INT: Zack Snyder

Coming from the world of music videos, Zack Snyder really burst onto the movie scene with the "We all thought it would suck, but it was pretty good" DAWN OF THE DEAD remake. Now he's coming back full force with his second feature film called 300, from a Frank Miller graphic novel. We met up with Zack on the set of 300 in Montreal, Canada and he was in good spirits, willing and eager to talk shop about his latest project. You got the floor Zack!

Zack Snyder

Did Sin City make a big difference for this, maybe by this time it has. It did so well. But you said Warner Brothers is looking more at the movie like Alexander?

That was movie the movie they imagined, for sure. You know when we talked to them about it their initial takes were like, “Why do this?”, I mean, we own the Greek epic, I mean we did it to death. Why do it again, it seems crazy, and so that was really the whole selling point was that we were like look, you know, it’s not that, it’s something else. It’s time to do it over. It’s time to do something else.

What else is that something else?

I’m not trying to say that when you go see this movie you’re getting in a time machine and getting to go back to ancient Greece, you know, it’s something else, it’s a point of view. Because there’s a storyteller who tells the story of the movie, and that a lot of it is seen through his eyes, it allows that to be what you see instead of like someone saying, “That’s not what a Persian immortal looked like”, you know, and things like that so we were like screw it. Frank’s drawing of the immortals is very similar to what we’re doing, and I’m cool with that ‘cause I feel like people want it to be, they want it to be one louder.

With Dawn of the Dead, the expectations couldn’t be lower, now everyone’s seen Dawn, and realized it’s great, and now you’re coming onto 300 with all these expectations and so it’s sort of the opposite.

Yeah, and also Frank’s pedigree so, it’s so hot, you know so everyone’s like, “It better be awesome.” I think Sin City was great especially as far as rendering Frank’s world into a movie. With 300, the illustrations in the book are so different from the work in Sin City. He has a narrow window of tolerance for bullshit. We’re balls out, trying to make it as crazy as we can, and not think about it too hard as far as “Is it like a movie?” in the traditional sense. I think that ‘s what Warner Bros. thought we were doing. Is it a normal movie? No, it’s very much like the book, the dialogue is almost exactly like the book and so it just is crazy, I like it ‘cause it’s crazy. That goes back to what I feel, like the pressure I feel like I don’t want to fuck it up. And also when we did Dawn, everyone was like, “This is going to be crap” and I was all pissed about that so that was a great motivating factor.

Have you done the research, have you looked at the old film “300 Spartans”, have you read “Gates of Fire” or have you very much kept to this book?

I did a lot of research, I read a lot of history and I know the true history of Sparta but it doesn't have much to do with this. By the way, when you start to read the true history, Frank has done an awesome job, squishing it into the size that it is.

How much did you seek Frank’s collaboration?

I sent the script, and I was seeking it in the sense that I said I wanna make that book into a movie as much as I could, I made those frames and beyond that, it hasn’t been like an experience where I call him up and go, “Hey is this what you thought?”

But you’ve added some characters, and were you worried at all that he wouldn’t accept them?

I did, and you know, I wanna say he’s been very gracious with that. It was really a matter of like, “Should we have someone other than just a bunch of guys running around in leather bikinis, should we add something else, does it need another layer?” And honestly, it works out.

Take me back to the scene that we just saw being filmed? What were you looking for, because you shot it a couple of different times, what weren’t you getting? .

Whenever we’re doing the action, there are particular beats in the fighting that have to be clean, and you know I like to try and cover the action in as long a take as possible and as wide as I can and that required the action to be really clean. So if a guy misses, you know, his line on a certain jab or whatever, it kinda doesn’t work.

Where did the orgy scene idea come from?

Look in the book, when he goes to the tent and there are these dancing girls.

Was there ever a point where you were thinking of shooting outdoors?

Honestly, I always was interested in a City of the Lost Children like version of the movie where you built all the sets practically on stage, but gigantic. That was like 5 years ago, then I said, let’s do it with blue screen. Did you guys see the test?


We shot a little test for Warner Bros. I got a bunch of guys to fight and we filmed it on stage. That was like our first staged look, so it’s evolved. It’s gotten better & better. It gives a good sense of the violence and attitude of the movie. The style allows you to have a little more irony and fun.

We were told your tattoo artist is coming in soon to do some tattoos. What are you doing with him?

We’re doing a few different tattoos with Adam, he’s gonna do the midget archers. It’s pretty much the montage of day 3 where the elephants come and slip and fall off the cliffs and we just added a little bit more to that like rhinos and like kind of armless giant types with these midgets riding them, shooting arrows. Kind of a little bit like a freak show.

How many midgets are there in Sparta?

No, they’re Persian giants with midget archers. And they have tattoos on their legs and stuff like that. There’s a bunch of like crazy stuff like, it’s kind of a cool montage of weirdness that he throws at them on the 3rd day, he preserves a freakiness.

Rodriguez was very specific in Sin City was how he showcased blood, you know the colors, the saturations and stuff like that. How graphic are you with it? Is it spilled everywhere? How are you handling it?

It’s a very digital element in a lot of cases, not in all cases. ‘Cause there’s like hits that the blood is going to be such a big part of it. The actual sprays and things like that are things we wanted to control exactly. ‘Cause part of the painting is the blood itself, it’s kinda part of the aesthetic of it. It’s like if you look at the frame and there’s too much red….

Is there too much?

Absolutely, there’s too much. There’s a sort of surrealness to the violence in the movie. I feel like the more surreal the violence is, the more violence you can have without people going like “ew”, it’s not like a slasher flick, but the frame does need to be balanced by blood spraying here and blood spraying there. It’s that kind of aesthetic.

Is doing it digitally, does that mean that when you submit this for rating that you can just go back and just scale back?

That’s my hope. (Laughs.) ‘Cause on Dawn I had a lot of trouble, like 4 times.

The narrating, have you thought about that?

There’s a lot of narration in the movie. Delios tells all of this stuff, all the squares are voice-overs. It’s funny, ‘cause when I first turned the script in, everyone was like “God there’s a lot of voice-over and I was like did you read the comic book?”

Have the darker toned films of the summer help this film to happen?

Yeah, I don’t know why that is. I think it’s a backlash against this PG-13 thing that Hollywood has. I have six kids myself, I don’t think this is a kids movie. I hope that there’s something else to this film, though, not say OK, if you want standard Hollywood fare that’s cool, you can go over to this line, or if you want something else, then stand in this line.

Source: JoBlo.com



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