Paramount‘s zombie tentpole World War Z will open the Moscow International Film Festival held June 20-29, the fest’s Leonid Vereshchagin announced today at Cannes. The Marc Forster pic opens stateside June 21. Also announced today for the fest were retrospectives of Olympic Games-themed documentaries, films by Bernardo Bertolucci and Costa Gavras, and a Dutch cinema program. The Moscow Business Square sidebar will host 20 Russian and international projects, while the Generation Campus program will offer young filmmakers training in writing, directing, cinematography, and editing. Ten in-competition titles announced today include: Matterhorn (dir. Diederik Ebbinge, Netherlands), Drogowka (dir. Wojciech Smarzowski, Poland), Rol/The Role (dir. Konstantin Lopushansky, Russia), Spaghetti Story (dir. Ciro de Caro, Italy), Sayonara Keikoku/The Ravine Of Goodbye (dir. Tatsushi Ômori, Japan), Los Chicos Del Puerto (dir. Alberto Morais, Spain), Rosie (dir. Marsel Gisler, Switzerland), Zerre/Particle (dir., Erdem Tepegöz, Turkey), Disorder (dir. Archil Kavtaradze, Georgia), and Skolzheniye/Slide (dir. Anton Rozenberg, Russia).
UPDATE: Summer 2013 has many budget busting blockbusters. But also problems that have plagued some during pre-production, filming, and post-production. Not since John Carter and Battleship has a big-budget movie received more advance negative press for its production woes than World War Z, the Marc Forster-directed adaptation of the Max Brooks zombie-apocalypse novel that stars and is produced by Brad Pitt. I was shown the movie, but not in its 3D format, weeks before its June 21 release. And each time the response from industry insiders was a version of, “Well, just how bad is it?” Paramount with these select screenings has just begun the daunting campaign of rehabilitating the film’s battered image. According to Vice Chairman Rob Moore, the studio spent $15M-$20M and 25 shooting days to make WWZ significantly better. Yet the reward has been worse advance buzz than if Paramount had kept its wallet shut and quietly released the inferior original. I don’t know if I would have penned this post had I hated the movie, but I consider myself a connoisseur of zombie fare, and this stacks up very favorably. I’m no reviewer, but I can honestly say that WWZ is better than good; try a rocking, smart, pulse-pounding big-scale pandemic with raging zombies, palpable tension, and the kind of hero star turn Pitt hasn’t performed in a long time.
You know things are bad when your star mouths off about a troubled film before it even opens. His complaints well into production were made to fill-in fixer Damon Lindelof who blurted them out in turn. Scripting issues crippled the globetrotting zombie pic from the get-go. J. Michael Straczynski’s first script was scrapped. Matthew Carnahan’s subsequent version deviated from the source novel by Max Brooks. Fans were alarmed at the prospective story changes. Then filming got underway for director Marc Forster before an ending was set – and Pitt wound up hating what was shot, preferring the project’s early geopolitical bent to the action thriller slant. The film’s initial ending was abrupt and incoherent, Lindelof told Vanity Fair, and an initial studio screening supposedly left suits in shock. “It was like, ‘Wow, the ending of our movie doesn’t work,” publicly admitted Paramount President of Production Marc Evans. “I believed in that moment we needed to reshoot the movie.” So how many hot screenwriters did it take to finish a zombie movie? Paramount turned to Lindelof to fix the pic, but the job was so big he brought in Drew Goddard. Christopher McQuarrie was tapped for even more re-writes. Reshoots skyrocketed the budget to a reported $200M, though Paramount insists they contained it. Already filmed scenes set in Russia and Budapest as well as a battle scene were chopped as crew shot 40 additional minutes for a new conclusion with reshoots that went on for a reported 7 weeks. Meanwhile a budgeting nightmare unfolded when crew wrapping the Malta set discovered millions in unpaid purchase orders forgotten in a drawer. Given the behind-the-scenes mayhem, negative early fan reactions to World War Z‘s fast-moving CG zombie swarms were the least of Paramount’s worries.
That solidly detailed Vanity Fair article created major blowback this month. It grew worse after a widely circulated flop prognostication by Wall Street analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen and Company (even though he hadn’t seen the film). “In the Vanity Fair article, we were forthcoming about the production and creative problems and how we solved them and ended up with a movie that plays great and is likely to be a global hit,” Moore told me. “The thing that really led to more negative stories was the insanity of this Cowen and Company analyst report, written by a guy who hadn’t seen the movie, the footage we showed at ShoWest, or gotten any pre-summer tracking. He just comes off the mountain top to make a prediction based on nothing, and because he’s got the letters CFA after his name, people think he must know what he is talking about, which is preposterous.”
Moore told me that chasing a fix on WWZ was the ballsiest bet like this made since he has been at Paramount. “It was no question one of the toughest decisions we’ve made as a group, but knowing what we know now, it was absolutely the right decision,” he said. He figures the release delay and extra work that went into G.I. Joe led to $100 million in extra ticket sales worldwide, and he believes WWZ will deliver an even bigger payoff. It would just be nice to see a little more understanding among the media and Wall Street analysts, to recognize that just because a film has problems during the process of production, that doesn’t mean it’s doomed.
