Home > Films > W > World War Z

Tuesday March 5th 2024

World War Z | 2013

World War Z location: George Square, Glasgow
World War Z location: zombies overrun the ‘Philadelphia’ square: George Square, Glasgow | Photograph: wikimedia : Andy Farrington

The locations for World War Z appear to range around the world, but the film was made, apart from second unit shots, in Europe.

Fans of the book will be disappointed that the geopolitical observation is largely dumped in favour of big-scale action sequences, and these are Danny Boyle-style ‘fast’ zombies rather than old-school George A Romero ‘slow’ zombies, but it’s great finally to have a film not afraid to use the Z-word.

The opening sequence of the zombie attack in ‘Philadelphia’ was filmed in Glasgow, Scotland, with Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family, unaware of the impending chaos, stuck in traffic on Cochrane Street in the heart of the city. The ‘Philly’ square in which they find themselves caught up in the mayhem is George Square, and that's not 'Philadelphia City Hall' but Glasgow City Chambers.

Still in Scotland, Lane drives the commandeered camper van past the petrochemical plant on Wholeflats Road, southeast of Grangemouth, an eastern suburb of Falkirk, as he tries to find out what’s happening.

The ‘Projects’ where the family flee the undead is the Heygate Estate in Southwark, south London. The estate is an unlikely film star, having already appeared in 2009 Michael Caine revenge drama Harry Brown and having been besieged by aliens in Attack The Block.

Sets for the ‘Philadelphia’ bridge, the ‘Newark’ projects and ‘Red Square, Moscow’ were built at the disused Bovingdon Airfield, on the B4505 between Chesham and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. An operational RAF airfield built during WWII, Bovingdon was later used as a backdrop to films including 1961’s The War Lover, with Steve McQueen, and 1964 classic 633 Squadron. The airfield was finally closed in 1972 and is now available to hire for movie shoots (Hagrid and Harry motorbike shots for Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part One were filmed here). As it turned out, the whole final third of WWZ’s ‘battle of Moscow’ sequence was jettisoned and a new ending filmed in Budapest, Hungary.

It was originally intended to build the aircraft carrier deck at Bovingdon too but, in the end, a real ship – the RFA Argus berthed at Falmouth in Cornwall – was used, and renamed the USS Argus.

With his family safely bunked aboard the Argus, Lane follows a tip to ‘Israel’, where strict border controls seem to be staving off the infection.

The ‘Jerusalem’ scenes were filmed around Valletta on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, and ‘Atarot Airport’ is is Malta International Airport, at Luqa.

The crowded checkpoint through which refugees flood is Wine Wharf, Xatt L-Ghassara Ta' L-Gheneb, on the south side of the Valletta peninsula in the Il-Marsa district. Just to the north, the road with overhead walkways down which the trucks rumble, is Triq il-Vittmi Furjanizi tal-Gwerra on Pinto Wharf.

World War Z filming location: Fort St Elmo, Valletta, Malta
World War Z location: panicked crowds in 'Jerusalem': Fort St Elmo, Valletta, Malta | Photograph: Wikimedia Commons / Sudika

As the walls are breached by hordes of the undead, panicked crowds pour through the courtyard of Fort St Elmo, an old British army barracks built in 1850. It’s at the northern tip of the Sciberras Peninsula, guarding the entrance to both of Valletta’s harbours.

Part of Fort St Elmo houses the National War Museum, and the fort itself is open to the public on Sunday mornings, for historical reenactments. Its massive fortifications have featured in several films before – most famously Alan Parker’s Midnight Express.

In the aerial shots showing the destruction of ‘Jerusalem’ you can see Valletta’s circular Triton Fountain and St Joseph High Road, running through Hamrun, southwest of Valletta.

World War Z location: Lulworth Cove, Dorset
World War Z location: the safe zone in ‘Nova Scotia’: Lulworth Cove, Dorset | Photograph: wikimedia : Chris Gunns

Offices and laboratories at the old Pfizer pharmaceuticals site in east Kent were used for the re-shot ending, as Lane comes up with a risky idea to combat the virus. And who knew that pathogens came in such a range of fetching colours? The site, now called Discovery Park, is on Ramsgate Road just north of Sandwich.

The ending at ‘Freeport Safe Zone, Nova Scotia’ (oh, come on, that’s hardly a spoiler, is it?) is the beautiful rocky bay of Lulworth Cove, south of West Lulworth on the coast of Dorset, about 12 miles west of Bournemouth.