Even in high school, Zack Snyder—the director behind the brawny graphic-novel adaptation, 300—was quite the Renaissance man. Back then he played sports, nerded out to comic books, shot film shorts with his Super 8 camera, and literally hung out at, yes, Renaissance fairs. That quad-fecta of hobbies has converged handily with his latest movie, Watchmen, a doomsday thriller based on the seminal superhero miniseries by writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons. And it’d be no sweat off Snyder’s back, were this intricate work not deemed unfilmable, as directors Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, and Paul Greengrass, who have all tried, may attest. NYLON Guys spoke with the indefatigably enthusiastic Snyder—currently scripting his dark action pic Sucker Punch and prepping his animated owl film Guardians of Ga’hoole—about this Herculean feat.
You’re both jock and geek. Aren’t they supposed to be mortal enemies?
It’s true. I’d been making movies since I was about 11. It was very Rushmore-ian. I needed the parts to be played by all sorts of characters, so I needed jocks and geeks alike. It was good that I had both in my camp. My senior year, I kind of quit sports after meeting this supercool bodybuilder named Jim Arden [who was a teacher at his school]. He had a big, gray beard and his hair in corn rows—I’d never come across anyone as eccentric. He had a gym in the basement of the school; I went and trained with him for about three years.
What was your geekiest phase?
The kids I hung out with were Dungeons & Dragons types, sort of drama geeks, if you will. Those guys used to dress up and go to Renaissance fairs. I did go, but I didn’t dress up as much: I would wear some, like, crazy lace-up boots, but no puffy shirts.
People associate you with nerd culture, but didn’t you actually go to art school?
It’s funny because for 15 years I directed commercials. It’s like you’re required to use aesthetics, that’s all you have—there’s no geek culture to help you out. There’s pressure, hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, and it’s all about shot-making. [With Watchmen] I tried to go for the same feeling that I had when I read the graphic novel, what those pictures did to me. The movie will hopefully do that to the uninitiated viewers across the country who’ve never read the comic book.
Meanwhile, fans of the book are debating stuff like the fate of Dr. Manhattan’s package, after the trailer blurred out the frequently nude, nuclear-powered hero’s franks and beans.
There’s this thing called the MPAA. They barely let me show it in an R-rated movie, let alone a trailer. But you know what? For whatever reason, it’s OK to watch a flaccid penis for a while [on screen]. It’s like Forgetting Sarah Marshall. So [Billy Crudup] is naked through a fair share of the movie. It’s helpful that he’s CG, too. And blue.
Why on Earth would you cast your 11-year-old son in this movie as a younger version of Rorschach, an abused sociopath whose mom was a hooker?
My son was in 300, too, as the young Leonidus—he fights the dad, and then
he punches a kid in the face. [Laughs] I feel like he’s together enough actually, that he can handle [the Watchmen role]. I didn’t try to get to deep into it. Though there is a woman yelling at him, “I should’ve had that abortion!” [Giggles]
There’s a lot of money riding on this picture. What do you do during opening weekends?
When 300 came out, I was in downtown Los Angeles shooting a Miller Beer commercial. That felt good. So I could always go, “Look if the movie doesn’t open, I’ve got this other job I can do.”
Labels: Interview, Movie