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Brad Pitt talks about mammoth production World War Z

Actor says he wanted to bring zombie films into mainstream

Image Credit: AP
This publicity image released by Paramount Pictures shows Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, Abigail Hargrove as Rachel Lane, and Mireille Enos as Karin Lanein a scene from “World War Z.”

Seven years into their partnership, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are still very much in love. Last month’s announcement by Jolie that she had decided to undergo a preventative double mastectomy shocked and saddened people all over the world who had grown to admire her humanitarian work as well as her films.

Throughout it all, Brad Pitt has stood firm and remained by her side, and they stepped out in front of the crowds while Brad was premiering his new film World War Z in London recently.

“It doesn’t have to be a scary thing. In fact, it can be empowering,” declares Pitt with respect to Jolie’s surgery. “It’s been an emotional and beautifully inspiring few months. It’s such a wonderful relief to come through this and not have a spectre hanging over our heads. My most proudest thing is our family.”

Produced by Pitt and financed by Hollywood’s Paramount studio for a reported $210 million (Dh771.1 million), World War Z is a thrilling, breathless kind of summer blockbuster that may well turn out to be a surprise success.

Despite the emotional toll that Jolie’s hospital stay and rehabilitation must have taken on him, Pitt has been touring the world in support of a project that he has personally shepherded over the past four years. It’s been a “massive undertaking” for the 49-year-old movie star and one which will help define his legacy.

The film is an apocalyptic thriller about a worldwide pandemic that is turning millions into raving, raging zombies bent on devouring the rest of humanity. Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former UN investigator who takes on the mission of trying to identify the cause of the pandemic while at the same time doing whatever it takes to save his family from the zombie peril. 

Q: Brad, did you realise what you were getting into when you first began making this film?

PITT: We all knew it was going to be a very big and complicated project. That was the challenge for me. I wanted to make a film that was terrifying and thrilling and takes you on this global ride. I also liked the idea of making a big fun summer film like this that my boys could see before they turned 18. This is going to be the most intense film that you’re going to see this year. 

Q: Your character is out to save his family and save the world...

PITT: My character has to rely on his experience and common sense as to how to deal with everything. That appealled to me in the sense of an ordinary man thrown up into an apocalyptic global pandemic where everything we consider normal in life is rendered useless. He has to try to survive and find a way to keep his family safe by using all his intelligence, innate survival skills. He doesn’t have any super powers, he’s not a martial arts or special forces kind of guy, but he is a devoted father who will do whatever it takes to protect his family. 

Q: Why make a big zombie film?

PITT: I wanted to take a B-movie genre and turn it into a much more massive kind of experience and expand it into an original summer film that is fun and scary as hell. We don’t know how it starts and why it gets out of control. So you’re kept in thrall to this unknown element as to why your world suddenly makes no sense anymore and all societal structures are destroyed. You’re just running for your life and it forces my character to face up to what it means to be a father trying to keep his family safe. 

Q: There were reports of disagreements between you and the film’s director Marc Forster and the need for $50 million worth of reshoots...

PITT: This is a big monster of a film and there were certain things which needed to be done better and we decided that we had to reshoot some elements. But that is not unusual on films of this scale. 

Q: Is there an underlying message to the film? 

PITT: Help each other! It’s saying that you have to do what it takes to protect your family and do anything you can to help others survive. It’s saying that you have to be prepared to fight and take up the challenge that has presented itself at such a fundamental level of survival.

Q: How do you compare your character’s struggles to your own evolution as a father?

PITT: You learn to value the basic beauty of family, of watching your children grow and evolve. It’s the most beautiful thing you can experience. Being a father has changed me on so many levels and made me more generous and alive. I see my children as a basic part of my life and it means so much to me to educate them and help them make their way into the world. I love being a father and all the responsibilities that entails. I feel like the richest man alive since I’ve become a father. 

Q: How do you protect your kids from reading about you?

PITT: Well, they can’t Google mom or dad. It’s blocked. (laughs) and all the dirty stuff. We found it to be very peaceful to be blissfully naïve of any of that cacophony, so they do not go near it. 

Q: Do you have a very specific philosophy about fatherhood and parenting?

PITT: My attitude is pretty much shaped by the way my own parents raised me and my brother and sister. I feel that I was able to grow up with a good perspective and a good common-sense understanding of the world. 

I look at a family from a kid’s point of view. It should be a safe place where you can grow up and experience life and make mistakes and learn from them in a secure environment. 

Q: So you see your role as preparing them to go out into the world?

PITT: That’s a big part of it...That’s why I see fatherhood as a massive responsibility and privilege to be able to help get your kids ready for the outside world and try to see that they are as happy and secure as possible so that they can deal with all the problems life is going to throw at them. 

I want to be able to impart those same values to my children. They may have a lot of privileges, but I hope they will have a lot of respect for other people and the fact that life can be very difficult at times simply in the strictest physical and economic sense.