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Exclusive Interview with "300" Writer/Director Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder Talks About the Challenges of Bringing "300" to the Screen


Exclusive Interview with

Gerard Butler, Frank Miller, Zack Snyder, and David Wenham after the "300" Presentation at the 2006 San Diego Comic Con.

© Richard Chavez
Writer/director Zack Snyder (2004's "Dawn of the Dead") adapted Frank Miller's gorgeous - and brutally violent - graphic novel "300" for the big screen, with Gerard Butler in the lead role of King Leonidas. While the production diaries for "300" have been on the Internet for months, it wasn't until the 2006 San Diego Comic Con that Snyder's take on Miller's work sprang to life for audiences to check out. The "300" clip shown to the crowd of 5,000 was met with cheers - a good indication that Snyder got things right.

The Reaction to the “300” Footage Screened for the Comic Con Crowd: The audience – and “300” stars Gerard Butler and David Wenham – watched the footage and then begged for more. Snyder says that reaction was exactly what he’d been hoping for. “I looked at it and I feel like…You know, I have sort of a 15 year-old’s aesthetics so when I look at it I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. I hope other people think it’s cool.’ I don’t know what else to do. It was what I hoped for, and I felt like they got it. Of course they got it. If anybody gets it, these guys do (laughing).”

Did possessing the aesthetics of a 15 year-old contribute to how he adapted Frank Miller’s graphic novel into a feature film? “To some degree,” said Snyder. “I feel like Frank’s book, you look at it and you’re like, ‘That’s cool fighting, cool story, warrior sacrifice.’ That’s cool stuff so when I looked at it… I had the book originally and when I saw it in Gianni [Nunnari’s] office I was like, ‘We should make this into a movie, not this dumb crap – all these scripts that I get.’” Snyder joked about the horrible scripts he’s given. “Yeah, I mean, it’s Hollywood. That’s all there is, isn’t it? Anyway, but no, so you just look at those pictures and you’re like, ‘That’s awesome. That’s awesome. That’s awesome.’ Every shot is awesome.”

Adapting Frank Miller’s Work Into a Feature Film: “It’s a bit of a process but I think that once you start into it, you start to get a sense of how like you can do it. First I think it’s a challenge because everyone doesn’t know what to do, but then once they do it once or twice or three times, then it becomes [natural].”

Collaborating with Frank Miller: “Frank was really awesome, and also Frank would [help out]. For instance the swords…like in the book they’re really kind of hard to see. So I said, ‘Frank, knock me up a good drawing of the sword.’ Boom, boom, [it’s done] and the next day in FedEx it would arrive. So I have all those – I kept all those (laughing).”

Zack Snyder on the Storyboard Process: “It’s crazy. The way I normally work is I… The crazy thing is with Frank’s frames, I would draw all the frames before Frank’s frames. Then I try and work the story through Frank’s frames and then out the other side because in the movie, you have to people walk from here to over there. Where in a graphic novel, you can have the one moment and then that’s it. When I was drawing my boards I would actually just cut out Frank’s frames and stick it in my book and then draw on this side of it and that side of it.”

The Special Challenges of Working with Green Screens: “You know at first it’s hard because nobody knows where the hell they are, and so they’re all confused. ‘Oh, Thermopylae is over here and now it’s over here…’ For me I kind of had a sense of where everything was and so I would just be like, ‘Don’t [worry], it’s okay. You’re looking that way,’ or whatever and I’d put a piece of tape over there. Once they got into the groove of it, it was pretty easy. The thing is when they really fight, that’s when they’re a little bit clearer because I think when you have someone physically trying to jab you in front of you, you tend to be not caring about where everything is. So that worked out.”

The Costumes – Or Lack Thereof: One of the first questions posed to the panel by a member of the Comic Con crowd had to do with the costumes of “300.” Snyder laughed, “Frank Miller drew it so I don’t know what to tell you. Actually they’re naked in Frank’s drawings so it’s… I mean, not everyone. They do have that in some of the shots. But when the Persian messenger arrives in Frank’s book, Leonidas comes out nude with just his cape. I was like, ‘You know, if there’s a way they could just not be full frontal…’”

“300’s” R Rating: “300” is rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity. After seeing the clips presented at Comic Con, it's clear "300" got the rating it deserved. Snyder says he never intended to make "300" anything less than an R-rated film. “That’s why they gave me the budget they gave me.”

The Status of “Watchmen”: “'Watchmen?' I’m waiting to see if it’s awesome. I’m waiting to get a script that I like. When it’s awesome – it’s like I said in the [“300” panel], when it’s not trying to fix it and do it, then I’ll do it. I want to do it; I just want it to be right.”

Zack Snyder Interview Video: Play the Clip

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