WonderCon: "300" Panel Discussion

Sat, March 3rd, 2007 at 12:00am PST

TV/Film
Michael Berry, Contributing Writer

Editor's Note: The following article contains adult language.

The standing-room-only WonderCon panel discussion of Zack Snyder's new film, "300," attracted a pack of ardent admirers of the screen adaptation of Frank Miller's Battle of Thermopylae graphic novel.

The first big buzz movie of 2007, "300" is presented by Warner Bros. and scheduled to open in theaters March 9.

Snyder, director of the recent "Dawn of the Dead" remake, introduced a brief video clip of Miller, who is recuperating from a fall that left him with a broken hip

Miller said, "Every culture worth a damn has its own Thermopylae. The Romans have their Horatio at the bridge. The Japanese have the feudal self-sacrifice of the 47 Ronin. My country has its Alamo. These battles are diamonds scattered glimmering against the dark tapestry of war. Each demonstrates the astonishing strength of the few, free and brave. Outnumbered an incomprehensible 100,000 to one, our heroes held their own."

He continued, "I've loved the story of the 300 since I was five years old. I drew it and wrote it as a comic book. As I watched from the bleachers and watched Zack Snyder work his magic, all I could do was cheer."

After expressing regret for not being able to participate first-hand in the publicity of the film, Miller said, "I can't wait to join the party that is '300.' It is amazing. You've never seen anything like it." He finished his introduction by growling, "Here it is. Come and get it!"

After the clip, Snyder said, "It is too bad that Frank's not here. In a lot of ways, I made the movie for him. After I showed him it, he took me aside and said to me, 'Listen, I saw the movie ["The 300 Spartans," starring Richard Egan as the Spartan King Leonidas] when I was child, and it changed the way I think about heroes. If you look at any of my characters, you can see a little bit of Leonidas in them.' He said, 'I wish the movie I'd seen as a child was the movie you've made.' Then he said, 'Of course, you can just imagine how fucked up I would have been if that had happened.'"

Snyder then introduced Headey and Butler to massive applause from the audience. Headey, who appears as Queen Gorgo in "300," is slated to star in the new "Terminator" television spin-off series "The Sarah Connors Chronicles." Butler has starred in "The Phantom of the Opera," "Beowulf and Grendel" and as Attila the Hun on British television. Once the actors were in place on the podium, Snyder presented a five-minute clip from the film.

The selection seemed to capture the excitement of the film. Leonidas and his compatriots, surrounded by Persian hordes, are forced to hack, slash and stab their way forward, until their opponents back over a cliff and into the sea. Throat-cuttings and spear impalements happen in "Matrix"-style "bullet time," and Leonidas snarls lines like "No prisoners!" and "Give them nothing, but take from them everything!" The clip was met with cheers, shouts and a thunderous round of applause.

The long line of questioners included fans who had seen "300" at preview screenings in Los Angeles or at WonderCon. Many launched into passionate compliments directed toward Butler and Headey, some on their performances, some on their looks. The queries ranged from the straight-forward to the outright bizarre. The actors good-naturedly answered in voices that advertised their Scottish and British upbringings.

Asked what his dream role might be, Butler declined to pick anything specific but said, "I love zaniness. I love weirdness and darkness and comedy. I would love to do a comedy. I'm funny!"

Asked whether the stylized spatters of blood that appear throughout the battle sequences are now one of Snyder's "trademarks," the director said, "When you see blood sprays, there'll be a little tm next to it. No, I just think it looked cool."

One fan suggested that "300" might be the movie that brings international fame to Butler and asked what he thought might be the worst aspect of instant recognition. Now shorn of the massive facial hair he sports in the film, Butler said, "That people will think that I look in normal life as if I'm giving a squirrel a blowjob." (See, he is a funny guy.)

Turning momentarily serious, Butler said, "I'm so glad that I've teamed up at a perfect point in my life with somebody else at a perfect point in his career. Everything about this film feels right."

One audience member praised Headey's performance as the warrior-queen Gorgo and wanted to know what it was like to work on a set with "so much raw testosterone."

Gerard Butler as King Leonidas

"It was quite distracting at times," Headey deadpanned. "But after a while it got boring."

Snyder talked about the difficulties of adapting a famous graphic novel. "You have the script, and you have the graphic novel and then you have to squish them together. If you look at Frank's panels, they tend to be these tableaus. He's not concerned with the linear progression of time that you experience when you see a movie." Snyder said that his solution was to find the iconic Frank Miller frames and weave the action through and between them.

Snyder was also asked about the possibility that he will direct a screen adaptation of "Watchmen." "I want to make it into a movie. The studio wants me to make it into a movie. We're talking about shooting it at the end of the summer. That's as good as I can give you. The studio might say, "It's an R-rated superhero movie. What the hell is that? There's no such thing.'"

The final audience member at the microphone asked about some supposed Christian imagery in "300," when Leonidas strikes a cruciform pose. Snyder declined to make a definitive interpretation, saying, "The Jesus pose is in the graphic novel like that. I'm just going with Frank. You gotta go with Frank!"

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