World War Z: Locations

In keeping with the transcontinental hunt of Gerry Lane (well played by Brad Pitt) for the cure to the spreading pandemic, “World War Z” was shot in various exotic locations, on land and in the sea.

Representing the Globe

“First of all it’s called ‘World War Z’ so it was critical that we represent the globe. I think the planet is evident to a greater number of people than ever before – you can click a button and see what’s going on virtually anywhere. So it’s harder and harder to fake that. Audiences are smart, they know what different cities around the world look like and there is a point where you can’t engage in trickery nor do I think you should. I think movies benefit from different locales and different cultures and settings and different moods and I think that comes across on the screen,” Gardner says.


“World War Z” opens in Philadelphia as full-scale zombie pandemonium ensues. Glasgow doubled for Philly and although they are literally worlds apart, the cities share similar architecture, some of which was augmented during post-production. To further transform the Scottish city, the production replaced native signs, traffic signals and cars with their American counterparts. Also, Glasgow offered an ideal layout for showing maximum mayhem.

“The city is arranged in a square which gave us more opportunity to see the havoc and panic when the zombies invade the city,” says location manager Michael Harm.


Glasgow was also particularly hospitable to the hundreds of extras and personnel required to approximate the start of the pandemic.
“When we were on the smaller streets in the beginning of the sequence, we had over 200 people to make the streets look full. As we moved into the square for the mayhem scenes, we bumped it up to 700 people. But what was really lucky was there was an old Bank of Scotland building that was completely gutted. That offered about 50,000 square feet where the background artists could stay in between shots. And we used its four floors for make-up, wardrobe and catering,” Harm says.

Veteran second unit director Simon Crane orchestrated much of the “World War Z” mayhem. “When we see the zombies for the first time, in Philadelphia, it goes from calm to 100% panic and action very quickly and Glasgow worked beautifully. Marc had a real passion for conveying the huge scale of the devastation and we tried to do that practically, in-camera, as much as possible. We approached the zombie attack like a pack of rabid dogs, running and taking people down. We were trying to bring across that fear and violence,” Crane says.

To accomplish this required carefully choreographed stunt work that began with a pre-visualized look at the action in the computer and culminated with, among other things, the sacrifice of several vehicles.

“We crashed over 150 different cars. We crashed the garbage truck and slammed Brad’s Volvo into an ambulance and various other things. It was big scale. At least 80% of the vehicles were written off,” Crane says. “Glasgow was great. We shut down blocks and blocks for controlled car crashes outside the main buildings. It was fantastic.”

Gardner notes that up until the arrival of the ‘World War Z’ production, Glasgow had not experienced the temporary influx of the army of people that populate a big, complicated movie – and, she says, the city could not have been more welcoming or accommodating.

“Glasgow was quite an operation. Even though they had not hosted a lot of big films, there was an unbelievable enthusiasm on the part of the city to not only have us but to try and make our jobs easier. The reception was just astonishing. To shoot the big opening zombie attack sequence, they shut down the main square of the city for us for over two weeks. And people rolled with it. They posted signs in their windows welcoming us. It was really terrific,” Gardner recalls.

Often the huge amount of extras and the associated personnel required to turn them into zombies became its own logistical circus.

“There were many, many thousands of extra man days on the film. We had big crowd scenes in Malta, playing for Jerusalem. There were big crowd scenes in Glasgow for Philadelphia. The airplane sequence had roughly 150 extras to fill the interior of the aircraft for five days of photography. And those scenes are even further complicated, because there were heavy zombie presences. That involves giant numbers of hair, make-up and wardrobe staff to achieve the look of what you’re trying to get. If you have 500 extras that need to look a certain way, that’s an awful lot of people required to get them ready. We were shooting one day with the full extra count and I remember coming on to the set and you literally couldn’t move because of the size of the crew that was there to get everyone ready. And then a couple hours later we sent the zombies away for a little break as we were going to do something else just with Brad and a few other people and it was like the set became barren. It was hilarious,” says producer Ian Bryce.

In keeping with the overall mantra of authenticity, the filmmaking team endeavored to ground the adrenalin-spiking zombie anarchy in reality. Gerry Lane is not a superhero but rather an astute, quick-witted, hyper-perceptive man. Crane had worked with Pitt several times before and they had a shorthand, in terms of how to accomplish the complicated action scenes.

“Brad had huge input into the strategy of how we would stage all the action and we always tried to keep it as real as possible. He’s a former U.N. worker, not a fighter. He’s a real person, a normal, everyday guy. So we tried to make everything as believable as possible. He’s very good at the action stuff and wanted to be as involved as possible, which of course also helped,” Crane says.

The Lane family finds temporary safety on an enormous aircraft carrier and, in fact, the British Navy vessel the Argus stood in for the American ship. Filming the arrival sequence was quite a feat, featuring actual helicopters, 500 extras, dozens of military vehicles and of course the huge, powerful and elegant aircraft carrier itself.

“It was great to work on a real aircraft carrier instead of on stage. The emotional intensity was so much more. It offered great scale and authenticity, which is what you want for this film, because on many levels, it is a war film. The world is at war with the zombies,” Forster says.