Frank Miller's dark hero King Leonidas battles the Persians in 300

Category: 300 News | Posted by: maryp
Article Date: February 16, 2007 | Publication: Realms of Fantasy | Author: Resa Nelson
Publication/Article Link:None: April Edition of Magazine

You may not know his name,but you know Gerard Butler.He was the heart stealing stranger in 'Dear Frankie',the title character in 'Phanton of the Opera',and Attilla the Hun on TV.Like Russell Crowe before he starred in 'Gladiator',Butler is considerd to be on the verge of breaking out and gaining recognition as one of today's best leading men.

Hailing from Scotland,Butler has a charming brogue and a warm and engaging manner.On a movie set in Montreal,he was clearly frustrated while filming a scene in which Butler and another actor took a dive and landed on a 10-inch-thick gymnastics mat.Something wasn't quite right,and they shot the scene over and over again.Finally,Butler admitted he was afraid of falling,even though it was a short fall onto a thick mat.Maybe it was just a joke,but there was a tremor in his voice.After a few more takes,he got it right.

It's ironic.In 300(a new Warner Brother's movie based on Frank Miller's graphic novel,due out in theaters March 9),Butler plays King Leonidas,the ancient Greek leader of the Spartens,arguably one of the most courageous and fierce warriors in history.Accoring to legend,when King Xerxes of Persia led a massive army to attack Greece in 480 BC-some say he had hundreds of soldiers,while others claim he had millions--Leonidas and 300 Spartans came up with a clever strategy to hold the invaders at bay for three days,killing many of the Persians in the process.Many believe this act paved the way for democracy.because the Spartans were fighting to protect a new-fangled idea of freedom for all people.

"It's a character I beleved and understood and loved from the second I read him,"Butler says about King Leonidas."When it's like that,a lot of the feeling is an instant empathy and from then on it becomes very instinctive.I spent 24 hours a day thinking about my character.I don't think I've ever played anybody quite as forceful and downright masculine and relentless and ruthless as Leonidas.There's just something so tough and hard about this guy.That's what got me about the whole feel of the story.After the conversation with Zach and seeing the way they were going to make this movie,I thought,"wow.Its not going to be like anything I've seen.'"

Butler's Talking about director Zach Snyder('Dawn of the Dead'),who decided to stay true to Miller's novel by striving to duplicate it on film.When he first met Butler,it didn't take long for Snyder to realize he'd found King Leonidas. "He was like a madman,"Snyder says about Butler."He stood up.He was ranting around the table.He was making faces.He was looking at people.He said to me,"Spartans don't walk around like badasses,posing like their tough guys-they just are.They're just scarey."That's cool.Because as soon as you try to act tough,it becomes a parody.He said"I'd rather act crazy".That's good.
Frank's Leonidas,Frank's Batman,Frank's Marv(from'Sin City')--it's the same guy.It's Frank's version of an uncompromising hero who's dark.He's straightforward.He's not good in politics.Leonidas is the same way.He's not nice.I don't think you'd want to hang around him."

The look and feel of the movie are designed to duplicate Miller's graphic novel,but the graphic novel was too short for a feature-length movie.That meant the story had to be expanded.Snyder took Miller's novel--a stylized history story--and turned it into a fantasy by telling it through the eyes of one of the charactersilios,a Spartan played by David Wenham of the 'THe Lord of the Rings".
Dilios isn't just one of the 300 Spartans-he's their favorite storyteller.He survives the battle of the 300 and tells the story of that battle from his own point of view.Because this adventure brought Dilios face to face with many things he'd never seen before,we see the story through his retelling of it,which draws heavily on Greek mythology.Expect to see everything from monsters to fantasy animals to a Greek oracle who magically floats in the air.

Snyder also decided to flesh out the role of Gorgo,King Leonidas's wife.On one hand,Gorgo's new importance gives some balance to a testoerone-heavy film.On the other hand,this is a "Gladiator' like movie that's strong on honesty in the way it portrays the violence of ancient times,as well as who the Spartans were.Their lives revolved around being ready to fight at a moments notice.They were Spartan in every way possible:every actor had to undergo a rigorous training to get into the best physical shape of his life because the Spartan costume consists of a pair of sandals,the equivalent of a leather Speedo, and a red cape.

"These guys had been beaten and punished since they were kids,"Butler says about the real Spartans.And that creates a steeliness that shows in every move.It would be too much of an excuse to say,'Yeah, they're tough guys but they don't have to play tough'.Not that they have to walk around strutting all the time,they are tough and you should see it in every movement."

After each take on the set,Butler raced away,blindly pushing past anyone in his way to stand shoulder to shoulder with Snyder and view the scene just filmed on a tiny monitor.Like two peas in a pod,it's clear they were focused on getting it right.
"We are without a doubt pushing as far as we can,"Butler says."That's what I love.I'm bored with sword-fighting movies,to be honest .You watch so many,it just looks the same.That's not what we're doing here.It's such a fresh,vibrant,crazy,brutal feel to it.It's very violent.It's very bloody."
"I was surprised by how masculine and,in a lot of ways,unsympathetic the characters were in Miller's graphic novel.I found that really unusual.THere didn't seem to be any need to grab the audience's favour.

"These heroes,they do what I think you always want your heroes to do, and they never get the chance.Typical heroes always have to be pushed and then eventually they turn around and they kick somebody's ass.The Spartans do it straight away.They say,'OK.You want a fight?We'll fight.We'll love it.We'll kill you.We'll enjoy it.We'll drink your blood.'And yet they're doing for a cause.They immediately start with defending their own lives,so within that framework,they do whatever they want,and they do it in the terms of the story."