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‘World War Z’ Invades Duffy Square

“It’s been a long time coming,” Brad Pitt told the Ziegfeld Theater crowd on June 17. “We’ve got a good one for you, so let’s start.”

It wasn’t hype. Paramount’s “World War Z” had the audience at the pic’s American premiere breaking into applause no less than six times during the next two hours.

Earlier, seven blocks downtown, there were cops, security and fans assembled around the Duffy Square TKTS booth where Paramount had mounted an enormous elevated red Z for the zombie film’s press line as five Jumbotrons broadcast live interviews and the “WWZ” trailer.

Pitt created a commotion signing autographs and shaking hands before he promised everyone, “It’s the most intense thing you’ll see this summer.”

Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment made the $170 million picture with Skydance and Paramount, and the star-producer said he wanted to re-create the kind of blockbuster that “my family used to gather around to see in the summer. That was the reason for doing it. This is unique because we grounded an intimate story with the big spectacle of a summer film, and I’m surprised how well it works. ‘Jaws’ was one of my favorites and we drew from that, ‘The Exorcist,’ some of the greats.”

Angelina Jolie had been at the London premiere, but didn’t show for the unspooling in Gotham.

“She’s watching the others and taking off in a matter of moments for Refugee Day on the other side of the world,” Pitt revealed, adding, that his eldest Maddox, 11, has a cameo in the pic. “He gets shot in the head. I don’t know what that says about me as a parent. To be fair he gets shot multiple times.

Max Brooks sold the film rights to his novel in 2006, far in advance of the current zombie mania. He knows why the genre has soared in popularity.

“We’re living in such scary times. People want to explore the apocalypse. People have apocalypse on the brain,” Brooks offered. “When the catalyst for the apocalypse are zombies it’s safe enough to go to sleep at night. If you watch an apocalyptic movie but the catalyst for that is nuclear war or flu or something real, you ain’t gonna sleep! You will have nightmares. But if you tell yourself, ‘Well, it’s zombies, that will never happen,’ you get to explore your apocalyptic anxieties in a safe way.”

Brooks, however, didn’t merit a zombie cameo.

“I showed up for one day on the set and I didn’t even see any zombies. It could have been called, ‘There’s a sale at Best Buy!’”

After four years at the helm, director Marc Forster might want to take a break from seeing another zombie. Then again, maybe not.

“As a director when you shoot every day, day after day with thousands of extras, you just wish to shoot a scene with two people having a cup of coffee. But I’m open to a sequel.”

As for what’s next, “It’s Moscow tomorrow,” Forster said, having already stopped in London, Paris and Sydney.

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