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Discuss: As 'World War Z' Gets Seven Weeks Of Reshoots, Why Are So Many Tentpoles Being Delayed & Reworked?

by Oliver Lyttelton
June 1, 2012 10:01 AM
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World War Z

Reshoots: they're the new principal photography, it would seem. Every so often, a story will crop up that some major movie has reassembled its cast and crew for what's usually referred to as "additional photography." And it's easy for that to be blown up into some kind of scaremongering story, when in actual fact, it's hard to find a film that doesn't go back for more after the main bulk of its shoot has wrapped. More often than not it's for "pick-ups" -- filling in some gaps, fixing some scenes that may have had some technical issues. Sometimes it's to add a new ending, or new scenes elsewhere in the picture, which may have occured to the filmmakers once in post-production. Virtually every major movie budgets and schedules for a week or two of additional photography, and almost every successful movie of the last few years -- "Avatar," "The Avengers," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" -- had some kind of reshoots.

But that's not to say that they're always a good sign. According to The Hollywood Reporter, one of the reasons that the budget on "John Carter" went so high is that director Andrew Stanton, used to reworking films while at Pixar, "embarked on extensive and costly reshoots" (something fervently denied by the helmer, who called it "a complete and utter lie," saying that Disney had let him go for longer reshoots because his principal photography had come in on time and on budget). Regardless of who you believe, the reports helped start the media feeding frenzy on "John Carter," now one of the biggest money-losers of the year.

Other films had it even worse -- both "The Invasion" and "Jonah Hex" famously replaced their directors for extensive reshoots, with Oliver Hirschbiegel swapped out for James McTeigue on the former, and Jimmy Hayward for Francis Lawrence on the latter. In neither case did it help to make the film better, or more coherent, and both flopped at the box office. Now, in 2012, we are seeing some high profile movies being pushed back significantly in order to accomodate vast, expensive, expansive reshoots, and some of these may point to signs of trouble.

47 Ronin

First, there was "47 Ronin." The Japanese-set epic, starring Keanu Reeves, and budgeted at $175 million or so, started filming early last summer, and was set for a key tentpole release date in late November. But shortly before Christmas, we started to hear rumors around the London filmmaking community that the film was planning 6-8 weeks of reshoots at Shepperton Studios, and that it was possible that debut director Carl Erik Rinsch (a commercials helmer who at one point was set to direct the film that became "Prometheus," before his father-in-law Ridley Scott stepped in instead) wouldn't be involved, with Universal bringing another helmer in to direct them.

We couldn't confirm anything at the time, but reports soon emerged that backed it up: The Hollywood Reporter said that after a "tense, combatative shoot," the film had gone way over budget, and the studio had brought in executives embedded on the shoot to crack down on the director. A new editor was being brought in, and the studio were said to considering whether to let Rinsch shoot desired additional action sequences. And it sounds as if they gave in: back in April, Universal announced that they were pushing the film to February 2013, in order to, as they claimed, perfect the 3D effects. In reality, it's been an open secret that the film's had substantial and costly reshoots, although it's unclear if Rinsch was behind the camera on them.

Then, a few weeks later, Paramount, in almost unprecedent move, delayed "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" nine months, to March 2013, only five weeks before release. Initially, the company said that it was because they'd decided to convert the film to 3D in order to boost international box office. In reality, it seems, executives looked at the film and worried that they wouldn't be able to compete in a crowded marketplace, with "The Amazing Spider-Man" landing a week later, and wanted to add more of Channing Tatum, who was originally to be killed off. Since his star went supernova this year, Tatum now much more value to the company (we've heard that a certain freshly-minted star felt he'd been badly treated by the company, and wanted nothing to do with any reshoots, but a deal may have since been made).

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  • Xian | June 2, 2012 4:52 PMReply

    World War Z... don't have to much hope for this one though I once did. Seems they're deviating far enough from the book (stupid ADD-addled, running zombies aside) to make this seem much less interesting conceptually than Max Brooks's source work (which, to me, always owed much to Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka's "Warday" in its structure and tropes). I think this one's gonna be a dog, especially with a ludicrous PG-13 rating (oh, how far from George A. Romero's great early work has the mighty zombie fallen). It's foolish to make this kind of material kid-friendly.

