Let me be up front: I believe in Zack Snyder and his take on Watchmen. As much as I think Paul Greengrass’ version would have been amazing, I think that Snyder’s vision is a strong one. He gets and loves the material, and I think he’ll be able to translate it faithfully and visually dynamically to screen.
He came to Comic Con to talk about the movie, and brought some of his cast with him. After his appearance on the Warner Bros panel, Zack did a little bit of press; I sat in on a roundtable he did before going on to do a one on one with him. Before I get to the exclusive stuff, here’s some of the interesting material from the roundtable:
Where pre-production is at: We have some sets built on the New York City backlot [in Vancouver]. We’re laying the streets and the drains. We spotted the drain where the pin is, stuff like that. Blake’s apartment is built. The order that we’re shooting… where Rorschach gets taken by the SWAT cops, that’s there. All of that is built.
Does the studio get it: I don’t know that they do, exactly, and that’s okay, because they acknowledge that. We had a round of notes, pretty heavy notes, when they thought the movie was PG-13, and that led me to go, ‘Guys, these notes are weird. No assault on Sally? The child molester can’t be a child molester? These are crazy notess.’ They were like, ‘Well, we’re concerned about the PG-13.’ But once we all said it’s not going to be PG-13, I haven’t had any notes.
On using 300 style techniques when shooting: Only for Mars and Antartica, because it’s hard. There are sequences in the movie when you have a CG guy on Mars looking at a giant glass palace that just rose out of the [ground]. That would be a different thing to shoot.
On updating costumes: We treat the book like it was written 2000 years ago, not 20 years ago. I think Nite Owl needs a little love. There’s a line in the graphic novel where he says, ‘The thugs are scared of the outfit.’ They’re afraid he’s going to belly knock them down! Rorschach, as he’s designed right now, is almost exactly as he was in the graphic novel. When we’re designing the costumes one of the problems is that cinema culture has been perversed by all these [superhero] movies. Spider-Man’s costume looks like Spider-Man, but then you get close to it and closer to it and it’s tiny octagons and things. You can’t put a guy in a leotard; people would go, ‘Oh, that’s cheap.’
On Dr. Manhattan’s Big Blue Junk: I’m working on that right now. I like that. You know me. I’m known for that.
After that I ran off to do more interviews before going to wait for my big one on one with the man himself. Only two sites got one on ones: Aint It Cool and us. Quint from Aint It Cool went first, and when I came in, Zack apologized for going a little long in that interview. He had been geeking out, he explained:
I was talking about how I had my friend, this amazing illustrator, who just did this huge painting for me of like the Enola Gay flying away from the atomic bomb. It’s like a B-29, it’s in the foreground, and below it you can see the atomic bomb going off, this beautiful glow on the clouds. It’s starkly beautiful. But he’s taken the nose art off the Enola Gay and put ‘Miss Jupiter’ on it, and it’s Sally!
That is great.
It’s so on the nose, because it’s the movie in a single frame, in a way. It’s pop culture and the nuclear age, it’s beautiful but scary. It’s really fucking cool. He’s doing a series of them. We’re doing Sally’s retirement from the original Minutemen when she’s pregnant. It’s the Last Supper, with Sally standing up, and Blake off to the side.
Are you going to use them in a book or something?
I don’t know where they’re going to live right now. The Last Supper frame is in the title sequence.
You guys have not yet decided on the Black Freighter.
I’ve decided on it! I want to do it. It’s just whether or not we get the money for it, and we’re working on it.
You’d shoot it for the DVD?
Yeah, that’s what it would be for.
And that’s where you’d cast Gerard Butler.
Well… that’s an idea.
You won’t confirm or deny.
I won’t confirm or deny.
And the Black Freighter stuff you would do 300 style?
Totally. Green screen, stylized, yeah.
[The following line of questioning includes spoilers for the season one finale of Heroes and the ending of Watchmen]
The big controversy this year was the storyline of Heroes, which was really, really similar to that of Watchmen. Were you aware of that?
I did follow it. Everyone was like [gasps]. And then I watched the episode. And you know what? First of all, I think the claim was that they hadn’t been influenced by Watchmen at all.
Yeah, the show runner was like, ‘I never even heard of comic books!’
Okay. Which is fine, right? But my feeling is that pop culture is very aware of… Things like The Incredibles or Lost acknowledge that they love Watchmen, which is cool. I have no issue with that. But I think when you get the genuine article, the real inspiration, it’s a different thing entirely. And by the way, I think Heroes – and correct me if I’m wrong – they stop [the destruction of Manhattan].
That’s the perfect example of the difference between them and what you’re doing.
[laughs] I know! What I’m doing is: they all die! That’s real. That happened, and oh, it’s too bad. It’s a big difference, I think.
You have your cast, and you start shooting in a couple of months – September?
That’s correct. The 17th.
Are you going to do something with the cast? Bring them together to get a cohesive dynamic, to make it feel like these people all once knew each other?
We’re going to do formal rehearsals. We have two and half weeks of rehearsals. It’s not like 300 where they have to be in super awesome shape, they just have to be able to handle it. Jackie [Earle Haley]’s been training like crazy.
He’s a black belt, I’ve heard?
He’s a black belt, right. So that’s awesome. He wants when he’s in prison for his shoulders to be huge. And I think that’s cool.
Are you butting heads with the studio at all?
We’re not butting heads. It’s more that because of 300… normally they would have a huge discussion of the ‘Why’ of this, but because of 300 they say, ‘Snyder has his reasons and we’re going to let him go with it. And I think the R rating helps that discussion. It hurts my budget, since they give you less money, but it helps because they realize for the film to work it has to have credibility. And to have credibility you have to make the hard decisions.
What are you looking forward to shooting the most? What are you looking forward to seeing play out in front of you?
There are a lot of sort of fetishistic things that I go, ‘Man, that’s going to be awesome!’ The first day of Rorschach, no matter what it is, him in his full deal doing his thing is going to be like Boom! One of the things I’m really interested in is the birth of Dr. Manhattan in the cafeteria at Gila Flats, naked and floating in the cafeteria. That’s one of those things that are so iconic.