Note: This interview was done on Sep 24, 2006
World War Z is Max Brooks latest foray into the ZoMax Brooksie sub-genre. I reviewed the book last week, click here for that, and the other day I got to have a chat with Mr. Brooks about his excellent work, the zoMax Brooksie genre as a whole and growing up with a famous dad. Enjoy the interview:
HOH: Just finished World War Z and I have to tell ya, it was excellent.
Max Brooks: Well, thank you, thanks a lot.
HOH: So, what is with the zombie fascination? This is your second book in the Zombie sub-genre, is it just a fan fascination?
Max Brooks: It’s a fan fascination but it is also a human fascination because the mindlessness of a zombie, the singularity of purpose, I think that is what terrifies me. The fact that there is no middle ground, no negotiation, the fact that they will come to you, you don’t have to go looking for them. The fact that they will just grow and spread. I mean it is literally like if you could take a killer virus put it on legs and send it out into the world, it would be a zombie.
HOH: I think it is great how you have rooted the book in the Romero world of the zombie.
Max Brooks: I’m a huge fan of George Romero as much for his political commentary as for his zombie’s and I think unfortunately a lot of people who have come after Romero have forsaken any type of social commentary for just chomping on entrails and that’s fine but I like to go a little bit deeper. The only place I part company with Romero is on zombie intelligence and I understand Romero’s point of view, as a film maker he has to adapt, he has to grow so there fore his zombie become more intelligent become more organized, develop emotions but for me the less intelligent the less human they become the more terrifying they are to me.
HOH: Exactly and I know for me and maybe for some other fans out there that Land of the Dead just didn’t work.
Max Brooks: Well for me, I loved Land of the Dead but I can understand why some didn’t. They kind of like having their enemies black and white and it was a very grey movie in that way.
HOH: I mean really, in that film the worst person in it was the Dennis Hopper character, a human. You actually cheered when the zombie killed the human. You were rooting for the zombie.
Max Brooks: Yeah, you may be right. I think that might be the reason that a lot of people didn’t care for Day of the Dead because Bub the zombie was a much more sympathetic character then Rhodes. But for me, I just love watching Romero as a film maker, he explores different ideas and how he grows as a film maker.
HOH: Nobody is going to argue that point with you. Romero is a legend when it comes to the zoMax Brooksie genre. I have to tell you though. With this book, your name could become as attached to the zombie genre as his has.
Max Brooks: I should be so lucky to even be included in the same category as him.
HOH: This book is going to catapult you to the top and when the film comes out, well that should take it all to a whole other level. Are you going to be involved in the writing of the screen play for the adaptation?
Max Brooks: Someone else is going to adapt it and I am totally OK with that because in order for World War Z to get made it is going to have to be a big movie so it is going to have to be an epic film which requires a big budget which requires a screenwriter which is trusted by the Hollywood system. No executive, no studio is going to trust a multi million dollar movie to a guy like me who has never written a film that has been made.
HOH: What was the catalyst for writing World War Z? Your first book, they tried to sell it off as a kind of satire but when I read it I thought it came off much more serious and World War Z is very, very serious. There are no tongue in cheek moments; it’s a very serious novel.
Max Brooks: Zombie Survival Guide was intended to be serious.
HOH: It came across that way but a lot of people took it as a joke and I was saying, no wait this guy is serious. If these things were to happen, this book could save your life.
Max Brooks: That was the intention but it had to be marketed as humor because at that point I was only none as Mel Brook’s son or the dude that wrote for Saturday Night Live and I understand that. If I was in a marketing position I would have done the same thing. But honestly, the big joke about the ZoMax Brooksie Survival Guide is that I had the time to write it. But World War Z has no humor in it. Anyone who finds humor it has some serious emotional problems.
HOH: It’s very serious. There are parts that are down right disturbing.
Max Brooks: Yeah, there are some very, very dark aspects to it and that is what I intended just like with Zombie Survival Guide I wanted to create a world that if there were zoMax Brooksies, this is how you would actually survive. In World War Z, if there was a zoMax Brooksie plague how would the world react to it?
HOH: The whole political cover up and keeping it from the public, well it is just an amazing book. I don’t know how else to describe it. Let’s talk a little about the film adaptation. There are a lot of rumors floating around out there, what’s the truth?
Max Brooks: What happened was there was a bidding war between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Between their companies and the bidding war happened as soon as the advance copies were finished. They knew about it before, don’t ask me how but somehow they knew I was working on another zoMax Brooksie book and the bidding war went on for, I’m not kiHOHing, 24 hours, into the night. My cell phone has never rang so much in its life. It used to ring like once as week and I felt so Hollywood. And then when the dust settled Brad Pitt won the war and his company Plan B has it.
HOH: So in your perfect world who would direct this, who would write it, star in it, if you made the calls.
Max Brooks: Honestly, a perfect complete fantasy? Here is whom I would have helm this project. Irwin Allen.
HOH: Irwin Allen. You know what? That is the perfect answer.
Max Brooks: I mean if we’re talking fantasy, let’s go fantasy.
HOH: Nobody did the big disaster epic like Irwin Allen.
Max Brooks: He knew how to asseMax Brooksle an all star cast, knew how to tell multiple story lines around a singular disaster. Irwin Allen was the man. If he were alive.ahhh.
HOH: Yeah, that is a great answer. It gives me goose bumps to imagine it. How about star power. Do you see this as being a star magnet?
Max Brooks: It is going to have to be big. This just can’t be done as a small indie project. They are going to have to get a director who has done big budget epics and A list actors. I think it the only way to get it done.
HOH: I keep thinking Ridley Scott.
Max Brooks: Couldn’t get any better than that. The man who did Alien and Kingdom of Heaven. WOW.
HOH: Well, we’ll just have to wait and see how it all works out.
Max Brooks: Yeah, it’s not up to me so I am on the sidelines with the rest of the fans.
HOH: The fans should just eat this book up. Now, you’re going to be at the Fango show in New Jersey right?
Max Brooks: Yep, I will be there. I’ll be talking about what I do and a little about both the books. I owe a lot to Fango as they were the first to a zombie as a serious horror fan.
HOH: You plan on keeping on in the zoMax Brooksie genre or branching out into other areas? You have any fear of getting pigeon holed as a horror author?
Max Brooks: I have no fear of being pigeon holed because I have been for my entire life. I have been typecast as Mel Brooks son from the day I was born.
HOH: Yeah, a lot of the other article I have read on you just can’t help but throw your dads name in their.
Max Brooks: And you know it doesn’t bother me because obviously, I’m used to it. The only thing that concerns me about being labeled as his son is it might give potential fans the wrong idea and I wouldn’t want someone to pick up World War Z thinking its going to be Young Frankenstein.
HOH: Yeah I suspect that does happen. They just expect it to be funny because of who your dad is and it needs to be looked at in a different light. It is a serious, compelling, disturbing look at a world gone mad.
Max Brooks: Have you heard the audio book?
Max Brooks: Ohhhh, you’re in for it.
Q. HOH: Is that out at the same time as the hardcover?
Max Brooks: The audio book is out right now and Random House, God bless them because they actually put up the money to hire a full cast. And we have got some of the greatest voices on it. We’ve got Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Henry Rollins, and Mark Hamil. It’s unbelievable. World War Z kind of lends itself to an audio book as it is a book of interviews. When I heard it I was blown away. I was like; hey they make my writing sound good. (laughs)