Following the presentation of the first footage from the Warner Bros. distributed "Sucker Punch" at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Saturday, director Zack Snyder and producer Deborah Snyder sat down with CBR News for a chat about the film. The pair also discussed upcoming projects and director Snyder's fondness for the western genre.
"I think the crowd reaction was exactly what I would hope for," Zack Snyder said about the footage screened earlier that day to an eager Comic-Con crowd. Of course, in a venue of that size, Snyder looked to a closer group for reaction. "The only thing I had to gauge it on was really the girls. They hadn't seen the footage, either. They had no idea what they were going to see," he recalled. The cast includes Vanessa Hudgens, Jenna Malone, and Carla Gugino. "They were shaking and out of their minds. That was good."
The pair offered a list of elements seen in the footage. "There is a dragon," began Zack. "There's steampunk German soliders. There's orcs and knights," followed Deborah. "[There's] a giant twelve foot samurai with a giant gun - kind of like a samurai version of a minigun, so it's got all these Japanese engravings on it. Every shell casing, if you look at it closely, has [detail] engravings," Zack continued. The director agrees it is an invasion of his headspace.
The origins of "Sucker Punch" go back at least eight years. "It was really born from an idea I had about making this transition, visually, into a dreamworld. It just started building from there," Zack explained. The exact plot of the film is being kept under some secrecy, but features a girl using a dreamworld to escape an asylum. While the project was long in development, it appeared to come fast on the heels of Snyder's previous film, "Watchmen." This was a choice to keep the focus on that film. "We're always careful with what we announce and what we don't announce, just to keep the emphasis on what we're doing at the time. I don't like the message to get too diluted. We were knee deep in it [when 'Watchmen' was released]."
Now benefitting from a year's worth of reflection, the director understands the criticisms of "Watchmen," but sticks by his choices. "I wouldn't have made the movie any different knowing what I know now; I would've made it exactly the same way," Zack Snyder declared. On the issue of faithfulness, he knows he made the most faithful adaption possible. "I think that it's naïve to assume that there's another version - a more faithful version. That's one thing, for sure, you wouldn't get."
For Deborah Snyder, that issue of faithfulness presents a two-edge sword. "It's 'you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't,'" she said. "It was like: 'Oh, he was too faithful to the graphic novel' and others were like, 'where is the squid?' You can't please everybody. I think we're proud of it, because we felt like we did it with integrity."
The director admits he did have some concerns about switching the entity Adrian Veidt uses to unite the world from the squid to Doctor Manhattan, but received a boost of confidence from "Watchmen" artist Dave Gibbons. "When I talked to him about it - asked him if I was crazy - he was like, 'No, [of course not]. The squid was a layer of the graphic novel that we were always afraid wouldn't work,'" Zack remembered. While he does think the squid offers a good Lovecraftian imagine, it was difficult to work into a film.
Looking forward, Snyder is in the process of writing "Xerxes," the semi-sequel to "300," which will reportedly detail the Persian emperor's invasion of Greece. Unlike the first film, both projects are moving simultaneously. "[Frank Miller has] been showing me panels as he goes and so that's what we've been writing from," the director explained.
"[Zack] knows where it's going. He has a whole outline of what the whole trajectory of the story is," added Deborah Snyder.
"Frank changes his mind a little bit as he goes. So every time I look at it, [it's changed somewhat]," the director continued.
Beyond "Xerxes," Zack Snyder made reference to "a big sci-fi thing" he would like to direct. Deborah Snyder revealed they are also looking to produce a film. "Kirk Johnstad, who is Zack's writing partner, wrote this fantastic script called 'The Last Photograph,' that we really want to get off the ground very shortly," she said. The project would revolve around two men, one a photojournalist, journeying through Afghanistan.
"In some ways, it's like a western," Zack explained. He was involved in the script at a story stage. "In my mind, I always imagined these guys as going across a troubled landscape, it just happens to be Afghanistan. It's not really political. It's about the otherworldliness of that place more than the politics."
The director says some of his favorite films come from that genre. "Deborah doesn't like Westerns, but I'm a fan. Some of the movies that are most influential on me - even when everyone you know in film school says 'Seven Samurai,' - 'The Magnificent Seven' is the movie that I relate to a lot more," said Zack. "'The Searchers' is really one of my all time favorite movies. Those movies have a huge effect on the way I make pictures because I like big, giant, movies. I like moving pictures. I'm not into hand-heldy shakiness and weirdness. I like images, I like big pictures. I think that comes from loving Westerns." He is uncertain if he would ever try to make a straight western, but says they influence both "The Last Photograph" and his "big sci-fi thing."
Unlike other producing teams, Deborah Snyder says they prefer to keep their roster of projects to a minimum. "Our feeling is that we're not going to take on a project unless we can really be involved with it," she explained. "I think not only do you have to be there for the production of it, but you also, in this day and age, have to be out there in order to sell it and publicize [the film.]" To her, that work becomes important because a good film could go unnoticed. "You have to be on top of everybody to get it out there and it's a constant [effort]," she said. "If we can't do that, if we can't service it that way, then we'd rather not do it."
"Sucker Punch" opens March 25th, 2011