Indeed, it was pushed 6 months past its originally scheduled Christmas 2012 date, and the epic struggle to get the movie made saw numerous screenwriters come on board with two prominent names -- "Prometheus" scribe Damon Lindelof and "The Cabin in the Woods" director and co-writer Drew Goddard -- hired midway through to fix the troubled third act. And things got so bad on set, Pitt and director Marc Forster reportedly stopped speaking to each other. Whatever happened, they seemed to survive it, and EW's article is far less salacious then you'd expect. Regardless, it's an intriguing read that's also provided new photos (via USA Today and Dread Central) and a few fascinating details that give some clues about what to expect from the film. Here's five things we learned.
1. The trouble seems to stem from Pitt, Forster and the producers underestimating how complicated these tentpole thrillers are to make, emotionally and tonally.
In several of the interviews, the cast and crew suggest that while drama is its own beast, action tenpoles (even ones with drama) fundamentally work in a different way, with precise beats to that need to arrive like clockwork. "The whole experience has given me respect for this kind of [VFX-heavy] filmmaking," Pitt told the magazine. "These movies are very intricate puzzles and you have to keep winding the mechanisms that trigger them all at just the right time. We give so much more credence to the end-of-the-year dramas. In these movies, we're triggering emotions too -- a thrill response -- but they are far more calibrated. You've got to be a bit of a technician."
2. Did Pitt and Forster stop talking during production? They won't say exactly.
When asked point blank by the magazine if they had stopped communicating on set as was the rumor last year, both men apparently just shrugged a lot and then finally Pitt said, "We're in here every day, pounding away." This suggests some friction, which the men allude to, but they're interviewed together in the piece, and whatever beef they might have had during their complicated shoot seems to have been fixed and resolved. Foster does admit to the difficulties of the enormous-in-scale shoot piling up, adding to the overall tensions. "A movie of that scale, it's not four people sitting around a table having a discussion," he said. "It's not 'My Apocalypse With Andre.' There's choppers and crowds... [you're creating] mass hysteria and panic in the streets....and it's not easy and it can be stressful."
3. Pitt admits he wanted to make more of a geo-political thriller at first, but realized during some of the edits that the approach wasn't working and the movie had to scale back to a pure thriller.
J. Michael Stracynski wrote the first draft of the screenplay, which was described as a tonal cousin to "The Bourne Identity" films with grounded, international action. It leaked a few years ago and some called it a masterpiece, but Pitt and Forster apparently decided to go another way instead. EW says they were more interested in "solving mysteries than in throwing punches."
The article opens up with an anecdote about Pitt being desperate for a chili dog. Apparently he was practically naked on set, he had been fasting for days and hadn't eaten a proper meal in weeks. The idea was to bring some "authentic desperation" to his character. Paramount executives were apparently "shocked" when they saw an "emaciated" Pitt in dailies from the Budapest sequences. Some of these sequences apparently saw Pitt's United Nations crisis specialist among the "ragged captives of Russian slavers." Apparently this is what Pitt was talking about when he meant the sociopolitical lines and how people would react to this crisis. Evidently, the plot originally involved some nations or people keeping human slaves. Perhaps as bait to stave off the zombies? We may never know, as this whole section of the film seems to have been lopped off. Pitt, however, says he has no regrets about any "amputation" of the storyline when dealing with a narrative this big.
How will audiences feel about zombies that are not only fast, but move like schools of fish or birds swooping in on prey? "Some zombie fans you will not be able to make happy. Some zombie fans will embrace it," Forster told USA Today. "There will always be a discussion and a little bit of controversy on every zombie movie. But I hope all the zombie fans will appreciate all the new things they have not seen before."
Extra credit: EW says Lindelof was feeling so overwhelmed and pressured to fix the script in such a short time that he brought on Goddard himself to lessen the workload (evidently the latter giving the third act a more "heroic flourish").