Peter Capaldi plays a doctor with the World Health Organization and is credited as "W.H.O. Doctor." The film makers had inside knowledge that Capaldi would soon be portraying the title role in Doctor Who (2005). The BBC publicly announced the casting two months after the film was released.
Before attempting to enter B-Wing, Lane and Segen are given the option of an ax or a baseball bat and are told "there are merits to each." This is an in-joke reference to a section of Max Brooks' "Zombie Survival Guide" (the book that preceded "World War Z") which discussed the best weapons to use when fighting zombies. The book considers both options superior to the gun, which Segen also takes as a backup.
The Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate does indeed have a devil's advocate office to explore alternative assumptions and worst-case scenarios so intelligence assessments doesn't fall victim to "group think", but it is not called the 10th Man Doctrine.
A total of 85 prop machine guns, rifles and pistols to be used for scenes filmed in Hungary, were confiscated by counter-terrorism customs officers in Budapest, Hungary after being flown in from London. Hungarian authorities said the guns could be activated by removing the screws filling the end of the barrels. Hungarian law requires weapons to be deactivated only if the process is irreversible. The movie's weapons supervisor, 'Bela Gajdos', commented that a permit for the weapons had been issued by Hungarian police. Reports claimed that main actor Brad Pitt was "furious" at the seizure but producers said it had not delayed filming.
Brad Pitt said of his involvement in the film - "This whole thing started because I just wanted to do a film that my boys could see before they turned 18 - one that they would like, anyways. And they love a zombie."
A budget calculation oversight while filming in Malta partially contributed to the film being over budget. The wrap-up team found a stack of purchase orders for extras that was casually tossed aside in a drawer which was unaccounted for.
In a high-six-figure deal, Paramount Pictures acquired screen rights to the Max Brooks novel "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War." Brooks' follow-up to the satirical "The Zombie Survival Guide" sparked a bidding battle, with Warner Brothers & Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way on the other side of the table from Paramount & Brad Pitt's Plan B.
Paramount executive Marc Evans, director Marc Forster and Adam Goodman, the president of production, did not like the original cut (which has the Russian ending that culminated in a big battle between zombies and humans). All three felt that it was incoherent, abrupt, and a typical Hollywood blockbuster ending that only served to surpass the Jerusalem scenes in scale. They brought in Damon Lindelof to view a rough cut of the film, and he suggested to them either to add new scenes to improve the coherence, or do a complete third-act rewrite and risk additional resource plus re-shoots. Lindelof recalled: "So when I gave them those two roads and they sounded more interested in Road B, I was like, 'To be honest with you, good luck selling that to Paramount." Fortunately, the studio agreed not to spend additional money on finishing the special effects of this climax, but instead use it on a simpler, more personal and tension-driven ending.
The nuclear detonation that Brad Pitt observes from the aircraft after departing South Korea is stock footage of Crossroads Baker, an underwater nuclear test conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in July, 1946.
Marc Forster states that he prefers the extended, unrated cut of the film. For him it's not just about the additional blood and gore, it's about the overall intensity compared to the PG-13-rated version. Forster says that although he's proud of the theatrical version, he felt a bit "handcuffed" when he was trying to deliver the toned-down PG-13-rated version.
Filming took place in several areas of the UK including Cornwall, where the UN control room scene was filmed alongside scenes on the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Primary Casualty Receiving Facility (PCRF), RFA Argus (AS on the flight-deck). Filming also took place in Glasgow with the streets made to look like those in Philadelphia, USA with many American cars, trucks, taxis and street signage shipped in from the USA. Filming took place in Malta, at Valletta, and elsewhere.
The original cinematographer was Robert Richardson. He left the film near the end of principal photography to begin working on Django Unchained (2012), so shooting was completed by Newton Thomas Sigel. Reshoots were shot by Ben Seresin. Richardson, who received sole credit in early promotional material, later had his name removed from the film, reportedly because it was converted to 3-D against his wishes, and Seresin was given sole credit instead.
Brad Pitt was most intrigued by the book's geopolitical aspects (what with his then-partner Angelina Jolie being a UN Goodwill Ambassador and all), and his production company Plan B, together with Paramount, spent $1 million on the film rights. However, it soon became clear that much of the geopolitics that Pitt was interested in would have to be dropped if they wanted the story to come together on screen. Furthermore, Pitt's production company, Plan B, had never taken on a project of this size, its experience limited to eclectic, low-budget dramas; their biggest film before this was Eat Pray Love (2010).
When Gerry goes to South Korea, the U.S. soldiers there are wearing 2nd Infantry Division patches on their uniforms. The 2nd Infantry Division is a real U.S. military unit that is based in South Korea in real life, as in the movie.
In the movie, Daniella Kertesz portrays a Lieutenant in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In real life, Kertesz disclosed during an interview with "The Times of Israel" that she never served any compulsory time in the IDF, though she did not provide any details on this.
During the reshoots, Marc Forster and Brad Pitt reportedly weren't on speaking terms. There were rumors that Forster's notes for Pitt had to be relayed through an intermediary. Forster later learned of these stories and has openly denied all of them. He admitted that there was a fair amount of tension over the reshoots and the delayed release of the movie, but ultimately everyone was on the same page with the new direction of the story. Forster suspected that the media spread the rumors in the wake of earlier bad publicity about production troubles, inflated budgets and reshoots.
Several of the scenes shot in Budapest, including a large-scale battle with the zombies in Moscow's Red Square, were dropped from the final cut in order to water down the film's political undertones, and steer it towards a more generally friendly summer blockbuster.
