Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
The 300 online press event Warner Bros organized Friday, which was hosted by Second Life, went quite well, as director Zach Synder, writer Frank Miller and actors Gerard Butler, Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro engaged in an extensive audio chat, answering questions presented by the online bloggers and podcasters who were there. For your convenience, I broke down the information I gathered at the event into a category for each person (plus an additional one for Watchmen info, which was a popular question topic), so if you’re only interested in reading about Frank Miller, then you can just read his category.
When asked whether 300 matches the “film inside his head when writing 300,” Miller claimed that he never really viewed 300 as a film in his head, but that he was over-joyed with what Snyder did with the film, and felt that Snyder took the film “some place unexpected and in general, just amplifying and making it more powerful than anything in my head.”
Miller had just met with Robert Rodriguez a few days earlier, and they almost have the script to Sin City 2 ready, and are planning on going to prep stages within the next few weeks with the hope of beginning filming by June. Miller could not mention specific actors, as official contracts have not been signed yet, but he amusingly noted “believe all the rumors!”
Miller was not involved in the additional scenes of 300, except that he was shown the script before they were filmed and made minor suggestions every once in awhile. For the most part, though, he felt that 300 was entirely Snyder’s film, and let him do it on his own. His favorite additional scene was when “We will fight in the shade” line was delivered with almost a giggle (and he also loved seeing Queen Gorgo “whip out that sword and skewer that bastard”).
When asked what they would protect most (like the Spartans), most of the folks gave joke answers (Headey said “My passport” while Butler said “My groin area”), but Miller said, “Not to be funny, my freedom.”
Miller has someone in mind for the Spirit, but he can’t reveal who or else “I’d have to kill myself.”
Miller had nothing new to say about any other comic book film adaptations, besides Sin City 2 and the Spirit, of course.
When asked about the ending of the story (the question was first directed to Snyder, who just said that he followed Miller’s ending, so maybe Miller should field the question), Miller explained that he could have done a conventional ending using actual events, with Xerxes having Leonidas beheaded, but he felt it worked better if we actually saw the fulfillment of Leonidas’ earlier promise, that the Spartans would galvanize Greece against Persia. As an aside, Miller joked that he reconsidered his original ending upon meeting Gerard Butler.
Speaking of where he finds inspiration, Miller said that he finds it everywhere nowadays. At first, he remarked, he started out “the honest All-American way – I stole – from comic books, from cartoons,” but now, you walk down a city block, and you are passing buildings that might as well be comic book panels filled with stories waiting for you to grasp them.
Snyder made a very interesting point regarding internet support of 300. He referenced the fact that previously, there has been big internet buzz around films, but those folks that said that they’d champion the film never really showed up at the box office (I can only presume he is referring to the large internet buzz surrounding Snakes on a Plane, which fizzled when it actually came to box office receipts). This time, though, those same internet fans who said they’d champion the film actually did this time around, making 300 a huge financial success. He feels, then, that trying out new marketing techniques on the internet (like, for instance, doing an online press event on Second Life, natch) is very important for the selling of films these days.
In discussing how the film project came about, Snyder stated that he was in Gianni Nunnari’s office, looking at different film scripts when he came across a copy of 300 on Nunnari’s desk. Up until then, Snyder refers to the other scripts as “just movies,” but upon looking at a scene in 300 where Leonidas is pelted with arrows, he stated that “That would make for such a cool looking shot in a movie.” And at that point, Snyder decided that “If we could make a movie look like this, then that would be a reason to make a movie.”
That, also, is why he felt it was so important to make the film look as much like Miller’s original work as possible, because Snyder feels that most action films look like they were put together by a studio committee, but here, they could show the audience a particular artist’s point of view, which Snyder feels that audiences really want to see.
Snyder mentioned that the 300 DVD will most likely not include a “Director’s Cut,” as he posits that the film that was released WAS his cut of the film. However, the DVD will include a sequence cut from the film. One bonus feature, in particular, that Snyder is currently hoping to include is the short film that Snyder did to convince Warner Brothers to let him do 300, which involved hundreds of arrows piercing Warner Brothers’ logo.
He responded to the Iranian controversy by saying that they “didn’t want to be mean to anyone or denigrate any particular race, but were just trying to present the story as it was rendered in the comic” and that he hoped those people would understand their “real intentions.” Miller tossed in a sardonic comment about forgiving John Wayne because he killed so many Americans in his films.
Snyder wouldn’t even consider doing a prequel/sequel of the film (299? 301?) unless Miller first wrote one. He did mention that Miller once told him about a sequel idea involving the Spartans as the bad guys. However, Miller was quick to point out that while he has a precise idea of what the sequel will be, but as he told Warners, that’s all anyone gets without paying.
When asked if he would do another zombie movie, Snyder joked that, what you don’t know is that something happens to the Spartans at the end of 300 – they rise up as zombies. “Tonight we dine on brains!”
Snyder did some of the same Spartan training that the actors went through as well.
