Over the two years that World War Z was in production hell, I learned that there are historically two models to follow when your big-budget movie goes off the rails.
- The Erich von Stroheim/Gloria Swanson epic from 1929. The budget was ballooning and everyone questioned Stroheim's intentions and sanity so the movie was shut down and never released in America. This same thing happened a few years back to David O'Russell on Nailed. They had all but finished (urban legend says there was only one day left) when the money fell out and the movie never got released.
Option 2 - Cleopatra
- The Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton four hour debacle (which, with inflation, would cost over $300m today) was losing money before it even shot. Rather than scrap the entire endeavor, the Studio fired most of its staff and sold the bulk of its backlot to keep the production going in hopes that, in the end, there would be a finished epic that they could somehow cut and sell to recoup some money back.
Lucky for us, they went with Option 2 and Paramount and Brad Pitt's production company just kept spending and shooting and spending some more. The end result is a $200m zombie movie that belongs on the shelf next to 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. World War Z is spectacular. I loved it.