Shooting in Malta for the Jerusalem scenes was a nightmare, with two film crews working side-by-side, hundreds of extras, and all sorts of minor costs escalating the budget. One day, shooting had to be delayed for several hours because the caterer hadn't prepared enough food. When work in Malta finished, the wrap-up crew found a stack of purchase orders related to the cast and extras that had been casually tossed into a desk drawer and forgotten; the amount totalled in the millions of dollars. And all the while, the script still wasn't finished, with work still being done on the third act.
An early script was leaked onto the internet in March 2008, leading to a review by Ain't It Cool News which called it "[not] just a good adaptation of a difficult book [but] a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as 'Best Picture' material". The review also noted the film appears stylistically similar to Children of Men (2006), following Gerry Lane as he travels the post-war world and interviews survivors of the zombie war who are "starting to wonder if survival is a victory of any kind." This early screenplay, however, was a more literal adaptation of the book, and was substantially rewritten twice as a more epic account of the zombie outbreak, with more focus on action scenes. Despite the change, Ain't It Cool News later posted a favorable review of the altered film.
If it seems odd that the Air Belarus pilots know English, you'll be pleased to know that English is the internationally accepted language for pilots. With the exception of smaller air strips where the potential for confusion is minimal.
Marc Forster and J. Michael Straczynski clashed throughout the writing process. Forster wanted to focus on the action, which Straczynski felt detracted from the story's main themes; he was more interested in remaining faithful to the book, focusing on the characters and the global reaction to the Zombie Apocalypse. Straczynski was eventually fired and replaced with Matthew Michael Carnahan, who made the film an action-adventure focused on a UN field specialist named Gerry Lane, dropping the book's first-person accounts. Brad Pitt had already been cast as Gerry before any script was written; in fact, Pitt had read the book and obtained the rights to it, and approached Forster about a possible adaptation.
It was hoped that Marc Foster would be able to focus on story and characters while his crew could guide him on action and effects, but not only was he unable to bring his usual team with him, the lack of a strong leader at the head of the project produced a muddled vision for what the film would be like. As late as three weeks before shooting was to begin in June 2011, Forster hadn't even decided yet on what the zombies would look like or how they would behave.
In March 2013, it was reported that Paramount changed a scene in the film in which the characters speculate that the zombie outbreak originated in mainland China in hopes of landing a distribution deal in the country. However, an executive familiar with upcoming releases in China later told The Wrap in June 2013 that a cut of the film was rejected by Chinese censors. A Paramount executive contended that he was "unaware of any rejection", explaining, "We have submitted one version and have yet to receive a response."
There is a book on the table at the research facility titled "By the sea". Brad Pitt and his then-partner Angelina Jolie later produced and starred in a movie called By the Sea (2015), but it is unrelated to this book.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Originally, the film had a different ending: the plane lands in Moscow rather than crashing in Wales. The passengers are rounded up, and the elderly and sick are executed. Gerry is drafted into the Russian army. An unknown period of time passes, and we see Gerry fighting the zombies. He realizes the zombies are weak in the cold. The film ended with him getting back to the USA and leading a D-Day like invasion against the undead on the Oregon coast. The ending that was used instead made the movie less brutal and ended it with a glimpse of hope.
Matthew Fox had a bigger role in the film. He was a supporting character who in the end would be set up as a (human) villain for World War Z 2. Due to the constant re-writes and editing, his role in the final cut was reduced down to only 5 lines of dialogue.
The rewrite was almost at 60 pages long and cost an additional $20 million more. In addition to the new opening and the rewritten third act, the following snippets were added by Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof, with Christopher McQuarrie doing uncredited dialog sharpening:
At the family breakfast, the TV news report of the zombie sighting.
Rachel's asthma attack
Gerry's phone call to Karen from South Korea to Jerusalem
J. Michael Straczynski's early draft of the script stayed closer to the source material. That version followed Gerry Lane, a UN worker tasked with investigating the failures that led to the outbreak so that they can be avoided in the future. The bulk of the narrative consisted of interviews with prominent figures and flashbacks to their role in the initial outbreak, largely taken from the book. This was framed by Gerry's journey around the globe to meet these individuals, showing the current condition of the human race, and flashbacks to the Lane family's struggle to survive in the wilderness in the early days of the war.
In the beginning of the trailer released in March 2013, while Gerry's family is having breakfast the radio in the background mentions a flight which landed without permission before martial law is declared in Russia. This is likely the infamous Flight 575 alluded to in the book. Before Flight 575, a few people were able to smuggle infected loved ones out of China, where the authorities were rounding up the afflicted to control the disease. Some unspecified zombie disaster befalls Flight 575, leading to greatly increased scrutiny and restrictions. (In J. Michael Straczynski's script, the pilots lose contact with the cabin, but don't know that it's because the plane is overrun with zombies. They make an emergency landing in the US, and an unsuspecting SWAT team is overwhelmed as soon as they open the cabin door.)
The climactic battle scene in Russia, for which there was 12 minutes of footage, had Gerry Lane fighting through zombies more like "a warrior hero" than "the sympathetic family man" of the earlier acts. The second-unit director, Simon Crane, said, "It wasn't character-driven anymore... [The filmmakers] really needed to think about what they wanted to do with the third act." When the studio agreed to re-write and re-shoot the film to conclude with a more personal ending, director Marc Forster admitted he was relieved and happy, because it came much closer to how he and Brad Pitt had originally envisioned the film to be.
Paramount, after seeing how out-of-control production had gotten in Malta, ordered a scaling back of the budget, forcing the production to scrap a number of scenes. Members of the production criticized the third act as "Rambo vs. zombies", losing the character-driven drama of the rest of the film, and production wrapped with the knowledge that rewrites and reshoots were inevitable.