The “Lucy with the football” game continues when it comes to David Fincher finally directing a big blockbuster tentpole. The Social Network filmmaker has flirted with big properties in years past ranging from Mission: Impossible 3 to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, none of which ever came to fruition. It appeared he’d finally be making the leap with World War Z 2, a zombie sequel that would reunite Fincher with longtime friend and collaborator Brad Pitt, but Paramount has now pulled the plug on the project just as it was gearing up to start filming this summer.
Per The Playlist, Paramount made the decision last night not to move forward with World War Z 2 despite the fact that the production had already been making plans to shoot in five different countries, including a six-month shoot in Atlanta. Budget is apparently to blame, but while The Playlist says Fincher’s figure was below the first movie’s $190 million budget, sources close to the production tell Collider that Fincher’s budget was actually over that number. The same sources tell us that Fincher’s refusal to budge led to Paramount halting pre-production, and Fincher is now off the project. It’s conceivable that World War Z 2 could still happen with a different director at a lower budget as we’re told Pitt and Co. were happy with the script, but Paramount became uneasy with Fincher’s figure given that this is not only an R-rated sequel to a movie that came out six years ago, but a China release for the film is out of the question given the country’s ban on zombie-related content.
The studio just suffered a somewhat rocky 2018 that included box office misfires like Annihilation and Bumblebee alongside admittedly impressive hits like Mission: Impossible – Fallout and A Quiet Place, so it’s understandable they’d be uneasy with a budget north of $200 million. However, Fincher’s reputation for sticking to his guns when it comes to budget is well-known, so I’m unsure what the studio was expecting here.
Fincher was first courted to direct back in 2016, but publicly stated he wouldn’t be moving forward until the script—written by Dennis Kelly (Utopia)—was in the right place. It appeared as though the stars were aligning to finally shoot this summer, as Fincher is currently in post-production on Mindhunter Season 2 and Pitt’s schedule is clear of Ad Astra and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But unfortunately, as World War Z 2 neared the greenlight stage, Fincher and the studio couldn’t agree on the budget.
This is a bummer. Fincher is one of the best and most ambitious directors working today, and the prospect of him making a full-on zombie movie was mighty enticing. It also brings to mind 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was gearing up at Disney until Fincher and the studio came to creative disagreements over casting, budget, and the direction of the script. He wanted Channing Tatum to star, before the actor broke out big with Magic Mike.
It’s unclear what Fincher will do now. He’s a meticulous filmmaker, and the fact that he and Pitt may now both be free this summer opens up a lot of doors. As for World War Z 2, we’re told it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Paramount to reconceive the project at a lower budget with a different filmmaker, but that obviously depends on whether Pitt wants to remain involved now that Fincher is gone. Keep in mind Fincher was actually the second director onboard World War Z 2, taking over for J.A. Bayona who went on to direct Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. That said, Pitt stuck with Moneyball after friend and collaborator Steven Soderbergh was fired, and that turned out quite nicely with a new direction and Bennett Miller at the helm.
Whatever the case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.
Additional reporting on this story by Jeff Sneider