  • kull | June 1, 2012 8:00 PMReply

    Pixar structures 4 reshoots into the budget, because movies are put together, scenes are scrapped and new scenes are added in. At Pixar, this is a way of perfecting the movie they have. In Hollywood, because it is more public, every news outlet has to report on any reworking and it becomes a bigger story than it needs to be. Wouldn't it be better to judge the movie on it's own? About ten years ago there was a huge reshoot on a certain move that wasnt really reported. The first cut wasnt great at all but the reshoots really helped the movie and it became a big hit and a bigger franchise. Can't the media find something else to report on, like the new french wave, like they used to? At least we learned something back then...

  • Josh | June 1, 2012 5:39 PMReply

    And then you have reshoots like the final final scene of Avengers which wasn't even shot until after the movie premiered.

  • the ayatollah of film | June 1, 2012 2:19 PMReply

    The Daily Mail who have had more campaigns to ban films than actually been constructive towards them, there up there with The Sun, similar group news papers they make a molehill out of nothing sensationalize it, very unreliable source. Ok its not unusual for films to have re-shoots doesn't mean its bad film, sometimes it is a bad film sometimes we should look at the film director John Chu - GI Joe Retaliation, same guy who did a 3d justin bieber film, Marc Forster who hasn't did any breathtaking films, nearly destroyed James Bond (though money was a bigger problem) just a few people mediocre director not delivering. Film studios think we all want 3d, some people think in europe and UK we love 3D its actually the opposite. Sales maybe good but thats the fact due to cinema chains who will only show a film in 3D even if 2D is available or when they do show 2D, the 2d version maybe shown 2 times a day compared 8 or times a day for 3d. film studios want our money and want PG, 12A (PG-13) films even if the source of the film could be a 15 or 18 rating , it's all $$$$

  • Daniel | June 1, 2012 11:18 AMReply

    (I know this will probably get removed, but I'm a longtime pre-indiewire playlister, I swear! So even if you do take it down, please check out the link anyway, I really think you'd dig it!)

    I'm a huge HUGE fan of WWZ, and for any other 'listers who are, or who are filmmakers themselves, I wanted to post the zombie short I made --

    And now for an actual comment: Delayed and reworked doesn't mean bad; there are plenty of great pictures that changed hugely during the course of production . WWZ is a trick and a half, though, and I bet getting the balance right on such a wide ranging story is probably very tough. The book itself is more a collection of short stories than a regular novel, so they've likely had to make big changes already -- which always threatens to upset fans. But from what I've seen, it looks pretty amazing.

  • Thuan Dang | June 1, 2012 11:11 AMReply

    Studios want pg13 tentpoles but they don't have enough quality pg13 tentpole directors to make them. So they cram other type of directors into pg13 and they don't work out. Carl Erik Rinsch isn't a pg13 director. His whole thing is cerebral and very "smartsy". Give him 175 million bucks to make 47 Ronin, dude ain't gonna use it to make MI:4, he's gonna make Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut and probably did.

    Andrew Stanton is a pg13 quad tentpole director, problem with John Carter was that he wasn't trying to make a 4 quadrant tentpole for the present day audience. Give him 200 million plus, he's gonna go out and make John Carter as Star Wars but in todays film landscape? That's utterly failure-bound. Modern filmmaking has moved way past Star Wars, he wanted to go back to the classical way with JC. Wrong move.

    Jon Chu is pg13 but isn't a 4 quad tentpole director because did those who went to see the StepUp movies go see it for the story? If Spielberg is the apex and Shawn Levy is basically the median, Chu doesn't even hit the median as a 4 quad tentpole director. Chu's a Bollywood/musical director. He won't dazzle you with story and action but he'll dazzle the hell out of you with dance and singing.

