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Exclusive interview: Producer Gianni Nunnari's epic struggle for '300'

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 9, 2007 | Publication: Comic2Film | Author: Rob M. Worley

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The movie "300" may stand as the crowing achievement of producer Gianni Nunnari's "Greek Period" of filmmaking. Since the mid-1990's the producer has been working to bring several historic epics to the big-screen. His attempt to bring the story of the battle of Troy to life was thwarted when a competing effort gained momentum (and was eventually released, with Brad Pitt starring). This did not discourage Nunnari, whose effort resulted in the 2004 motion picture "Alexander".

"During this period of passion of Greek mythology and history, of course we came across the battle of Thermopylae," Nunnari told Comics2Film in an exclusive interview. The story of King Leonidas was familiar to him, as it had inspired him as kid.

"I wanted to do it but it was difficult. I was in love with a couple of serious books based on the battle," the producer said referring specifically to Steven Pressfield's book "Gates of Fire". In what may have seemed like a repeat of the "Troy" development, "Gates of Fire" was already in development, with Michael Mann attached to direct for Universal.

"I was in love with this epic piece of history. I wanted to find something different. 'Is there any way we can do this piece of history in a more reduced-role, hard R way,'" the director mused.
View the '300' photo gallery

View the '300' photo gallery

View the '300' photo gallery

Bring it!

It already been brought!

View the entire '300' phtoto gallery

It was at this time that he came across a collected edition of Frank Millers' "300", a comic that he had read individual issues but now could finally read in its entirety. Seeing the graphic novel galvanized the drive to make a film about Thermopylae.

"I called the office right away and said, 'Listen, you guys should read this. Maybe that's the way to do it. I think it's fantastic,'" the producer told C2F, but he wasn't just talking about a loose adaptation. He told his partners, "'Just make the movie the same, exact way, like the graphic novel.'"

Although the start of development on "300" pre-dated it by many years, comparisons to 2005's "Sin City", which was also slavishly faithful to Miller's source material, are unavoidable.

"What Frank does is give producers or the industry of movie-making a new way to present a beautiful story. Of course you need to be faithful to Frank because that's what makes the story unique," Nunnari says, acknowledging that you could easily make a King Leonidas movie from historical texts.

"I think that the graphic novels of Frank are actually mini-movies on page. The fact that he doesn't care about, 'Oh, I need to write it in a way that it could become a movie,' he makes it completely original, you know?"

Of course, the movie is not the graphic novel, and not purely the vision of a single artist. The film is filtered through the perspective of director Zack Snyder as well.

"Zack really knew in his mind the movie that he wanted to do," Nunnari said. However, following that vision took the production into relatively new territory. While it's certainly not the first movie to place live actors primarily on computer-generated sets, this kind of production did pose special challenges.

"It was extremely difficult because you're shooting into a green screen, in a warehouse in Montreal," Nunnari admits. "Even when we were looking at dailies, we'd just see a bunch of actors with red capes and leather speedos, acting and moving, so you don't really get the feel. You need to wait for the special effects and the CGI shots to come in."

We asked Nunnari if he had any doubts or fears about the pieces coming together correctly.

"You are the first journalists to ask me this question. I like it. I never thought about it myself," the producer mused before continuing, "The reality is, if I never thought about it, I was never scared.

"Everything that Zack would do even from the first moment we met…he would always deliver something more than the expectation. So if you expect from 1-6 and you get 5, you still would hope that it would be a good product. If he delivers 7, you never worry, right?

"Zack had a tremendous finished complete vision in his brain already. He always delivered at least an 8."

Like any big Hollywood picture, there is already talk of a sequel, but Nunnari is playing it cool. "First we like to be with our feet on the ground. Let's wait for the movie to come out this weekend. Let's see how it performs throughout the world. We love our movie. It's good but still; let's see the results."

Director Zack Snyder has said he would only do a sequel if it were based on a Frank Miller graphic novel. Currently Miller has not generated that piece of work. We asked Nunnari if he would push forward with a follow up without a Frank Miller graphic novel or without Zack Snyder holding the reins.

"No way," was his emphatic answer, although he also adds, "If the audience will demand a sequel I'm sure it's very easy for Frank to come up with a sequel. And, of course, it's easy for Zack to be the director of it."

Warner Bros' "300" opens today in theaters around the world.


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