Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder has some decent sized credits to his name including Dawn Of The Dead, 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch.  That said, Man Of Steel is his biggest film to date and while in Sydney for the Australian premiere, I was fortunate enough to speak with him about the experience.  You can listen to a 2 minute extract from the interview by clicking here and check out my review of the film by clicking here.

Matt:  We saw this series go through a reboot in 2006 with Superman Returns and here we are 7 years later, doing it again.  What’s the deal?  Why another reboot?

Zack:  I think that movie was still a continuation, to some degree, of the Richard Donner storyline.  For me, when Chris Nolan and I were talking about it, we were “let’s just say that no Superman films had ever been made and then how would we approach it.”  That was the challenge but also the fun.  There hasn’t been an origin story for Superman since 1978 and I remember my kids going “wait, what, Superman comes from another planet?”

Matt:  This is a dream role for any actor and I’m sure plenty of big names would have been interested in pulling on the cape.  The name Henry Cavill will be unknown to many so what was it about him that made you think he was the right fit?

Zack:  As an unknown, he’ll now become Superman for a whole generation.  When they watch the movie, they’ll see Superman first and not a big-name actor behind.  I also think Henry has the persona of Superman and the look of Superman.

Matt:  As is the case with an origin film in any series, there’s a lot of background material to cover in addition to telling a current day story.  As a filmmaker, how do you weigh that balance up?

Zack:  I’m a fan of the character so I’m looking for the fun stuff more than anything else.  I am interested in the backstory of Superman and understanding the “why” of the man is a big deal to me.  It’s tough though because you don’t want to go off on a tangent that you can’t get back from but I did want to spend as much time as I could learning about Krypton and Kansas and all that stuff.

Matt:  Well I liked the way you’ve told it by way of flashback.  Instead of keeping it all in chronological order, you stay interested in both the current day story and the past day story at once.

Zack:  Right.  It was important to me.  It helps the audience understand the decisions he’s making as he makes them because you’re getting that little reflection from the past to inform you.

Matt:  Superhero movies have been all the rage over the past decade.  We’ve seen lighter films like Iron Man and Spider Man, but I notice here you’re going with something a little darker like the recent Batman trilogy.  Did a lot of thought go into the film’s tone at the outset?

Zack:  I guess so.  Superman was the first and the most powerful superhero.  All superheroes are derivative of Superman.  I just felt that there’s a gravitas to his mythology that I wanted everyone to understand.

Matt:  Do you think the idea of super hero movies will reach a saturation point?  There seem to be so many at the moment.

Zack:  Yeah, I don’t know.  I guess it’s possible but superhero movies are modern mythology.  We use them to understand the world in some ways and since modern problems don’t seem to be going away, I don’t think there’s going to be any backlash against superhero movies in the near future but who’s to say?

Matt:  Since it was a comic book, many have made reference in the religious undertones in the story – the whole idea that this guy comes down from the sky to save the world.  I noticed that you’ve slipped in a few references here such as a scene where Clark Kent seeks guidance from his local priest.  Is this something that you want the audiences to be thinking about?

Zack:  Totally.  I wanted to shine a light, as I said, on the mythical power of Superman and what he’s able to bear on his shoulders in context to the story.  It’s vastly more than other superheroes can.  If you were making any Christ-like references in another superhero movie, I don’t know if that could work but because he’s Superman, you understand that it’s in his DNA and it’s how he was created.

Matt:  We know that superhero movies often spawn numerous sequels.  When putting this film together are you already thinking that far ahead?  Deliberately leaving a few loops open and knowing that you’ll be closing them down the track?

Zack:  To some degree but we really did try to shoot all our bullets in this movie and then have the problem in the second movie be like “oh, what do we do?”  I feel like that’s the way to make the best movie – by not holding anything back.  In the end, you have this amazing character and I’d be naïve to say that we didn’t hope to spawn another movie or so.

Matt:  You shot the film in 2D but then the 3D effects were added in post production.  Why is that?

Zack:  With what they’re able to do with conversion today, I don’t understand why anyone would want to shoot in 3D.  It’s so good and I feel it is the only way to do it.

Matt:  You’ve been in the industry for a while now with credits like Dawn Of The Dead, 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch.  As a director, how do you gauge your own performance?  Do you look at box-office takings?  What critics think?  What the public say in internet forums?

Zack:  I feel like the only way to do it is to sit down at the end, watch the movie and go “did I like it and did I do what I set out to do?”  All those other things are variables that you can’t control.  It’s great if a film is commercially successful but as an artist, you have to look at it and go “is this my intention?” and then see how you feel after that.

Matt:  What plans do you have going forward?  You’ve done a lot of action-based stuff so far.  Is there a desire to go off to do something completely different, like a romantic comedy, or is this a genre you like sticking with?

Zack:  I don’t really look at movies that way.  I rather make movies that I think are interesting and fun for me to think about.  I don’t necessarily go “I need to make an action movie”.  If I wake up in the middle of the night and writing something or drawing something about an idea, they are the ones I tend to stay with because they’re the ones that keep me awake at night.  I think that’s the only way you can decide what to do because you have to be passionate about it for a long time to make a movie.