Can Paramount bring the undead back from the dead?
Though the studio on Monday pulled the zombie tentpole World War Z 2 from its 2017 release schedule, without targeting any future release date, filmmaker David Fincher, who has been rumored to be considering the project, is still "very creatively interested in directing the movie," says a source.
But if Paramount continues to drag its heels on the Brad Pitt starrer, the future viability of the potential franchise's appeal could begin to diminish, some rival executives say. And that would present a problem for a studio that boasts few viable franchises, particularly of the homegrown variety like World War Z. Insiders say Paramount is now eyeing a 2018 or 2019 release date, even though it has yet to make a move to put the film back on the schedule.
The in-demand Fincher — who enjoys a close relationship with Pitt after having made a number of movies together, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Fight Club — was very much on board with a new take on the sequel from writer Dennis Kelly, creator of the buzzy British show Utopia. In fact, Fincher and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn had been collaborating on a U.S. remake of Utopia for HBO before that project fell apart over budget issues.
The budget on World War Z 2 was not an issue, say insiders. Fincher was looking to make the film about a man and his family navigating a zombie apocalypse at a budget less than the original's $190 million. But Paramount chief Brad Grey was not ready to greenlight the follow-up to the 2013 hit, which grossed $540 million worldwide.
Grey's inaction has raised eyebrows in town, considering Fincher's pedigree as a director who could elevate the property well beyond a genre film. The studio even has a financial partner to mitigate the risk, since Skydance Productions is co-producing and co-financing the film.
"He really would like to do it," says a source of Fincher's interest. "It's up to Paramount."
When the studio moved World War Z 2 from its schedule on Monday, the news was met with little surprise given that the pic, which had been slated for June 9, had not begun filming and had no directing deal in place.
J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) had originally been tapped to helm, but he left the project in January 2016. At the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Bayona told The Hollywood Reporter that he'd decided to exit the project because he was not being given enough time to prep. "I loved those guys at Paramount and [Pitt's] Plan B," he said. "I just can't work like that."
If Paramount can get World War Z 2 moving forward, it won't be the first time the property, which is based on Max Brooks' novel of the same name, has overcome obstacles. The original World War Z, which was directed by Marc Forster, was fraught with problems during production, with expensive reshoots taking place after test audiences complained about the third act.
Pitt is producing the follow-up alongside Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Skydance's David Ellison. Ian Bryce, who produced the original, is no longer involved with the new project. Steven Knight (Burnt) penned an earlier draft of the sequel.