After languishing in development hell for more than three years now, World War Z is looking like it might not happen at all. Vulture says Paramount is ready to pull the plug on the adaptation of Max Brooks’ (director Mel Brooks’ son) zombie-war oral history, even with Brad Pitt attached to star and director Marc Forster agreeing to make it PG-13. Meanwhile, Kate Hudson’s Something Borrowed chugs along right on schedule, because God is dead.
The film currently has a price tag of more than $125 million, and the studio is fervently searching for a partner to share the risk.
Insiders say an eleventh-hour effort is being made to court frequent Paramount co-financier David Ellison (Mission: Impossible IV, Top Gun II) as well as another, unspecified investor. Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman insists to Vulture, “We’re really committed to making a big, kick-ass giant movie with Marc Forster and Brad Pitt.” Pressed on whether the studio would move forward without a financial partner, Goodman declined to elaborate, saying it was too early to tell. Absent such a financial partner, it’s highly unlikely that Paramount would go forward; in today’s economic climate, few studios are shouldering such budgets alone.
$125 million is certainly a huge budget, but keep in mind, Universal’s Battleship was rumored to cost $200 million, and that’s a movie about battleships fighting aliens based on a boardgame and starring Rihanna (not to mention Robert Zemeckis’ latest mo-cap abortion, Mars Needs Moms, which cost Disney $175). Now, I like zombie movies about as much as I like little kids with lisps and white guys with dreads, but I know quite a few people who’ve read this book and they all have raging dork boners for it (name of my indie band, etc.). Moreover, it’s a book. There’s already a story. Remember when people used to make movies based on those? Stories? The people who option movie properties like to throw around the terms “name recognition” and “built-in audience”, but usually that name recognition manifests itself in reactions like, “FAMILY F*CKING CIRCUS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!”
Here you have a name that’s legitimately recognized as a story (rather than, say, as a sock brand), a built-in audience that’s actually excited to see it adapted (hello, Twilight), multiple “proven” premises (zombies, post-apocalypse, explosions) — which studio execs love even though they’re meaningless, and arguably the biggest movie star in the world attached to star (Pitt’s last three movies: Inglourious Basterds: $313.6 mil worldwide; Benjamin Button: $334 mil worldwide; Burn After Reading: $164 million worldwide, for a quirky Coen Brothers movie Joe Methlab hated), and an Oscar-nominated director. If they can’t get this movie made, there’s no hope for anything that doesn’t involve Kevin James saving the rec center.