“When you draw attention to yourself by acknowledging you have a problem you’re trying to fix, it becomes sport to the media to pick on you,” he said. “It becomes hard to say, ‘We don’t care about the short-term publicity hit, what we care about is making the best movie.’ The political pressure against you becomes great and can make it seem like it’s better to leave it alone. Here, that pressure was even bigger because it is Brad Pitt, and because of the size of the solution. But I’m telling you right here, it was definitely the right call. We now have the best version of this movie, and people will see that soon.”
Philippe Dauman Doesn’t Rule Out A ‘Book Of Mormon’ Movie, But Discourages Talk Of Studio Consolidation
The Viacom CEO told an investor conference this morning that his company has “a small investment” in the Broadway musical hit from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. And although he didn’t directly address a question about whether Paramount might turn The Book Of Mormon into a film, he seemed to indicate that it’s a possibility: “We love working with the two of them,” he said, adding that “we always look for opportunities to work with them.” He made the comments at the Gabelli Best Ideas Conference where, in reviewing Viacom’s operations, he touted recent changes at Paramount. With a strategy designed to minimize risk, he says, “you’ll never see us with a John Carter” — a reference to Disney’s big-budget disappointment this year. He supported the effort to slash Paramount’s production slate from as many as 30 releases a year to about 15 “concentrating on franchise films and our brands…We have been reducing the overhead at Paramount year after year.” He added that “the film business is one where you have to control the cost.”
After closing down the New York Film Festival on Sunday night with the Robert Zemeckis-directed Flight, Paramount chief Brad Grey and production topper Adam Goodman hung around Gotham for an extra day to show a promo reel from its slate through 2014.
Flanking Grey in the Paramount screening room at 15125 Broadway were Flight helmer Robert Zemeckis and David Chase, the Sopranos creator whose feature film debut Not Fade Away (see the trailer here) was part of a reel that included another Transformers and the Star Trek sequel (they showed JJ Abrams’ appearance on Conan O’Brien, where the ultra-secretive JJ was eager to show three frames of Star Trek Into Darkness, a humorous aside because you couldn’t see a thing). There was Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise who, despite being nearly a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than the hulking hero of Lee Child’s book, capably kicks ass in the launch of yet another franchise, with another Mission: Impossible clearly in the offing. There was the G.I. Joe sequel, pushed to next year and now in 3D and built around Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. And the relaunch of the Jack Ryan franchise with Star Trek‘s Chris Pine, who just signed with CAA and seems an agency’s ultimate catch since he will soon be on firm footing headlining two big franchises.
EXCLUSIVE: While reports had Damon Lindelof coming in to write a new ending to the Marc Forster-directed Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z, it actually was his Lost compadre Drew Goddard who did the bulk of the writing of the finale. Lindelof, who reworked Prometheus and co-wrote the Star Trek sequel, cracked a potential new ending of the film, but Lindelof didn’t have time to do the scripting so that task fell to Goddard, who most recently adapted Robopocalypse, which is Steven Spielberg’s next film at DreamWorks.
Both of those guys are off to other projects, so it’s quite possible that Paramount will tap another writer to punch up this ending — if the studio decides to use it. I’m hearing Christopher McQuarrie, whom the studio is high on after he adapted and directed Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, based on the Lee Child novels. That isn’t set in stone because McQuarrie is Cruise’s go-to guy and he will be doing some script work on All You Need Is Kill, the Doug Liman-directed action film that Cruise will next star in after he completes Oblivion. So it is questionable whether he will be available or whether Paramount will need him. No date has been set for the reshoots that will be needed to implement the new ending, but insiders say Forster will be shooting those scenes.
HOLLYWOOD, CA (May 2, 2012) – Paramount Pictures, a division of Viacom, Inc., announced today it has signed a first-look deal with veteran producer Ian Bryce. Additionally, Bryce has announced the hiring of Rebecca Rajkowski, who joins the new shingle as Director of Development.
An Academy Award®-nominee for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and winner of two Golden Globes® (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, ALMOST FAMOUS), Bryce has worked on over 30 movies throughout his nearly 3-decade long career. Currently in production on Michael Bay’s PAIN AND GAIN, he most recently served as a producer on the Brad Pitt starrer WORLD WAR Z for director Marc Forster. Paramount will release WORLD WAR Z on June 21st, 2013. Bryce has also served as a producer on the hit trio of TRANSFORMERS movies for Bay and Paramount, and will again serve as a producer for Bay on the fourth installment of the TRANSFORMERS series, to be released by Paramount in June of 2014.
EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Fox and Ed Harris are in talks to join Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos and James Badge Dale in the Marc Forster-directed World War Z for Paramount and Skydance Productions. Forster has also set Julia Levy-Boeken, the French actress who stars in the Israeli series alufa Ha. The film is an adaptation of the Max Brooks novel that looks back on a global zombie infestation 10 years after the fact. Fox, who just wrapped a West End stage turn in the Neil LaBute play In a Forest Dark and Deep, is separately slated to play a vicious serial killer opposite Tyler Perry in the Rob Cohen-directed I, Alex Cross for Summit Entertainment, with production starting in August. Harris just starred in the Asger Leth-directed Man on a Ledge for Summit. Fox is repped by WME and Management 360, Harris by CAA and Levy-Boeken by Weiner Management.