‘World War Z’ Director Marc Forster Explains Why We’ll Never See the Original Ending

By  · Published on September 17th, 2013

Globally, World War Z made over $535M dollars this summer. For a movie that cost in the neighborhood of $200M, that’s not a bad haul, especially when you take into account the bad buzz leading up to the film’s release. General moviegoers probably couldn’t have cared less about the third act of a film being reshot, but for most movie nerds, it’s a knee-jerk warning sign.

A movie that requires reshoots always draws negative attention despite presenting an opportunity to get some pickup shots, a scene to add some clarity, or in the case of World War Z, a whole new act. Even in the age of special features, we’ll probably never get to see the original ending that the reshoots made irrelevant.

At the end of the day, the bad-buzz-creating gamble paid off with this well-liked zombie hit. Speaking with the film’s director Marc Forster it was obvious how happy he was to see World War Z not get chewed up at the box office like some foresaw.

Did it feel good proving people wrong?

[Laughs] Thanks. You know, it just amazes me people keep writing about movies in that way when they haven’t seen them or go by hearsay. If you’ve noticed today, big Hollywood blockbusters reshoot or change endings all the time. That happens from The Dark Knight to any other movie as well.

These big movies are very complicated and anything can happen. I’m just surprised people were talking about the movie in that way when they hadn’t seen the movie.

Was it a similar process compared to Quantum of Solace?

They were different challenges. On Quantum of Solace we had a writer’s strike, so the script was always never completed. It was a hard challenge. Plus, there was a release date they wouldn’t move, so we didn’t have time to do anything. On this one I was glad there was breathing room to shape it to a form I was really, really pleased with. I couldn’t be happier.

How do you deal with the financial risk of a movie this big on top of the creative and technical concerns?

You know, it is a huge responsibility. You do think about it, because there’s no way around it. If this kind of a movie with this kind of budget flopped, then it’d have a big effect on your career. You might not work for a couple of years. You feel that pressure. At the same time, you can’t be safe because you want to make something original. You want to make something exciting and new, and that’s a tricky thing. I’m just thankful people went to see the movie and it worked out.

Keeping in mind that a movie like this could hurt your career, how picky are you when it comes to taking on a summer blockbuster?

In that style and budget range I’ve only made two movies, with Quantum of Solace and this one. All the other movies were much smaller movies or independent films, which is a whole different ballgame. In regard to Quantum, that’s a part of history. With World War Z, I felt I could do something new with the genre. I love that genre, but I felt I could create my own zombies and look.

Quantum of Solace had some big set pieces, but it doesn’t quite measure up to this scope. What was your greatest takeaway from the film in that regard?

It’s interesting. When you start shooting with thousands of extras for two or three weeks, you wake up in the middle of night drenched in sweat, thinking, “Can’t I just shoot a scene with two people having a cup of coffee?” Ultimately we were shooting with multiple cameras, helicopters, and constantly creating panic in front of the camera, while trying to remain in control of it behind the camera. That’s a big challenge with these massive scenes where you’re controlling city blocks and huge sets, but need to remain on schedule.

How about the set piece in Israel? How long did that take to shoot?

We shot for three weeks in Malta and, I would say, a week in that square and another two weeks spread out with the airport scene and the escapes. The climbing over the wall and the invading below was digital, but some of it is real; it depends from shot to shot. You have pre-viz, of course, but you have it in your head, so sometimes you just have shots with two people in it. You have to make sure the shot composition is exactly what you want, even though nobody is in the frame [Laughs].

[Laughs] In terms of capturing that level of panic, is that sense of geography found in the editing room or do you need to find coherency on set?

No, you really create and establish that in pre-viz. I show it to everyone, so that everybody is exactly clear what I’m going to go for, what I’m going to do, and what the exact camera angles are. It’s pretty much done prior to shooting. Once you know the locations, you’ll know how many extras you’ll need and how you’re going to shoot the scene.

As for the ending, did you consider including the original third act on the Blu-Ray?

We shot that original ending with the final battle, but we never finished the visual effects. A lot of money would’ve been spent. I felt after Israel there’d be this battle fatigue, so I wanted it to end more one on one and quiet at the end. Everybody seemed to agree on that, so we never finished that final piece of the movie.

World War Z is now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.