QUESTION: The energy level of 300 is very high. Was it a challenge to keep the whole set at that energy level?
ZACK SNYDER: Yeah. I think I’m an energetic guy anyway. I’m pretty physical, and it’s a physical film. When we first even just talked about making the movie, the first thing I thought about was, ‘How am I going to get these guys in shape? How am I going to get their energy level up so they can make this marathon, this 60 day run to the finish line that it was going to take for them to get it done?’ So, one of the first things I thought about was, ‘Okay, I need to get a trainer who can get them in shape.’ When you hire an English cast, you’re not hiring a traditionally fit group of guys, not to say anything against the English, fantastic people. They just aren’t as vain as we are in California. They tend to not go to the gym every day. They tend to have more fulfilled lives, and they don’t spend as much time. They spend more time at the pub than with iron. But the actors, when they came to train, the workouts were about their character. It wasn’t working out for vanity. It was working out for who they were in the movie. Spartans look a certain way. And I think that once everyone got into the workouts and understood the production methodology, they also then knew, ‘Okay, this is going to be a hard marathon to victor to the end.’ And they were all able, I think, to get it done, to stay up with me.
QUESTION: How did you feel about the fan base that comes with a project like this? Was that daunting, or did you embrace it?
ZACK SNYDER: It is daunting, but you have to embrace it. We didn’t water it down. We wanted to go right after the people that love this kind of movie. We wanted people, when they see it, to feel it as the genuine article and not a movie made by a committee, or in a boardroom. That was really important to me. I wanted, in the end, everyone, when they see the movie, to go, ‘Wow, there’s a purity to its vision.’ There weren’t compromises made. That was what I wanted it to look like.
QUESTION: Had you always conceived of this as a CG picture?
ZACK SNYDER: Early on, there were ideas that we would shoot it in just a blimp hangar and build Thermopylae with painted backgrounds. That was the really, I think, the early, early incarnation. And then the evolution to a full blue screen movie came, I think, as we realized the production restraints, in that we needed one set to be able to fulfill a multitask. For instance, there was one big set that looked like a big plop of concrete that we shot all around, and it turned into, like, 10 sets in the movie, because once you have blue screen and a horizon, you’re pretty much off the hook of reality. So, that was a big part of how we made the movie.
QUESTION: Before this movie, how big of a fan were you of Frank Miller’s work? And what stands out to you about his style?
ZACK SNYDER: I’ve been a huge Frank Miller fan for a long time. I came to graphic novels through a magazine called Heavy Metal Magazine, if you’ve ever read it. It’s an adult illustrated fantasy magazine, and I say that because my mother did not know it was adult and illustrated fantasy magazine. She thought it was a comic book. I read it a lot, and I tried not to let her see what was in it, because there’s a lot of sex and violence in it. And so she would try and give me comic books, in addition to Heavy Metal and I just didn’t really have a lot of taste for it. Only then – when Frank Miller was with Batman, around ’85 – did I get recharged into the comic book world. So, I followed Frank then, gobbled up anything he did. And I didn’t think I would ever get to make a movie out of one of Frank’s books. When I was in college, or after I got out of college, I wanted to make Sin City into a movie. I thought the Marv story would be a great movie. Clearly, it is. So, the idea that we could get our hands on 300 and make it into a movie, it was just, like, guys in film school talk about, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to make a movie that’s about 300?’ It’s, like, ‘Yeah, that’d be awesome. Let’s have another coffee.’ It seems impossible.
QUESTION: What was it like when the actors all showed up on set in their costumes for the first time?
ZACK SNYDER: It’s funny. Maybe for the first 20 minutes, everyone was a little self-conscious. But the truth is it’s like anything. You do that for three months and it becomes second nature. You see someone in clothes, and it’s weird. To see Gerry in a suit is weird.
QUESTION: How do the costumes express who these men are?
ZACK SNYDER: When you look at Frank’s book, we basically put them in the same clothes that Frank did in the drawings. And when you read that book, there’s nothing goofy about it. It’s completely hard and mean. I think that the actors – Gerry, certainly – just got it in his head of being, ‘okay, I’m a bad ass. I might be wearing this little outfit, but I’m a bad ass.’ I feel like it’s transcendent; you get what Frank was after. A lot of people have said to me, ‘Well, it’s not historically correct to have people in those outfits. They had armor on, whatever. And the great thing that Frank always says is, ‘Well, I didn’t want them to look like a bunch of beetles, like a bunch of armored beetles waddling around on the battlefield. That’s not my perception of what a Spartan is.’ But the cool thing is if you go to Thermopylae, and you look at the statue of Leonidas that’s at Thermopylae, he’s naked. That’s the Greek ideal. And that’s what the movie is. It’s how a Spartan would tell the story of the battle of Thermopylae. It’s the idealized version.
QUESTION: What is it like to know that comic book fans are all for this movie, and that there’s great word of mouth behind this film? For you as a comic fan, does that feel good?
ZACK SNYDER: It feels really great. The comic book fans have embraced the film, and in some ways I’m glad because I made it in a lot of ways for them. I think they feel that. They’re an audience that doesn’t get a lot of love from Hollywood, I think, in a lot of ways. A lot of times their beloved works get taken and bastardized, and then regurgitated to America, and they say, ‘Oh, look, this is a comic book movie, made in a boardroom by a bunch of guys in suits who’ve never read a comic book.’ With this movie, I think they feel the hand of Frank Miller upon them; that’s what they want.
QUESTION: Watchmen, your next project, is also based on a graphic novel.
ZACK SNYDER: Yeah, Watchmen is a graphic novel, and it is a daunting and scary piece. When I was first approached and someone said, ‘Hey, do you want to make Watchmen into a movie?’ I was, like, ‘Are you kidding me, no. Why would anyone want to do that?’ But as I thought about it, I really studied it. Look, I love the thing. So, to do it is, again, it seems impossible. Seven years ago, or whatever, if you would have asked me, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if you made Watchmen into a movie?’ I would have said, ‘There’s no way. How do you get there? From where I am right now, how do you get to the place where I’m making Watchmen into a movie?’ George Romero, Frank Miller, and then Alan Moore – it’s weird. It’s not a thing I planned. It’s a crazy pedigree.
QUESTION: Did you have new media in mind while making 300?
ZACK SNYDER: I didn’t have it in mind because I just said, ‘This is a great shot. We need to make it like this.’ But if you download the trailer to your iPod, it looks awesome on your iPod. I have 300 on my video iPod. I was, like, ‘Oh, my God.’ It looks really great in IMAX, and on your iPod. I don’t know. We didn’t do that on purpose.