LOS ANGELES—Zack Snyder was convinced that the script and vision he had for a movie based on Frank Miller's graphic novel 300 would meet with a positive response from Hollywood studios. Unfortunately, his timing was wrong. His prospective film about the Battle of Thermopylae, which pitted 300 warriors from the Greek city of Sparta against the legions of Persian leader Xerxes, was being pitched at a time when several other similar movies were in production. In the interview room of a Los Angeles hotel, Snyder admits that the last thing you want to do in Hollywood is try to sell a movie that isn't needed.
“When we first took it around to the studios, no one was interested because Troy and Alexander were in production, and I think that when they looked at what we wanted to do with this, they didn't feel it was a necessary film. We went to every studio, and then when we had run out of ideas, we [Snyder, cowriter Kurt Johnstad, and the would-be producers] thought about making it independently. Then [2004's] Dawn of the Dead came to me, and I said, ”˜I have to go out and make this but I will be back,' and when I was gone the producers were thinking about making it with another director. They sent it out to others but no one wanted to do it. I was still interested. My feeling was that I had seen a ton of scripts for other graphic novels, but nothing was as cool as this.”
The movie Snyder has made is called 300, and it will be released next Friday (March 9). It stars The Phantom of the Opera?'s Gerard Butler as the Spartan king Leonidas and Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo. Snyder says that when he read the graphic novel, he found that there was very little about the relationships between the men who go off to battle and their loved ones, but he knew that if the film was going to resonate with a larger audience than those who had read Miller's work, he and Johnstad would have to add something about the people who were left behind. He was particularly interested in fleshing out the character of Gorgo, a woman who history says was as strong as her husband.
“I felt that we should remind the audience about why this handful of men are fighting these millions. We expanded the story line and made the queen's part bigger. We felt that if we were going to start hanging out with her she should be a bad ass, and that is how her story line evolved. I had two lines that were attributable to her, including ”˜Only Spartan women give birth to real men,' which I had found in my research. Frank had used the line ”˜Come back with your shield or on it,' and I felt if you used those two lines you would have a pretty tough cat. She is strong but sensitive and she is really complex, which I thought was cool.”