Graphic Violence : Interview with Zach Snyder
Category: 300 News | Posted by: DaisyMay
Article Date: February 19, 2007 | Publication: Beacon Newspaper (Blog) | Author: Unknown
Director Zack Snyder and actors Gerard Butler and Rodrigo Santoro sat down with college reporters at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California for roundtable interviews to discuss the upcoming battle flick 300.
The movie, opening in theaters on March 9, is adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name and retells the Battle of Thermopylae, where Spartan and Persian forces dueled. Spartan King Leonidas (Butler) leads a contingent of 300 men against the massive army of Persian King Xerxes (Santoro) in an attempt to deter the Persian Invaders.
Q: What was your biggest obstacle filming this movie?
The first difficulty was getting the movie made. It's based on a graphic novel. When I first got the book and took it to the studio the first time, there was no script at all. I was convinced that everyone would think it was as cool as I did so I took it and said, 'Look, it's a graphic novel.
We're going to film this.' And they went, 'Yeah, no, we don't understand that.'
Also when we first talked about the film, they were first making Troy; the appetite was for a movie that was more traditional. But I thought it would be cool not to do that. We went to pretty much every studio and we got a 'no' from everybody. Not a hard 'no,' though.
Then Dawn of the Dead came along and I felt that 300 had stalled. When I came back from Dawn, the movie hadn't really gone anywhere. We then wrote a script and from there, Warner Bros. started to say, 'This could be cool.' Then I did an Animatic where I basically film the graphic novel and edit it together and Tyler Bates put some cool music together, but the studio still didn't understand. They asked me to do a test shot (a shot that looks like the movie), so we shot one that had fighting to give them an idea and a sense of the movie.
Because we had so much prep, the actual process of making the images what they look like, that part was sort of intuitive. The evolution of that was something that we figured out. It was an exhausting process. We shot the movie in 60 days - it's not a lot of time to shoot a giant war movie. We got the s--t kicked out of us by the schedule.
Then, the post-process, which has been a year, has been grueling as well. We did more editing and testing on Dawn but the cool thing about 300 is that the movie feels like it's being remade all the time. You see the sequences trickle in and then the whole sequence is done and now it's a different movie than it was a month ago.
Q: In getting this movie made, did Sin City have any effect?
I have to say that the success of Sin City when it came out was probably the thing that helped motivate the studio's decision. I don't know that they saw the exact relationship between the two things, but I think there's a strong relationship between Sin City and Frank [Miller] and 300 and Frank - they're linked very closely. For some reason, I don't think the studio saw the relationship. You would think it would be obvious, but I think they thought, "Sin City is a noir, weird modern comic book movie and 300 is an ancient Greek epic."
Q: What were some of the departures you made from the source material?
I think that the big thing we did different was that we added a little more story with Gorgo, the queen. The way Frank Miller's graphic novel works is that it's sort of a non-linear experience and he has the benefit of not having that strict linear format that you have in a movie. Not that you have to adhere to that, but we felt that the story was straightforward and wanted to shake it out.
Q: What percentage of the battles was made with real actors?
Our philosophy about the movie in general was 'if you touch it, then it should be real.' I mean, other than a rhino or an elephant. But other than that, all of the fighting is guys fighting guys. There are background guys who are digital guys but they are just there to make it look like there are a lot of guys back there. The actual fighting, though, is just guys versus guys.
Q: Was there any effort to communicate some sort of social significance in this movie? Like, is there an American marine in a Spartan soldier? It appears that there are reasonable white people versus the barbarian brown people.
That's the way Frank set it up in the book. I think in some ways, it's the opposite of that. It's a fun ride to go on, but to identify with the Spartans; you're kind of missing the point a little bit. The first time you see the Spartans, they're basically deciding to throw their children off a cliff. Then you have the Persian king Xerxes going, 'Let's not fight. Clearly, you're outnumbered.' The Spartan philosophy, though, doesn't allow Leonidas to do that. They're at odds in philosophy. It's not reason versus necessarily barbarism. It's a reasonable offer versus a philosophy that can't accept it.
Q: What influenced you to cast Gerard Butler in the lead role?
I met him at a coffeehouse on Ventura Boulevard [in Los Angeles, Ca.]. I had the book with me because I didn't know what his exposure to 300 would have been. When he showed up, he stomped around the coffee shop acting like Leonidas and doing the hand gestures from the book. I was like, 'Wow, that's pretty awesome.' I left that meeting thinking that he's pretty good. I wasn't sure that he could get as huge as I wanted him to get. He certainly expressed that he would do whatever. When I left, I was pretty sure it was going to be him.
Q: Where did the idea of the narrator character come from?
There are two things about the film that make the narrator necessary. One is that it's the Spartan perspective of the battle of Thermopylae. We wanted to be a purely Spartan perspective. That was what the book that Frank wrote basically is. There's a narrator in Frank's book. Also, I love Frank's prose. I didn't know how to get it in the movie - you couldn't just have somebody just say those things. But if you have a narrator, you can slip those things.
Q: You mentioned Troy and Sin City. Both of those movies had big names attached to them like Brad Pitt in the first one. Your cast is much more low-key. Tell me about the decision behind doing that.
Gerard is amazing and Rodrigo is awesome, but if you put them in the US Magazine poll of star power, they would not be as high as Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis. But we really felt strong about what the movie was going to be, I didn't want the movie to pop for you because Brad Pitt is in a loincloth.
Also, once we had Gerry, we couldn't have him as the King and Mel Gibson as the captain - it would be weird. But on the other hand, I did want English actors in the movie because I felt that an English accent in this movie is a convention of these sorts of movie so you don't have someone with an American accent say, 'You rode all the way from Sparta…' It's just weird.