginning and middle of the film. The source shares that the very beginning of the film, including two scenes that amusingly delve into the family politics of the Lane household, were also penned by Goddard and Lindelof. They are small scenes, but they do add some crucial relationship-building and emotion to four family members that we are meant to care about while the film goes on. The two didn’t stop there, however, as they also added another set of family-centric scenes to the film, including a post-zombie outbreak asthma attack that fells one of the Lane girls and a tender phone call between Pitt and his on-screen wife, played by Mireille Enos. Sure, the pair wrote a final act that certainly sounds more intelligent and satisfying than yet another massive battle, but it’s interesting that they also felt the need to insert more emotional scenes to build key family relationships.
And what of McQuarrie’s additions? The source gets less specific, Ryan does share that “while Goddard and Lindelof wrote the ending, Chris McQuarrie (who directed Paramount’s Jack Reacher) was brought in to ‘sharpen’ it.”
World War Z opens this Friday. And, yes, even without a massive Russian battle, it’s still got more than enough action (but keep your eyes peeled during the credits for a look at what might have been).