For struggling actors, there arguably isn't a better place to find easier employment than as playing a zombie extra for scale in either a movie or AMC's "The Walking Dead." You could argue the case that playing a zombie is, for actors, the equivalent of anybody else working a minimum wage job in a fast food restaurant. But it seems that with many professions today, someone figured out these zombie extras can be replaced, this time with aid of digital media.
While the new trailer for "World War Z" doesn't give everything away, it's clear from what was presented that the world of the zombie extra may be relegated to the land of CGI. And if perhaps some people now think Brad Pitt has painfully morphed into an odd CGI fabrication, seeing the shot of digitally created mass zombies must put fear into "The Walking Dead" zombie acting contingent. The question ultimately becomes whether "Z" can end up getting away with it when audiences seem to find fun in seeing real people playing zombies.
It was inevitable, though, that "Z" would have to use CGI when the zombies in the book number in the millions. Regardless, it was surely disconcerting for extras actors seeing en masse zombie bodies falling off of helicopters and buildings in the "Z" trailer. Not once did we see a scene showing an encounter with a small group of zombies as "Dead" does weekly.
That was perhaps the crux of the problem in "World War Z" being delayed this year, bringing forth the charge of last-minute re-shoots. If somewhat due to the live-action unit, you can't say the live-action shots shown in the trailer look complicated. Other than re-writing a third act, one has to wonder if it was because extras were indeed used as zombies, with an inconvenient resemblance to an episode of "The Walking Dead."
If so, and the film becomes a success next March, would Hollywood really dare start using CGI to replace human extras? Don't put it past Tinseltown to do just that as a means of saving money while more zombie movies come down the pike. Should they be pressed to explain why, the movie industry will likely give a reason nobody can argue against: Actors playing zombies are just too campy.
Of course, that may be the very reason why people love to scope out unknown actors playing zombies in "The Walking Dead." You can't say it's due to bad makeup, because the AMC show creates some truly eerie believability. Nevertheless, the lumbering gait of all cinematic zombies has perhaps become the single death knell of human actors playing them.
Based on the "Z" trailer, we now see zombies that move faster in a way that's more dangerous and destructive. In no way can scale-paid extras be able to do similar stunts without a massive insurance premium on set. Beforehand, an extra could get paid handsomely merely shuffling through a scene, or act out a zombie death for a likely small commission.
Then again, as said, the "World War Z" trailer didn't show us the whole shebang. However, with zombie extras perhaps banished forever to CGI, it also doesn't bode well for the casting of a normal person walking down the street in the background of a movie scene.
At one time, breakout stars could be discovered by such simple casting calls. That's something ironically impossible when playing a zombie.