'Allied' Director Robert Zemeckis: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard's On-Screen Chemistry Was 'Instant'

Allied opens in theaters Wednesday.

For Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis, his latest film, Allied, allowed him to tackle a whole new genre: a World War II-set romantic thriller.

“It was a challenge for me in that I always like to be challenged when I’m directing,” Zemeckis tells PEOPLE in the video above. “I think it just keeps life more interesting because I’ve never done a romantic thriller before, and I had never done a World War II period piece before.”

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star in the World War II spy drama, and according to the director, the actors’ on-screen chemistry “was instant.”

“It was really exciting,” Zemeckis says. “The very first day where they did a scene together, which was a scene where they were sort of flirting with each other on this rooftop scene, I was watching them and I could see that there was tremendous chemistry. And I thought, ‘This is going to be really great.’ I was very excited.”

Daniel Smith/Paramount

Zemeckis admits he was “really thrilled” that he was able to work with both Pitt, 52, and Cotillard, 41, calling them “two fantastic actors.”

Pitt, who plays Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan, “was absolutely focused and he was professional every time,” Zemeckis, 64, says, adding: “[He’s] incredibly talented. He really reached down and pulled out an emotional performance that was like nothing I had ever seen him do before. So I was thrilled.”

Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

And despite making headlines following his divorce from Angelina Jolie, Pitt has been in good spirits while busily promoting the movie around the world.

“He was at our [Los Angeles] premiere and he did a Q&A and he did the red carpet, and he’s, you know, he’s doing everything that he can do,” says Zemeckis. “But he’s got a lot of stuff going on in his personal life, but he’s here for us as best he can be.”

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