Wenham's wailing all Sparta the grand plan
Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 23, 2007 | Publication: AAP Newsfeed (Australia) | Author: Peter Mitchell
David Wenham's neighbours probably thought he had gone mad.
About a year ago the Australian actor was angrily roaming the backyard of his Sydney home screaming "Spartans, prepare for glory!" and "For Sparta!".
On April 5 when the new Ancient Greek epic 300 opens in Australian cinemas, Wenham's neighbours may finally work out why he turned into a madman.
The backyard tirade was Wenham's audition.
A friend captured it on a video camera and the tape was sent to Hollywood where studio executives at Warner Bros and 300's director Zack Snyder were casting the film.
"He did an awesome audition in his backyard with a video camera," Snyder laughed as he recalled the tape.
"It was crazy.
"He was walking around screaming and yelling.
"You would swear David was a Spartan warrior back in 480 BC.
"But when you looked in the background you could see his pool and his backyard."
300 smashed box office records when it opened in US theatres on March 9, earning $US70.9 million ($A87.87 million) in its first three days. It went on to earn $US135 million ($A167.32 million) in its first two weeks in the US, an impressive effort considering it cost just $US65 million ($A80.56 million) to make.
The film centres on the Ancient Greek battle of Thermopylae, which pitted just 300 Spartan warriors against tens of thousands of invading Persian soldiers.
Wenham, the 41-year-old who became a sex symbol in Australia playing Diver Dan in the late 1990s TV series Seachange, was cast as Dilios, a loyal foot soldier of Leonidas, the king of Sparta.
Wenham also narrates the film.
Scottish actor Gerard Butler plays King Leonidas.
Wisconsin-born Snyder, 41, was a fan of Wenham's before the audition tape landed in his office. Warner Bros executives were also keen on the Sydney-born actor.
"I wanted him early on," said Snyder, who directed 2004's horror classic, Dawn of the Dead, and is preparing to shoot the long-awaited comic book adaptation of Watchmen.
"The tape was just a technicality for everyone at the studio to say 'Yeah, he's great'.
"I had been a fan of David's for a long time and I knew he could do a good English accent from Lord of the Rings. He's just such a diverse actor.
"You see him in Moulin Rouge and you're like 'What? He's the same guy?'"
Spartans were some of the fiercest warriors in history with rock hard muscular bodies. They also wore minimal clothing and often wore nothing at all.
That meant Wenham, Butler and the rest of the cast could not hide their bodies.
Wenham needed to stack on muscle, while Butler had to lose kilos.
"I wasn't in shape at all," said Butler, the 37-year-old star of The Phantom of the Opera.
"I had been in Italy on holiday and three strangers came up to me and told me I was fat.
"I'd been eating a lot of cakes and my belly was hanging out and they said in the nicest way 'Look how fat you are'."
Wenham's fans will be stunned by the 10kg of muscle he added for the role.
Snyder hired Mark Twight, a former mountain climbing world record holder who trains special operations military personnel and ultimate cage fighters, to build the actors' bodies into Spartans.
Twight designed an eight-week program of tortuous exercises involving old fashioned training tools such as medicine balls and kettlebells. The program emphasised athleticism by combining compound movements.
"The training for me was a meditation on being a Spartan," Butler said.
"Every time I trained, it wasn't me training,
"It was Leonidas training.
"It gave me endurance and confidence and incredible strength."
It also made Butler confident for his naked scenes.
"You wanted to be naked," Butler said.
"The more naked you were the stronger you felt because you could shock your opponents.
"The Spartans were big and strong and wanted people to see that.
"They wanted their opponents to wonder 'Do we want to mess with him?'"
Wenham was not so sure about the skimpy outfits the Spartans wore.
300 is based on the the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller, who also created the Sin City graphic novel and co-directed the 2005 Sin City film starring Benecio Del Toro, Jessica Alba and Brittany Murphy.
Wenham read Miller's 300 and was concerned by the revealing Spartan outfits.
"David was confused and said to me 'What are we wearing in the movie. I'm a little scared. I've seen the graphic novel and not only do they wear little leather outfits some of the time, but in other times they're completely naked. What's your take on that?'," Snyder, laughing again, said.
"I said 'You'll be completely naked all the time'.
"I told him I was joking of course.
"Then David said 'OK, we're going to be in those little outfits. I'll need to do a little training'."