'World War Z': Brad Pitt Attends New York Premiere Without Angelina Jolie

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Brad Pitt at the "WWZ" premiere in New York City.

While his Other Half works on behalf of U.N.'s "World Refugee Day," the movie star nearly shuts down Times Square to promote his long-delayed zombie thriller.

"BRAAAAAAD!!!!" bellowed hundreds of whooping, whistling, photo-snapping fans, angling for a handshake -- or a decent Instagram, at least -- of the man of the hour.

When you drop one of the biggest movie stars on the planet right smack in the middle of New York City's Times Square, where Paramount held a splashy red-carpet affair on Monday for the zombie thriller World War Z, fandemonium is bound to ensue. And Brad Pitt, sporting long, surfer-dude hair and an all-black suit, did his best Tom Cruise impression and spent much time greeting star-struck onlookers, signing autographs and grinning as if there was no other place he'd rather be.

This is, after all, the week that WWZ, a film famously fraught by a delay over production issues and other internal headaches, hits theaters (on Friday in the U.S.), and Pitt has a lot on the line: the globe-hopping, action-heavy drama marks his first foray into launching a potential global franchise as both star and producer. 

Pitt called the picture "really, really unique," saying "we grounded an intimate story with the big spectacle of a summer film and I'm surprised how well it works."

PHOTOS: 'World War Z': The Zombie Apocalypse Starts in London

"It works so well now. It just wasn't good enough," he said of rumors WWZ's re-shoots meant it was destined for flopdom. Last spring, Pitt's Plan B production company brought Lost's Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard onboard to tweak the third act -- and write an entirely new ending -- as the pricey production's budget ballooned. 

Explaining the absence of Angelina Jolie, who joined Pitt at the movie's London premiere earlier this month, the 49-year-old star revealed: "She's watching the others right now and she's taking off in a matter of moments for [World] Refugee Day, [which] she's dealing with on the other side of the world." (As for Pitt, he was headed to Moscow on Tuesday for the next destination on his worldwide promotional tour.)

Of his six children with Jolie, Pitt told The Hollywood Reporter that sons Maddox, 11, and Pax, 9, have seen the movie and "they love it." He added: "My oldest boy's in it. He's got a cameo in it. He gets shot in the head. I don't know what that says about me as a parent. ... He gets shot multiple times, to be fair. He gets double-tapped."

As THR previously reported, industry insiders now believe WWZ could open in the ballpark of $40-$50 million, thereby rescuing the Marc Forster-directed movie from commercial failure (and another dose of bad PR).

"I was really upset by it," Plan B's Dede Gardner said Monday of the negative attention, adding: "I think there should be a stigma when someone releases a movie before it's finished. You decide there's a new date that needs to happen in order to get a film finished in the proper way, I think that should frankly be applauded and certainly encouraged, not discouraged, and not criticized."

Also on hand at the Big Apple premiere: Mireille Enos, who plays Pitt's wife in the film, clad in an off-the-shoulder J. Mendel black-and-gold dress; the actor's big-screen daughters, Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins; screenplay-saver Lindelof and director Forster. 

"I'm relieved that the movie's coming out and I really hope that a ton of people will enjoy it and will go and see it," Forster told THR. "The ending, it's much more reflective and quieter, and the original was ... this massive battle and it just felt a little tired and repetitive. ... A lot of other blockbusters try to make the last 15-20 minutes bigger and louder, whatever they can do, and I thought, 'Let's go opposite.'"

When asked if he'd consider helming a sequel, Forster said: "Let's cross fingers, see what happens. ... I'm open to it."

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com