Juan Antonio Bayona to direct Brad Pitt’s ‘World War Z’ sequel

‘The Impossible’ director signs up for zombie franchise

Juan Antonio Bayona on the set of The Impossible.
Juan Antonio Bayona on the set of The Impossible.

He turned down directing one of the entries in The Twilight Saga because it would have clashed with the release of The Impossible. But this time Brad Pitt made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Juan Antonio Bayona will direct the sequel to zombie thriller World War Z, which Pitt will once again star in and produce through his Plan B company.

The Barcelona-born filmmaker signed the deal with Paramount and Skydance Productions after meeting with Pitt, The Hollywood Reporter revealed Wednesday. It is still not known who will pen the script, but Bayona will supervise its development, the trade paper reported.

The odd thing about the sequel, though, is that it is happening at all. The shoot of the original film, which charts the efforts of an ex-United Nations employee to halt a zombie plague, was a creative disaster as a result of the disagreements between Pitt and director Marc Forster and its weak script, which radically departed from the Max Brooks novel on which it was based.

After shooting finished in Europe and the footage was edited, rumors circulated that there was barely enough for a long short film, leading Pitt and Paramount to hire Damon Lindelof, co-creator of TV’s Lost, to write new second and third acts at a cost of 15 million euros. Before that Pitt had had to save an extra from being crushed in a zombie stampede in Glasgow, and in Hungary police had decommissioned 85 weapons used in the film as their authenticity had made them nervous.

But after costing over 180 million euros, and with Pitt throwing himself into the promotional campaign, the movie turned out to be a success, grossing 500 million euros. The movie’s original ending involved a pitched battle between humans and zombies, setting things up nicely for a sequel. But that was never shot and the film finished with Pitt reunited with his family. Now Bayona will have to rack his brains to direct what has become a saga.

The Orphanage director is in Dublin shooting the first two episodes of Showtime series Penny Dreadful, which is created by John Logan and produced by Sam Mendes and brings together a diverse mix of classic horror characters (Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, Count Dracula) in a Victorian London setting. If the World War Z sequel ends up being shot in Europe to save costs, Bayona may be able to reunite with the crew from his first two features, which includes his former classmates from the Catalonia Film School.

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