    Marc Forster ain't a 4 quad tentpole director. He's a character driven/adult material filmmaker.

    Hollywood don't have many directors who have a strong passion to make 4quad tentpoles and the intimate storytelling ability for it. Yeah people like Joseph Kosinski can learn special effects but that technical stuff you can learn from others. Visual storytelling, for this point 4 quadrant pg13, whatever you want to call it, visual storytelling, is something you got to figure out by yourself, can't be taught by others. Screenwriters can write a pg13 tentpole script but how it is seen visually is up in the air unless you got a good pg13 tentpole director who will know what works and what won't in his/her head. Most directors aren't interested in only doing just pg13 tentpoles, but the money man, the money (Burton).

  • Eric | June 4, 2012 3:41 PM

    I think I understand what you are trying to say. Basically they are not enough directors that are capable of providing an entertaining, well made, movie. On that has great action, excellent dialogue, and some comedy. When it is vary rare when you are able to bring all three of these elements together. The Avengers is a prefect example of this, and look at what it is doing at the box office.

    Basically it is like trying to fit square and triangle pegs into circle holes. But these movies also fail because they are just poorly developed concepts. And even a great director could not save them, because lets face it, even Speilberg had mad some pieces of crap recently.

  • Gabe Toro | June 2, 2012 12:17 AM

    Can anyone decipher what this comment means?

    Anyway, great piece, Oli. As usual.

  • T | June 1, 2012 11:10 AMReply

    The daily mail is hardly the most reliable source for these things, is it?
    Has ANYONE else confirmed this?
    Pitt's about to shoot a few weeks of "Twelve years a slave" & than a few weeks of "the counselor", almost back-to-back. All while Jolie is shooting Malifecent.
    Highly unlikely that he'll be doing 7 weeks of reshoots on WWZ..

  • me | June 1, 2012 11:03 PM

    Baz Bamigboye is not a "rock solid a source" far from it lol. I have heard that the re-shoots are beeing done in London at one of the Pinewood Studios group and they started in April.

  • KitCon | June 1, 2012 6:53 PM

    Pitt said his role in The Counselor will only require a few days work and that his role in 12 Years is only a cameo.

  • Pwned | June 1, 2012 11:40 AM


  • Oliver Lyttelton | June 1, 2012 11:38 AM

    THR said that the film is facing "several weeks of extensive and costly reshoots" - . And while The Daily Mail as an institution is terrible, Baz Bamigboye is about as rock solid a source as you could ask for.

  • kitcon | June 1, 2012 10:59 AMReply

    Pitt said during the Killing Them Softly Cannes press that they were attempting something similar with WWZ. Perhaps they're retooling it to make whatever message they're hoping to convey clearer?

  • James | June 1, 2012 11:36 AM

    The story in the Mail is short on facts. First, the movie did not wrap last summer, it wrapped last Fall. Then the writer says it is only Pitt, no other cast members and then states the facts are "sketchy". True or not, don't know, but there should have been a bit more fact checking before this story was written.

  • JD | June 1, 2012 10:51 AMReply

    Why do people keep hiring Marc Forster? He's made one inert dud after another (Stay, Stranger Than Fiction, Quantum of Solace). Even his watchable movies (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner) are unusually dull and conventional. It seems like he gets opportunities simply because he has a history of picking good scripts, in spite of the fact that he's never delivered on the potential of those scripts.

  • bonzob | June 1, 2012 7:56 PM

    Agreed, he's terrible. Kite Runner was an abomination. Monster's Ball is wildly overrated. Stay and Quantum of Solace are correctly rated as crap.

    I will say I have a soft spot for Stranger Than Fiction, though. And Neverland isn't good, but the ridiculous sappy ending does kind of get me.

  • Daniel S. | June 1, 2012 11:59 AM

    AMEN!!! Preaching to the choir JD.

  • KT | June 1, 2012 10:36 AMReply

    "Why Are So Many Tentpoles Being Delayed & Reworked?" Because Hollywood typically doesn't know what the fuck they're doing.

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