Marc Forster Explains World War Z's Ending Switch

Exclusive: 'Audiences would have had battle fatigue'

Marc Forster and Brad Pitt, World War Z

One of the more compelling movie stories of the year, in a gossip-mag, he-said/she-said kind of way, was World War Z and specifically, the zombie blockbuster's mysterious change of ending. Amid all the Vanity Fair exposés and scuttlebutt about fraying relationships and on-set clashes, it was obvious that the final movie had a wildly different climax from the one planned. Matthew Fox, subsequently all but culled from the film, testified to that on the Empire podcast.

Acknowledging the toxic word of mouth that surrounded the film, director Marc Forster declared himself "very, very happy" with the end results. Empire caught up with him at Poland's Camerimge Festival Of Cinematography and pressed him on that 11th hour switcheroo. "Basically, originally there was a third act that I thought didn't work," he explained. "As we were shooting we were discussing it and rewriting and rewriting it."

The third act was due to take Brad Pitt and a small army of zombie killers to Moscow for a final pitched battle. But a change of heart moved the action 1000 or so miles due west for a more intimate Wales-set ending.

"The reason I felt it wouldn't work is that by that time you have a certain battle fatigue after Israel. After Israel and the plane crash, trying to trump that and make it even bigger wasn't working in our favour. The problem with a lot of these big movies is you start production and the script isn't finished; we had the same problem with Quantum [Of Solace]. The third act wasn't fully fleshed out, but we had to rush in to meet the release date."

The budget rejig involved offset the cost of shooting the sequences - some of them appeared in the film's final, pre-credits montage - against the CG savings of the smaller, indoor sequences, amortised against Peter Capaldi's biscuit rider. "I was very happy that we didn't finish the third act with visual effects and everything", said Forster, "because that would've been a huge number, and we used that money to shoot a much simpler ending."

Head over to the full transcript for more from Forster on World War Z, as well as some juicy tales from the frontlines of The Kite Runner and Quantum, and his memories of Finding Neverland and how he didn't want to cast Halle Berry in Monsters Ball.