“World War Z” has gone through a battle of its own just to make it into theaters. In addition to rumors of a bloated budget and unrest on the set between director Mark Forster and star Brad Pitt, the film’s original release date was pushed back six months to accommodate major rewrites and additional shooting. The studio may not have been able to keep the behind-the-scenes drama under wraps, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the final product, because you honestly wouldn’t know there was even a problem to begin with from watching the movie. Although fans of Max Brooks’ bestselling novel will undoubtedly be disappointed by how much has been changed during the adaptation from page to screen, “World War Z” is an immensely entertaining film that also happens to be much smarter than your average summer blockbuster.
Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations worker who specialized in averting international disasters. These days, however, he’s just an ordinary stay-at-home dad living with his wife (Mireille Enos) and two kids in Philadelphia. During a routine trip into the city one morning, all hell breaks loose when people suddenly start attacking others on the street like feral animals, transforming the victims into similar monsters within seconds of being bitten. Gerry and his family barely manage to escape the chaos and are eventually rescued by helicopter and transported to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after his old U.N. buddy Thierry (Fana Mokoena) pulls some strings. Of course, Thierry has ulterior motives for saving Gerry’s life and wants him back in the field immediately to help track down the cause of the zombie epidemic, and if he refuses, his family will be swiftly booted off the VIP-only vessel.
Billy Campbell got his initial break in Hollywood when he pulled a recurring role on “Dynasty” in 1984, started to escape from the small screen somewhat in 1991 by playing the title in Disney’s highly underrated “The Rocketeer,” and has since bounced back and forth between TV and film, most recently spending two seasons on AMC’s “The Killing.” This Sunday, however, Campbell can be seen in another “Killing,” when he steps back through the mists of time to play American’s 16th President in the National Geographic original movie, “Killing Lincoln,” based on the book by Bill O’Reilly.
During the Winter 2013 TCA Press Tour, Campbell took some time – more than his publicist was expectingly, frankly, not that we were complaining – to chat with Bullz-Eye about his surprise over being pitched the role of Lincoln, his strong views over Disney’s mishandling of “The Rocketeer,” his even stronger statements to the bloggers who bitched about the Season 1 finale of “The Killing,” and how he was only one audition away from getting the role of Commander William T. Riker on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Bullz-Eye: To begin at the beginning, how did you find your way into “Killing Lincoln” in the first place? Did you audition for the gig, or did they actually come looking for you?
Billy Campbell: I didn’t audition. They… [Hesitates.] What did they do? [Laughs.] They approached me months before this happened, and I…well, they didn’t approach me. My manager called me and said, “I got this weird sort of feeler: would you be interested in playing Lincoln?” And I burst into laughter, and I thought, “Ridiculous! I’m not Lincoln!” Nevertheless, we sent them a photo which I thought was Lincoln-esque—or a photo that I thought was the least non-Lincoln-esque—that I could find, and I forgot all about it. And then months later I got a call from my agent saying, “You’ve been offered Lincoln.” And I was…amused. But I accepted. And that was it.