EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ZACK SNYDER (300)
Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 5, 2007 | Publication: CHUD | Author: Devin Faraci
Zack Snyder has had to really earn his respect. The guy came out the gate with a remake of Dawn of the Dead, for the love of God Ė thatís a big obstacle to face. And he pulled it off, somehow Ė the movie, while nothing near the original, works on its own as a zombie film that happens to be in a mall. Then it turned out that Snyderís a real geek, a dyed in the wool fanboy himself, so his nerd cred went up.
This Friday itíll go through the roof. His adaptation of Frank Millerís 300 is unrelentingly gorgeous. And he didnít just make a hack and slash picture Ė Snyderís film is a real movie, with a plot and characters and everything. I know, that sounds like itís faint praise, but I really expected a lot of wacky camera and CGI action and not much else. The guy surprised me twice now.
Can he surprise me a third time? The next project for Snyder is the long-delayed, potentially cursed adaptation of Alan Mooreís Watchmen. Iím a strict Paul Greengrass partisan when it comes to this film Ė I think the approach he had before Paramount shut the project down and it went back to Warner Bros is the best way to handle the film. But Snyder talks a good game, and even if I find some of his ideas for the film suspect, he has the passion and the belief to pull it off. Hell, Iíve underestimated him twice already.
I visited you guys on set in December 2005, and I saw what you were working with Ė the blue screens, a little bit of dirt and a bunch of half-naked guys. Watching the movie itís easy to forget that theyíre not actually anywhere but a soundstage Ė how did you get the actors into that headspace?
Itís funny, because they know the scene and weíve talked about whatís supposed to happen, but the thing I think the actors is capable of and what you hope they do is that when theyíre in a scene together the reality comes from the other actors in the scene. The other actors are basically going, ĎListen, if I can be emotionally true in this scene and I can be emotionally true, we can get each other through it.í Itís when they were alone that they had a hard time.
A hard time filling in the blanks?
Yeah. I would be like ĎOK, that pipe is the Persian army! Those lights over there, thatís your guys!í
Why did you want to stick so close to Frank Millerís book? So many people approach adaptations with the interest of putting their own spin on the material, but you were very, very faithful.
Listen, the truth is I personally think that Frank has such a strong voice that I donít personally lose anything. As a director, the movieís going to go through you Ė thereís nothing anybody can do about that. I think the idea that you would change Frankís book, to me, itís a mistake because whatís missing in movies, especially in Hollywood films, is a true perspective or point of view. And frank has such a strong point of view, such a particular way of telling a story, that for me itís just an awesome opportunity to do something that never gets done or seen. As a filmmaker I canít stress how important that is to me, to get at themes and pictures that are unique.
Frankís point of view is very unique, and he also has a very pointed politicial and worldview. Do you find that Frankís point of view in 300 mirrors your own beliefs?
I would say that it is more extreme, probably, than my own beliefs [laughs]. But I didnít want to water it down because of my own personal take. I thought it was important for the audience to have Frankís experience, and if youíre going to get his pictures but not his heart in it, then itís me being the censor between the audience and Frank, and I didnít want to do that.
As faithful as you are, some of my favorite bits in 300 the movie are not in 300 the book, like the rhino attack. Where did that stuff come from?
They came from a variety of places. The rhino I got from a story from my friend. He had been in Africa with an African guide, and he told him a story about having shot a Cape Buffalo and it sliding right to his feet. I thought it would be cool to put it in the movie. Itís not in the http://chud.com/nextraimages/300zacksnyder.jpgscript either, by the way. Itís just a little storyboard sequence I had drawn, and I just shuffled it in with the rest of the storyboards. When we came to shooting, everyone was looking at the boards and said, ĎWait a minute, where was this in the script?í and I was like, ĎItís not in the script!í Slightly unorthodox, but it works.
That sort of answers a question I was going to ask Ė when youíre working on the blue screen stages, you can be freer and make things up on the day.
Thatís not necessarily true. You can certainly make things up on the day, but sequences like that I had drawn three or four weeks before, when we were planning. It just happens that thereís a lag time between the storyboard and the script itself. You write the sequence and then you have to visualize it, so you sit down and draw it frame by frame to see what the shots will be. Thatís where it gets inventive.
Now, on the set I will say that with a little bit of green screen, what you can do is, you can play with geography in a cool way. If we were out in the field, you canít do that really.
