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Battling Spartans

We don a nice big hairy codpiece and oil up our rippling man boobs for this bloody epic 300 as we meet with director Zack Snyder

Bringing the epic and heroic story of 300 to the screen is the latest chapter in the story of what has proved to be a life changing moment in the childhood of legendary graphic novel mastermind Frank Miller. Miller was an awestruck five-year-old when he saw the 1962 movie The 300 Spartans which starred Richard Egan as King Leonidas, the Spartan monarch who thwarted the massed armies of the Persian ruler Xerxes at the narrow pass of Thermopylae.

And according to 300 director Zack Snyder, who also co-wrote the smash hit that stars Gerard Butler and Lena Headey, seeing that movie was to help shape everything that Miller went to go on to create in the world of the graphic novel. Snyder says that Miller was deeply affected by the realization that the Spartan heroes made the ultimate sacrifice by dying in order to save Greece and the western world from the invading hordes.

“That changed Frank’s life and in everything he did from Batman to Sin City to Leonidas they are all the same guy,” says the director. “He basically keeps writing the same character over and over because that moment was profound for him and it changed him for ever. That movie resonated with him and for the next 20 years all he thought about was making a Thermopylae story.”

Snyder shared that passion as he persuaded Warner Bros to green light his ambitious take on this graphic novel as he re-created the conflict between Sparta and Persia in Montreal when, during an arduous 60-day schedule, he shot this violent and stylish movie, which is an ambitious amalgam of acting and stunning special effects, against green and blue screen.

Since there are more than 1000 special effects shots in the visual blast that is this film, the technical demands are obvious but Snyder points out that the toughest thing about making 300 was the tightness of the shooting schedule.

“It was physically demanding on everybody,” says the director. “We were all on the edge and everybody was pretty much broken, but at the same time it was fun and rewarding.”

The greatest reward was the tidal wave of excitement that hit when audiences saw 300. The film took $70 million on the weekend of its release in the USA to become the biggest March opening ever. But Snyder reveals that there was never any anticipation during filming that they might be creating a box office phenomenon. “I don’t think we expected it to be such a hit; we thought it was a bit of a romp and fun,” he says.

Although he immersed himself in a mountain of research before filming got underway, the director goes on to stress that he never remotely considered that 300 might be considered as a big screen history lesson, his vision was to bring large scale entertainment to a global audience. “I went with Frank Miller’s view on Ancient Greek history, which meant I had to go further with the fantasy,” says Snyder. “The movie is closer to Pirates of the Caribbean than it is to Alexander. It is more in that world than a history film… I tried over and over to punctuate that, to say this was not real.”

by John Millar

Read the full interview and more on the movie in
Ultimate DVD #85

300 © Warner Bros. Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Ultimate DVD #85, see below for ordering options
Ultimate DVD #85
August 2007
ships from Jul 31 2007
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