Monday June 24, 2013

NEW YORK -- Brad Pitt wanted to build a better blockbuster.

During the years Hollywood shifted toward increasingly bigger spectacles and superhero tentpoles, one of the movies' biggest stars largely stay-ed on the sidelines, focusing in-stead on ambitious ensembles ("The Tree of Life," ‘'Inglourious Basterds") and unlikely dramas ("Moneyball").

But the zombie apocalypse "World War Z," which opens Friday, is Pitt's bold, long-gestating, big-budget effort to enter the franchise fray. It's his attempt to engineer not just a disaster thrill ride like 1974's "The Towering Inferno" (a beloved film to Pitt, who saw it repeatedly as a kid growing up in Missouri), but to make a thought-provoking action flick filled with geopolitical questions.

"These films are much more difficult than I realized," Pitt said in a recent interview over coffee at a restaurant off Times Square.

Based on the 2006 sci-fi novel "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" by Max Brooks (son of Mel), the $200 million-plus film has had a rocky path to theaters. It's gone through a swarm of screenwriters, several key crew changes, a postponed release date and, most notably, a reshot ending.

Pitt shaped the film as a producer since his production company, Plan B, acquired the book rights in 2006.

"I know it works," the 49-year-old actor says. "I know everyone involved is going to be happy."