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World War Z 2 - everything we know about the sequel

In Hollywood, the state of a big-budget movie can change at the drop of a hat. Take 2013's World War Z, for instance. After a cavalcade of behind-the-scenes drama — which included creative differences, mass script rewrites, a complete reshoot of the movie's third act, and a bloated budget of $200 million dollars — it's a wonder that the project even made it to theaters. But once it did, the movie proved its worth by raking in roughly $540 million dollars worldwide.

In fact, World War Z ended up giving Brad Pitt his biggest movie to date. And given his choice to develop Max Brooks' bestselling novel, which tells the tale of a worldwide zombie outbreak through the oral history format, that big-screen success felt like a signal that new life was about to be pumped into the zombie genre.

Yet one obstacle after another has left the highly anticipated follow-up plagued with multiple delays. The World War Z sequel has changed directors, screenwriters, has been assigned multiple release dates, and was even pulled entirely from Paramount's release calendar. Through all the hubbub, rumors have regularly revolved around the project, speculating on the development hell the movie might've found itself in. What exactly is the status of Brad Pitt's zombie sequel? Here's everything we know about World War Z 2

Brad Pitt's back as Gerry Lane

According to Variety, Brad Pitt is returning for World War Z 2. Given the first film's grosses, that may not necessarily seem like a surprise, but aside from Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen, Pitt hasn't made a habit of appearing in sequels. He's a global superstar, but he typically picks projects with a character-driven focus and a compelling story. Of course, he also played a weatherman in multiple episodes of Comedy Central's The Jim Jeffries Show, so you never know what he might want to do. Who are we to judge?

One look at the actor's IMDb page and it's clear he's had a pretty packed schedule since 2013, the year World War Z hit theaters. He's stayed in demand and that's a good thing, but regardless of whatever other projects he has on his plate, he's remained the star and producer of this big-budget sequel. And it's a good thing he has his hands so tightly on the reins, too: without Pitt leading the way as former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane, World War Z 2 would probably fall apart completely.

Mireille Enos is also set to return

Another cast member returning for World War Z 2 is Mireille Enos, who played Gerry Lane's (Pitt) wife Karin in the original film. In a 2016 interview with Digital Spy, Enos confirmed her return, saying "There's been some shifting [with directors] and so the schedule's a bit up in the air, but it's definitely happening, and I get to be in it."

Shifting directors and unclear schedules can cause problems when mapping out a production plan, and when you look at Enos' recent work, it's clear she's been quite busy in front of the camera herself. Hot on the heels of the cancellation of the ABC series The Catch, which she starred in as private investigator Alice Vaughan, Enos has appeared in Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams on Amazon, will play one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Amazon/BBC Two adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett novel Good Omens, and has been tapped to reunite with her The Killing co-star Joel Kinnaman (Altered CarbonRobocop) in Amazon's small-screen adaptation of the 2011 action thriller Hanna. Needless to say, Enos has a lot on her plate. But by the sound of things, she's committed to join Brad Pitt in front of the camera for World War Z 2 once the production is up and running.

Dennis Kelly joined the fold

In 2014, just one year after World War Z hit theaters, The Wrap reported Steven Knight (Locke, Peaky Blinders) was brought on board to pen the sequel. In a 2015 interview with Collider, Knight delivered an update, saying he'd just submitted a draft to Paramount. At the time, the studio had no clear direction for the global zombie story. "I was approached with the idea of 'How do we move this along?'" Knight explained.

While Max Brooks has a writing credit on the film, which is probably a formality since he created the characters, it's fairly obvious that tackling the ongoing story is a complicated task. Not long after Knight's chat with Collider, Variety reported that Dennis Kelly, the creator of the U.K. conspiracy thriller series Utopia — which David Fincher attempted to develop for American TV at HBO — was hired to deliver a rewrite.

It may seem that the highly anticipated sequel may be hitting the same type of speed bumps the original film hit during its production phase, but it's worth noting that everyone involved seems focused on the legitimacy of the story, and not just the profits the film will hopefully make once finished.

From zombies to dinosaurs

Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) was all set to direct the World War Z sequel, but that all changed in January of 2016. According to Deadline, the director left the project over time constraints, calling the gig to helm the zombie actioner "one of the biggest Open Directing Assignments in town." 

In 2015, THR reported on Paramount's growing struggle to keep Bayona on board for the World War Z sequel. At the time, Universal was courting the director to helm the sequel to Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow's hugely successful continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise. It seems that Bayona's holding deal with Paramount expired just a year later, as the studio flailed to lock down a release date, ultimately releasing the director from his contract and saying, "Bayona is no longer able to make World War Z 2 this year, and it is our ambition to do so. He is a wonderful director and we hope to work with him soon." 

In 2017, The Wrap reported Bayona had officially signed on to direct the sequel to Jurassic World, with an eye toward a June 22, 2018 release date.

