If Paramount was counting on World War Z 2 being a smoother ride than its production-troubled predecessor, things aren’t getting off to a great start. Just as the studio was readying the sequel to start production this summer, director Juan Antonio Bayona—who’s been attached to the project for over a year—has exited the film. Per Deadline, the issue, ironically enough, was timing. Although Bayona signed on to take the helm in December 2013, it was with the understanding that he was getting ready to embark on his follow-up film to The Impossible, the somber adaptation A Monster Calls which is on tap for release later this year. That movie is currently in post-production, and apparently Bayona felt he needed more prep time for World War Z 2 and was not prepared to start filming this summer, while Paramount is eager to make the movie’s June 9, 2017 release date. The impasse, then, led to a cordial parting of the ways.
The sequel had a slow start given Pitt’s busy schedule, so late last year Universal made a play to nab Bayona as the director of its Jurassic World sequel. That spurred Paramount to get things moving on World War Z 2, hiring Utopia creator Dennis Kelly to rewrite the screenplay which had originated with Steven Knight (Locke, Eastern Promises). Now, with Bayona off the zombie sequel and with Universal’s dino-sequel not slated for release until 2018, it’s entirely possible Bayona takes that project after all.
As for World War Z 2, no doubt plenty of filmmakers will now compete for this open assignment. Brad Pitt is producing and starring in the follow-up, and it was his determination to get the first film right that resulted in a pretty solid movie despite scrapping the entire, large-scale third act and reshooting it entirely. They enlisted Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard to craft a new ending for the movie, one which proved mighty effective by going smaller in scale, not larger.
I’ll be curious to see which filmmaker eventually lands this gig. Bayona was a strong choice in the first place, so it’s clear they’re aiming high in the quality department. Who would you like to see get a crack at the zombie genre with Brad Pitt in front of the camera, folks? Sound off in the comments below.