World War Z too expensive? Why?
It would seem that the film production of World War Z is struggling to get made, and the latest news may not be good with the indication that Paramount may be looking for another financing partner on it to try and beef out the very expensive price tag of reportedly over US $125 million.
Now that's raising flags with me for the book is a series of interviews with survivors about a worldwide zombie outbreak and resulting battle against the growing tide of infection and attack, and you have to wonder why that's suddenly become so expensive, and I think I know why, the change in direction.
J. Michael Straczynski originally adapted the story from World War Z, as he's proved in his career he has a talent for bringing very complex stories that are rich in human drama and politics to life and building characters you can really believe in through a rich tapestry of plot threads. Sounded perfect for the role, and the talk of the film was that it was really following the book closely.
Then we get the news that the equally good writer Matthew Michael Carnahan has been brought on to rewrite. Carnahan has brought us films such as The Kingdom (Filmstalker review) and Lions for Lambs (Filmstalker review), again cleverly written, addressing strong and challenging subjects, and bringing out the human drama in the story, but Carnahan is much stronger on the action element, the on screen action.
As I said in the original article, this doesn't mean that it's being dumbed down any, I just think that they are going to be delivering a lot more action with the story, and that means that we'll be seeing action set pieces from around the world as each different person is interviewed, everything from a small scale event that we might see in The Walking Dead for example, all the way through to a full scale battle against a horde of zombies.
Max Brooks, the author himself, hinted at the problem already, and this was before the script was delivered, he said:
"They say it's a positive move because they're very excited, but the truth is, it's also positive because they just paid him a buttload of money, and [with] the money they paid him, the money they paid Straczynski and they money they've paid me, they've really dug themselves a deep hole, so they better make this thing!"
When JMS talked about his version of the story in December of last year he was definitely leaning away from the action element:
"The fictional concept of the book is that its written by someone with the UN, so let's tell that story...Let's show the book being written. We follow this guy all over the world as he goes on these interviews, and he has his own personal story as well. You're cutting between the past and the present, how he got to this point...
...It has that international feel to it, and because it goes backward and forward in time, we can cherry-pick our favorite moments in the book...Some of it is crazy in scale. It's huge. It's as political as the book was. And it ends with that book being completed."
Then he talked about the scale, which while the above suggests it's a much more reflective and considered story told through people's interviews as the book was, he is suggesting that maybe they would tackle the huge action elements too.
"We talk about it as a thriller, the closest comparison being The Bourne Identity...Most zombie movies to this point have been small, focusing on a few people in a house. And this has got real scare. You're in India with hundreds of boats trying to get out of there with a tidal wave of zombies. The scale of what we're doing here is phenomenal."
It could have gone either way. So you could think that the film was delayed and Carnahan taken on to tone down the action elements and save some money, or he was brought in to ramp them up, hence the cost. Right now, we don't know.
However the latest story from New York Magazine through Latino Review that tells us that the cost is just getting too much for Paramount and they're off looking for another investor to help, and they have Paramount Film Group President Adam Goodman quoted as saying that...
"We're really committed to making a big, kick-ass giant movie with Marc Forster and Brad Pitt..."
But nothing about the budget, whether there's a film without a co-financier, or any more on the project. We just have to hope that they do keep the project on track, and either manage to bring back the budget or deliver it with all guns blazing and the film rakes it in at the box office, otherwise there's another reason for the studios turning back to the sequels, prequels and remakes.