The film is still being held up in approval by the studio, with one of the biggest factors being the studio’s reluctance to make the film R-rated. It is here that Snyder cites 300 as a major benefit towards seeing an R-rated Watchmen, as 300 has proven that an R-rated comic book movie can be a financial success.
Snyder can not discuss any actors yet, as the deals are not in place yet. He made a joke that, once he mentions someone’s name in press, they could then say, “Oh, I need more money.” He did debunk a rumor that Tom Cruise was interested in Watchmen.
Watchmen is in a look/development stage, where they are trying to see what the characters would look like, while trying to stay as faithful to the comic book as possible. As Snyder points out, with the success of Spider-Man’s costume, you know have this extremely high standard of sophistication to measure up to, and anything less will just not be taken seriously by the audience. So questions of texture and fabrics are very important at this point.
Throughout the event, Miller and Butler had a lot of bantering back and forth (Butler remarks, “Frank gets me everywhere, the real world, the film world and now the online world!”).
Butler mentioned that he began training about four months before the film, six hours a day (two for stunt work, four for “boot camp” – to get him into shape). Also, Butler put in a lot of research into his role (besides just reading the book often) as a Spartan. Finally, he remarked that a lot of his preparation also involved trusting Snyder, that he would not make Butler look stupid when the backgrounds were added (he joked, “I just hoped he wouldn’t make it look like I was fighting, like, penguins or something”).
There were, as expected, a number of injuries throughout the film. Butler explained that he felt like he had Tendonitis in every part of his body after filming was complete, but he also had a hip flexor at one point (which, if you don’t know what that is, is really, really quite gross). Snyder chimed in with another interesting “injury,” which was the apple scene. As it turned out, Butler had just eaten a full meal when the apple scene began, and so after having to eat about fourteen apples in twenty minutes right after eating a full meal, he was (quite understandably) nauseous by the time they finished the scene.
Butler has not yet dined in hell, but he said he expected to in the not-to-distant future.
When asked which actors he is influenced by, Butler explained that he tried not to use any particular actor as an inspiration because, as he notes, “you just end up being compared to them, and you’ll never be as good. So you always want to do your own thing.” As far as inspiration, though, Butler cited Miller’s work. He said that everything there, right down to the poses Leonidas strikes, influenced how he approached the character (that, and discussing the character with Snyder).
He discussed a little about the recent announcement that he is playing Snake Plissken in a new Escape from New York remake (Ken Nolan writing the script). But there isn’t even a director yet, so this is not a project Butler is going to work on right away.
When asked if he planned on visiting Japan, Butler talked of his admiration for the country, explaining how, the last time he was there (presumably working on a project), he stayed an extra ten days to explore the country (Miller remarked that Butler should “go fight a giant robot”). He then said that he hopes to come to Japan to promote 300, and he thinks it will be big there.
Butler replied to a question of whether he got into opera singing (referring to his Phantom of the Opera role) by explaining that it was interesting to note how actually knowing technically HOW to sing changes the way you approach singing, but that he has now eventually gotten back to his old self, but not singing opera, more like Rolling Stones’ songs (Butler was once in a rock band).
Butler doesn’t think that he will ever get into the same shape as he got into for 300, and in fact, he doesn’t think he could anymore.
When asked about what music he likes, Butler cited “Frank Miller and the Disco Chicks,” “Frankplay” and the “Rolling Franks.” And then he seriously mentioned an Icelandic band that he enjoys called Sigur Ros.
Butler enjoyed the fact that his character was killed, as he found his death scene one of the best parts of the film.
He was asked if he had ever kicked someone in the chest, and Butler admitted that yes, in the past, he actually has kicked someone in the chest (“I’m a Glasgow boy you know”).
When asked her thoughts about the role of women in ancient Greece, Headey explained that she did not really research it all that much, but imagined that the women were pretty tough back then. She also added that she had a blast working on the film.
Headey has filmed a pilot for a series following Sarah Conner after T2, with her playing Sarah Conner. She buffed up for the role, but not to the extent of Linda Hamilton (“I would need steroids to get that buff”). They’re currently waiting until May to see if it gets picked up by any channel.
She has eclectic tastes in music, everything from Razorlight to Joni Mitchell.
When asked what she was currently working on, Headey joked “getting a flight somewhere sunny.”
Santoro also worked out for about four months (not to the same extent as the Spartans, of course) to play Xerxes, but the make-up was for five hours a day, with the piercings and all.
He loved the costumes, remarking that they were the most interesting clothes he had ever worn. Miller chimed in to note that he was astonished when he saw Santoro as Xerxes, because, when he drew him, he never thought anyone would ever get it right using an actual person.
When asked about whether he’d have a flashback episode on Lost (where he became a new cast member this season), he said “Stay tuned,” but then noted that he cannot talk about upcoming episodes on Lost, except to note that the viewers will learn more about his character this season.
Thanks to Warner Brothers, Zach Synder, Frank Miller, Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Steve Coulson and his associates, and Second Life for hosting the event.
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