By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 7, 2013 at 2:14PM
Paramount has now taken Brad Pitt on the road to Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago and Austin, in addition to New York's Museum of Modern Art, for early sneak peaks at Marc Forster's long-delayed "World War Z," in order to build some early buzz. Austin's Harry Knowles got to introduce Pitt on June 6 to a room full of screaming, smartphone-filming fans; Pitt said, "Mr. Knowles, let's kick some zombie ass." Watch below.
Knowles also tweeted after the event that "So Brad Pitt has a really manly handshake and rocked the fuck out of Austin."
EARLIER: Paramount has always been innovative about going straight to the fans with its films, from "Paranormal Activity" to Jason Reitman's "Young Adult." (Last year Weinstein Co. borrowed a page from their playbook with a series of 70 mm previews of Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" before it could screen at film festivals.)
Celebrity guests, from Katie Couric and Bruce Willis to Jimmy Fallon and Gayle King, have also been part of the rash of sneak screening. Pony-tailed Pitt also schlepped to Hoboken, New Jersey to introduce the film before surprised moviegoers.
From what I saw of the movie at CinemaCon, Forster's picture looks expensive, which is one reason it's in producer-star Pitt's interest to fan audience interest. (The budget ballooned from $125 million to a reported $170 million.) The self-described "Zombie expert" also turned up in Las Vegas to hype "World War Z," which looks like yet another big-scale well-wrought movie--in the service of terrifying audiences out of their seats. Pitt said he wanted to make a movie that his boys could see. "We faced two Herculean challenges," he said. 'How to keep the global spectacular scale" of the Max Brooks novel, and not have it look like just another zombie movie.
No worries there. The CinemaCon footage shows how swiftly a virus can turn a human into a rabid fast-moving attacking zombie. This is "Walking Dead" on steroids. Our scientist hero (Pitt) manages to save his family, against all odds, and sets out to save the world ("A Better Tomorrow" anyone?). One horrifying sequence in Israel posits a contained community safe behind a giant wall, until a swarm of zombies, ant-like, crawls upon each other to scale it. Another scene on a quiet plane devolves into a zombie attack. Terrifying. Well-executed. But will audiences want to put themselves through this when it finally opens June 21? In immersive 3-D?