Another day and another surprise appearance by Brad Pitt at another advance screening of his latest big budget film World War Z. But after the first few times this happened the surprises are not so surprising anymore.
I am not being cynical here, I am actually taking a moment to congratulated Mr Pitt on his business acumen and drive. This is a man who’s film leapt into the area of the $200 million mark because of a third act that needed to be re-written and re-filmed. Both at great expense.
The fact that the film was nearing its deadline and still wasn’t finished would have been enough to cause many in the business to panic. Not Pitt. He hunkered down and ground his way through it. All the while dealing with family issues that would have sent most of us rushing to see our therapists.
But now the film is finished, it is getting advanced screenings; premiering all over the world and Pitt is at each and every event. Someone likened him to the new “man of steel” aka Superman, because he does seem to be everywhere at once.
It makes sense for the 49 year-old actor to “bust his hump” to promote this film. The initial hype of an ‘A’ lister starring in a big budget zombie apocalypse film was huge news. The kind of excitement that hadn’t been seen since the late actor Gregory Peck signed up for The Omen way back in the 1970’s.
For those of you who did not grow up watching Gregory Peck, I think he was the actor who first practised the art of gravitas as associated with Morgan Freeman. You did not get much higher on the ‘A’ list than Mr Peck. When the world found out that Scout’s dad from To Kill a Mockingbird was starring in a horror film about the devil’s child, people were flat out stunned.
That Peck started a trend cannot be denied. And ever since he worked in The Omen, other ‘A’ listers have been queuing up to star in horror films. It is not surprise that Brad Pitt wanted to make World War Z, it would, in fact be more surprising it he hadn’t. He is a man who like to set trends himself.
Pitt is so high up on the scale of ‘A’ listers that only Morgan Freeman (who has gravitas, remember) and his old buddy, George Clooney, come close. Clooney did Solaris, which is essentially a horror film in space, so Pitt’s pal got there first.
How better to top that trick than to star in your own zombie apocalypse film? Zombies are in at the moment. They have been for awhile now. I’m sure that George A Romero had no idea that when he made Night of the Living dead what he was starting.
But back to World War Z; the trailers all showed a zombie frenzy that could only be CG and, despite that, it did give you a little shiver when you saw them crawling over each other like ants to climb up a wall. Then you saw Brad Pitt.
I don’t know about you, but my imagination stalled out. How could Pitt be here? Had he wondered onto the wrong film set? But as time went by, he hit the promotional train hard. Doing the talkshow circuit, giving interviews in magazines and, apart from publicly supporting his wife Angelina Jolie in her time of crisis, worked hard to promote the film.
His “surprising” advanced screening audiences smacks of the kind of publicity that theatre owners of the 1950’s and 1960’s used to do and, of course, the expert at horror film publicity William Castle. Castle specialised in “stunts” and none were better than his tingling theatre seats for the Film The Tingler. These “stunts” helped to build an audience for his films.
Pitt is no William Castle, but he is using his techniques to a degree to help sell his film. If audiences realise that they have a good chance of seeing the star and having him talk to them at a screening, the hype for the film shoots up substantially.
So Brad Pitt’s World War Z surprises are not surprising at all, they are just good business.
By Michael Smith