I guess word on the street is that youíre going to bring this kind of fidelity to Watchmen and sticking close to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbonís original work. Is that true?
Yeah. I feel like where we are with the script right now is, in some ways, the closest that itís been in any iteration to the graphic novel, in the sense that weíre trying to keep as much of the things that make the graphic novel awesome. That goes to everything: 1985, R-rating, everything. Which, by the way, it was never going to be before.
It was a PG-13 previously.
Is Warner Bros happy with an R?
No. Theyíre mad at that. T hey donít want an R-rated movie, but theyíre cool with me. Theyíre like, ĎOK, if thatís what you think, Snyder. But itís a bummer.í [laughs] They have to leave a lot of money on the table.
Right. You canít have the 15 year olds in there.
Exactly. But on the other hand, Watchmen is Watchmen, and I said, ĎGuys, the reason this movie works is that itís counter. Itís anti.í I believe audiences are ready for whatís the next step of the genre. Itís an exhausted genre right now, at least thatís what I believe.
Thatís interesting, because while Watchmen has been under development for decades, but the book is a critique of the superhero genre, and you couldnít have done that on film until now, when audiences are very used to the conventions of the genre.
Absolutely. Thatís the cool part about it, for me anyway. Your movie audience is basically where your comic book audience was when the graphic novel was written Ė youíre basically in a place where you can make a satirical comment about a superhero and the audience will get it, because they have the frame of reference.
Iíve heard some interesting rumors about Watchmen, that the cast isnít going to be like 300, which is a bunch of actors who arenít marquee names, but rather that youíre talking to some very big names.
You know, we are and we arenít. I gotta say I think we are when itís appropriate, but itís not driving the movie. There were some people who I was considering who are big names, but itís exactly that at this point Ė weíre just talking about it. When youíre in the early stages of talking about a movie what happens is that everybody goes, ĎTom Cruise! Brad Pitt!í Thatís the first conversation, and then you end up with the actual people that are going to be in the movie.
I heard rumors that Tom Cruise was actually interested.
He was interested. I did talk to him for quite a while. To be honest.
Ozymandias, would that be the role?
That was the role.
Youíve got the Watchmen adaptation coming up, 300 is an adaptation, you have the remake behind you Ė is there an original Zack Snyder movie coming?
There is [and it just got announced. Click here to read about it]. I have a concept and Iíve been working on it for a little while. Hopefully itís a culmination of everything in some ways. I like it, anyway.
Whatís the dream project for you?
The dream project for me would be to make an R-rated Star Wars movie! Thatís the dream project. I donít think itís going to happen, but it would be awesome. And I know there are a lot of people out there who would be into that.
I think you would be able to get people to come to that movie.
Thatís all Iím saying. George, if youíre listeningÖ
Have you talked to George about the Star Wars TV show?
NoÖ whatís that?
Theyíre working on a live action Star Wars TV show.
Is it going to be on the networks? Whatís the deal with it?
Heís going to license it out, like what he did with the Prequel Trilogy. Heís going to own it and let somebody air it. Would you do TV?
I donít know. Right now, probably not. We briefly talked about making a zombie TV show, but it never came together. I like TV, I watch it a lot!
A lot of people have said that Watchmen should be a mini-series or whatever, but my feeling is that you want production value with Watchmen. The fans want to see it awesome and they want a lot of it. Itís hard, and itís a trade-off, if you want it to be as good as it can be.
Youíre really going to shoot the Tales from the Black Freighter, huh?
Thatís my hope. My hope is to shoot the Tales from the Black Freighter as a supplement for the DVD, for the Ďrealí Watchmen.
Anybody else approaching this material, that would be the first thing theyíd cut. Itís interesting to see how youíre approaching this Ė keeping that in really shows how youíre thinking.
For me it goes back to the why of Watchmen. The why of it is almost like what I was saying about Frankís point of view. Itís funny, because Watchmen, politically Ė I donít think Alan Moore could be any more opposite of Frank Miller. I think it gives you a little bit of an idea of how I approach it; the fact that I go from Frank to Alan shows that to me itís about the work, what they work is, what theyíve done with the work and what it represents. Theyíve both, in their own way, innovated, and theyíre both geniuses in this convention we call graphic novels or comic books.