A sigh of relief was likely heard around the world from executives at Paramount Pictures last summer when World War Z became an international blockbuster. It appeared a rough go for a time, with savage reports in the press of a project that seemed doomed for box office glory. Yet it did, and World War Z 2 appears a go for the Brad Pitt-headlined franchise. Now comes word from sources at Variety that Academy Award nominated scribe Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises) is being brought aboard to pen the screenplay for the sequel.
The first feature, loosely based on Max Brooks’ acclaimed novel regarding a global zombie pandemic, was caught in a maelstrom of bad press leading up to its premiere in late June of 2013. The backstage drama that surrounded the film is thematically not uncommon when it comes to making big budget summer films, but the press coverage of extensive re-writes, costly re-shoots and acrimony regarding final cut of World War Z typically smells doom for a potential franchise. Instead – and that’s where the sigh comes in – the thriller became the highest grossing film of Pitt’s career (earning upwards of $500 million worldwide) and enough good graces for a return for more zombie chaos. Yet the hardships of the first film resulted in collateral damage for the second feature.
The first wave occurred when Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) was hired to direct the sequel, replacing Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace) who soldiered through a heavily re-written third act for the first feature from a screenplay first written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs) and J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling, Thor.) The film was ultimately grandly re-fashioned by Lost veterans Drew Goddard and Damen Lindelof. Re-writes are commonplace enough, but World War Z was severely re-tooled, perhaps due mostly in part to the master class task of adapting the dense, diary-like prose of Brooks’ original novel into a digestible summertime vehicle for Brad Pitt. It will be interesting to see what direction the sequel goes, as it’s expected to further expand the universe outlined in Brooks’ novel.
This is Knight’s first big studio job, yet he’s proved an industrious writer and sometimes director in recent years. The scribe had his first success as the creator of the original British version of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and has since written the screenplays to the David Croenberg mafia drama Eastern Promises (which earned leading actor Viggo Mortenssen an Oscar nomination), the William Wilberforce biopic Amazing Grace, and the drama Dirty Pretty Things (which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.) His last film was Locke, an alert thriller starring Tom Hardy that takes place entirely on a nerve-wrecking car ride. He also directed Locke, which is currently in theaters. He also penned the screenplay to The Hundred-Foot Journey, a drama directed by Lasse Hallstrom and starring Helen Mirren that will be heading to theaters later this year.
There’s no word yet on when filming is expected to begin or who (aside from Pitt) will co-star in World War Z 2, but we stay tuned as more developments come in.