Aug 20, 2011

World War Z: Eyewitness Report

Our new horror correspondent (horrorspondent?) Steve Chandler has had an interesting week. Just outside his workplace in Glasgow the new zombie movie World War Z has been shooting key scenes. Here are some of Steve's impressions of what he's seen, and some EXCLUSIVE behind the scenes images (which you'll find at the end of this article).

Hollywood came to Glasgow this week with the arrival of Brad Pitt, Marc Forster and the entire World War Z crew to shoot the $80m adaptation of Max Brooks’ acclaimed zombie novel. Matters kicked off on Monday as Glasgow’s George Square and some of the surrounding streets were transformed into the streets of Philadelphia. It seems that Philadelphia proved to be a prohibitively expensive city to shoot in. So when money talks with the powers that be in the US fell apart a decision was made to approach Glasgow City Council to seek permission to shoot the movie around the streets that some area of Philadelphia was apparently modelled on. George Square became a hive of activity as up went US style traffic lights and the streets were populated by dozens of US vehicles (cars, ambulances, military vehicles, huge garbage trucks etc.) With filming due to start the next day I started to get very excited indeed, but I could not have envisaged how close I was going to get to the action.

Hilarity ensued on the Tuesday when, late in the day, a Brad Pitt lookalike was spotted just outside my office window and mistaken for the real thing, cue much wetting of knickers amongst my female colleagues. I was briefly convinced that I was in fact looking at the a-list Hollywood star but after heading outside for a closer look I soon realised that, hair aside, fakeBrad looked nothing like the real deal.

A similar scene ensued on Wednesday morning with my colleagues debating whether or not fakeBrad was really realBrad. This debate was suddenly abandoned when we realised that the real deal had been standing less than ten feet away with his back to us. He turned around and prompted much screaming and squeaking from the females in the room and more knicker wetting, the latter in earnest this time. The effect that realBrad has on women is markedly more intense than that of fakeBrad (who shall henceforth not be mentioned allowing me to drop the “real” from realBrad before it gets annoying).

Soon the filming began and it suddenly became practically impossible to concentrate on work. They spent much of Wednesday shooting scenes involving a lot of extras running along the street in a state of panic in the face of what is presumably some kind of zombie related threat. Brad spent most of the day in the car with his wife and kids (not Angelina and their semi-adopted brood but his movie family). Inhabiting the role of Brad’s character’s wife is Mireille Enos who has had a significant role in US series Big Love and more recently the lead female role in AMC’s adaptation of the hit Danish crime drama The Killing.

Things got a lot more exciting on the Thursday with them repeatedly shooting a scene where Brad gets out of his car after a motorcycle cop knocks off his side mirror. He strolls in a very Brad Pittlike manner a little way down the street, picks up the broken side mirror, has a brief conversation with another driver then gets back in his vehicle before being yelled at to “Remain in your vehicle!!!” by the very same cop who damaged his car. They must have shot this scene about dozen or more times in stops and starts but being that I live in Glasgow and have never been anywhere near a big Hollywood set as they shoot a movie the entire event was very absorbing. They also kept firing a double barrel shotgun loaded with blanks about two maybe three feet away from my office window and every time I came damn close to either making a mess in my pants or dropping dead of a heart attack.

Next day there was no sign of Brad or Marc Forster as the second unit film crew set about preparing a major shot involving an enormous garbage vehicle, which had a massive metal plough attached to the front, tearing down the middle of the street knocking vehicles out of the way and causing extras and stunt people to scatter. After a short while filming the cop yelling at Brad Pitt’s character (who had been replaced by a dummy) and a few dry runs where they drove the garbage truck fairly slowly down the street until it stopped about five yards behind the motorcycle they replaced the real cop with a dummy and got down to shooting the money shot. My colleagues and I were asked to step well back from the windows, possibly for health and safety reasons, but more likely because we were in shot. I had set a camera up just inside the window to record the scene but someone in the production crew spotted it and I was asked to remove it because the flash would be visible in the shot. I didn’t honestly think it was worth trying to argue that I wasn’t intending to take a photograph but was actually planning to record the scene in hi-definition. I really didn’t think that would fly. So I smiled, kept my mouth shut, and removed the camera.

Even though I kind of knew what to expect from the crash scene they were about to shoot NOTHING could possibly have prepared me for how cool it actually was. Travelling at speed the garbage truck came racing down the street, hit the motorcycle sending the dummy flying through the air to come to rest on the roof of a car then proceeded down the street knocking cars out of the way as it went. When I say it knocked cars out of the way that doesn’t really paint a vivid enough picture of what in actuality happened. Cars went flying into the air. Stunt people were diving for cover. The sound of metal being ripped and crushed was enormous. One of the cars ended up lying on it’s roof. It was amazing. I didn’t have as good a view as I would have liked owing to us having been asked to stand back from the windows, nonetheless I was left with my mouth hanging open in complete awe of what I had just witnessed.

It seems that come Monday the filming will have moved to another street so it’s unlikely I’ll see much more of the production. But this has been a very exciting week. When I read that they would be shooting the movie in Glasgow around George Square I never anticipated having a window seat. Being that I’m such a huge fan of horror cinema and the zombie genre in particular I can only hope that I am afforded an opportunity to see some undead related mayhem. That would be very cool indeed.


  1. Does Glasgow City Council know that you weren't working when you were supposed to be, it seems a little unprofessional to me!

  2. I mastered the ancient art of multitasking some years ago.

  3. Anonymous, perhaps you should get a life my friend. Next time why don't you leave a movie comment on a movie website and save your other comment for the GCC website!

    With regards to the movie, very excited that Brad is in my hometown and wish I was there to see him. As someone who lives in the US in Virginia though, I am surprised that it is cheaper to fly a whole fim crew to Glasgow to film a movie set in Philly. Strange indeed.

    Can't wait for the movie to come out and in the meantime will try and pick up a copy of the book. Good reporting Steve.....and hopefully you are still in a job unless Mr Busybody Anonymous gets his way! Lol

  4. Maybe you should apply that to your job then instead of looking out of the window!!