While there have been reports that Paramount might kill World War Z because of a $125 million budget and no partners, I’m hearing that hot and heavy talks are going on with David Ellison’s Skydance and as many as two other financiers to share the load on a movie that is gearing up for production as soon as June. The plan remains for Brad Pitt to star and for Marc Forster to direct the adaptation Max Brooks’ novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. The book looked at the aftermath of a global zombie war 10 years after the conflict, with a researcher for the UN Postwar Commission interviewing survivors in countries that were decimated by flesh eaters. It was thorough, and a thoroughly creepy read. Matt Carnahan wrote the script.
The temptation is to joke about the irony of a zombie project coming back to life after it was pronounced near dead. As a devotee of great zombie movies from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, Zack Snyder’s spirited Dawn of the Dead remake and genre spoofs Zombieland and Shaun Of The Dead, I am excited enough by WWZ that I hope it stays on its fast track. Because if it waits around much longer, Hollywood might by that time have killed off the genre with an over-saturation of flesh-eating corpse movies that could be as fatal to the film zombie as a shotgun blast to the head.
A look at the roster of zombie projects that are either going into production or percolating in development is more than daunting. I’ve always found zombies a far more interesting movie species than vampires or werewolves, but the genre benefited when Hollywood paced itself. After all, there was only so much plot innovation possible with slow moving hordes of hungry corpses. who were not handsome and sporting six-packs like the Twilight Saga kids, with little romantic sparks possible when the key characters were in the process of decomposing when they came back to life. Still, a quick scan of recent zombie deals shows that there are probably more than 20 films with a realistic chance of getting made over the next few years, with story lines that twist the genre in directions that are new for zombies.
The films range from Summit’s move to set Nicholas Hoult as a hunky zombie heartthrob in Warm Bodies to Lionsgate’s period adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith Jane Austen novel send-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, to Universal’s Robert Schwentke-directed R.I.P.D. (Ryan Reynolds and possibly Zach Galifianakis in an action comedy about a force of undead police officers). There are new installments of 28 Days Later, Zombieland and Resident Evil in the works. Jonah Hill is attached to direct The Kitchen Sink, where a zombie, vampire and human teen teams to fight invading aliens (sure it sounds like a bar joke, but Oren Uziel’s script made The Black List). There is Paul is Undead (a satire that re-imagines Beatles lore with the Fab Four as zombies); Sony Pictures’ just made a deal to turn the comic Zombies Vs Robots into a film with Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes cohorts; and WWZ studio Paramount is playing the genre for laughs with Boy Scouts Vs. Zombies, where scouts battle the flesh eaters. TV is also getting into act, after AMC’s awesomely good first season of The Walking Dead. The CW, thriving with the bloodsucker drama Vampire Diaries, has a zombie series called Awakening, and there will surely be others. I’m sure other zombie fanatics will agree this is only scratching the surface of the total volume of projects in the works.
Despite my concern about zombie film overpopulation, is there any zombie fanatic not excited over a movie version of World War Z, if the financing lines up to share costs with Paramount, and Pitt and Forster follow through and team in the film?