Scheduling conflicts abound

Even before J.A. Bayona left World War Z 2, the production schedule was hard to lock down. Paramount Pictures was restructuring its leadership while multiple rewrites on the sequel script were delivered to the studio. And then, in January of 2017, The Hollywood Reporter reported Paramount's move to pull the project from its release calendar. This came after multiple efforts to push back the film's tentative release date from 2016 — as reported by The Independent — to a 2017 summer release, according to Deadline.

As the sequel was put in limbo, Brad Pitt moved on to work on Ad Astra opposite Tommy Lee Jones. According to Variety, the science fiction film finds Pitt "playing a man who journeys across the solar system in search of his missing father, a dangerous renegade scientist." Delays seem to be the name of the game for World War Z's sequel — production was once again rescheduled to late 2018 so Pitt could reunite with Quentin Tarantino on the director's Charles Manson-inspired Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. "It's unclear if the studio even had a choice in the matter," wrote Bloody-Disgusting, "being that Pitt is the main producer and star of World War Z." That said, if all goes according to plan, audiences probably won't see another World War Z movie until 2020 — and that's just an estimate.

David Fincher joins the zombie fight

In 2016, Paramount Studios brought on former Fox CEO Jim Gianopulos to set the company on firmer footing. It was an uncertain time for World War Z 2, to be sure. With the loss of J.A Bayona as the film's director, Paramount pulled the project off its calendar, leading to all sorts of speculation regarding whether this movie would ever see the light of day. And then, as SyfyWire reported, David Fincher jumped into the zombie fray.

According to Variety, Pitt had been doing his best to persuade Fincher to take over directing duties for some time. With Gianopulos in the proverbial captain's chair, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. Pitt and Fincher had developed a professional relationship over the years — working together on Fight Club, Se7en, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — and Gianopulos signed off on Fincher's last movie, Gone Girl, during his tenure at Fox. While there has yet to be an official greenlight for the big-budget sequel, things are looking up for World War Z 2.

A fruitful partnership

It's a huge deal to have David Fincher sign on to helm World War Z 2, especially after the drama between Brad Pitt and Marc Forster, the director of the 2013 film. According to Vanity Fair's expose on the troubled production, the clash between Pitt's franchise vision and Forster's blockbuster plans is summed up quite nicely by screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Sense8): "Marc wanted to make a big, huge action movie that wasn't terribly smart and had big, huge action pieces in it. If all you wanted to do was an empty-headed Rambo-versus-the-zombies action film, why option this really elegant, smart book?"

Needless to say, Pitt needed a proven partner in crime for the sequel, and Fincher presented the most obvious choice. Just off a four-episode directing stint on the wildly popular serial killer series he executive produced, Netflix's Mindhunter, a big-budget genre sequel may be a good change of pace. Fincher hasn't directed a sequel since 1992's Alien 3, and while his addition to the project brings high expectations, his attention to story and character would prove a welcome departure. "I don't care if the whole scene is five pages of two people in a car sipping coffee from paper cups," the director told Collider in 2017, "as long as there's a fascinating power dynamic and I learn something about them."

It won't be a cash grab

There was a plethora of obstacles surrounding the original production of World War Z, leading to multiple rewrites and a constant clash between Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster. It's safe to say that Max Brooks' novel would've been a challenge for anyone adapt to the big screen, but one look at Forster's IMDb page and it's clear action genre films aren't in his wheelhouse. With David Fincher on board, it looks like a different strategy is being used to put the movie together. 

When Fincher appeared on the Empire podcast to promote Mindhunter, he supplied a brief update on the sequel's status. Explaining their process in dissecting Brooks' story — which spans multiple countries over a ten-year time span — Fincher said, "We're hoping to get a piece of material that's a reason to make a movie, not an excuse to make a movie." This may seem like a no-brainer, but in this day and age where big-budget blockbusters focus more on jaw-dropping action sequences than character development or story, it's an important detail. "A lot of stones have been laid," the director further explained to Little White Lies. "We're just deconstructing it right now against the mythology that exists to see where we can go."

Rumors pit zombie against zombie

Not long after David Fincher was announced as World War Z 2's new director, story details hit the internet. Take this leaked synopsis with a grain of salt; it's been a while since Splash Report posted their exclusive report, and rumors like these are a dime a dozen. That said, there are some interesting plot nuggets here. The leaked story treatment alleges that the new movie picks up right where the first one ended. Political tensions across the globe are on the rise, while most human survivors against the global zombie outbreak end up relying on "a camouflage vaccine" that makes them invisible to the undead for a 36-hour period.

The synopsis goes on to claim a virologist located in Geneva by the name of Dr. Morel creates something called E29, which Splash Report describes as "an airborne virus that will make zombies attack each other." Of course, Morel disappears before sending the final piece of information for labs across the world to replicate the virus, prompting Pitt's character to hop a plane and travel the world in search of the missing doctor.