Interview: Zack Snyder (Man of Steel)

Zack Snyder

By Simon Miraudo
June 27, 2013

Zack Snyder – director of Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch – returns to screens with a new take on the Superman saga, entitled Man of Steel. The latest incarnation of the DC comic stars Henry Cavill as Supes, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, and Michael Shannon as General Zod, who is hell-bent on decimating Earth and rebuilding Krypton on its ashes.

Read Simon Miraudo’s review of Man of Steel.

When it was announced Snyder would take the reins for this hotly anticipated adventure, some fans became nervous; visions of his much-spoofed slow-mo action sequences and memories of Sucker Punch weighing heavily as, well, steel.  Still, Man of Steel has been one of 2013’s biggest hits. I spoke to Zack about dealing with outspoken Superman fans and casting the previously unknown Henry Cavill before raising the subject of a Justice League movie.

Listen to our interview with Zack Snyder on our podcast, Talk Hard.

Zack Snyder

SM: Normally I like to begin by asking writers and directors what the first germ of an idea was for their film. In this instance, you’re working with a well established character and a comic. But I’d like to ask, back when Man of Steel was a first pitched – even as a possibility that you might direct it – was there one thing in particular that jumped to your mind? “If I ever make a Superman movie, I want it to feature this.

ZS: There was always this thing in my head, and I know this sounds not as… Look, the movie gets pretty heady and I’ve had a lot of time to think about the philosophical aspects of the movie, and I’ve had a long time to weigh the mythology. By the way, I’m super into all of that, and that’s the thing that keeps me awake at night. When I first was asked about it, that first question, really in my mind, I was like, “I really want to see Superman punch somebody.” I know that sounds like not the most sophisticated version, but really, I always felt that as an action junkie, and a bit of an action dork. It’s Superman. How do you not get that awesome?

SM: When you adapt a property as beloved as Superman – as beloved as Watchmen and even Dawn of the Dead prior – there are always vocal factions. Is that part of the appeal of taking on these projects, or something you’ve simply learnt to deal with?

ZS: Yeah, it’s definitely not part of the appeal. I guess, for me, these are the things that I’m into. I’m into this genre. I’m a genre filmmaker, and I’m into it. I have fun with this stuff, so this is passionate stuff. It’s not a romantic comedy; there’s no Romantic Comedy Re-Enactment Escape Weekends. Maybe there are, but not as many. I just think for these people, it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s not even a movie to them. I love that. I want that to be true. I want people to take it that seriously. It’s really the stuff I find I’m passionate about comes with passionate people also. I guess that’s part of the landscape.

SM: Can you tell me a little bit about bringing Henry on board to play Superman? Was there any difficulty in convincing Warner Bros to cast someone who was, for all intents and purposes, kind of unknown?

ZS: I feel like now he has the ability to be Superman for a generation, because he’s not that other guy for them. When people see him in a movie now, they’ll be like, “Oh, there’s Superman playing another part.” You know what I’m saying? Superman is a fantastical character anyway. If you can transcend that part of it, I think it’s helpful to the character.

SM: It’s also a real delight to see Michael Shannon as the villain in a big budget movie, and I’m sure a lot of people feel that way. Was he tentative at all about making the transition to a big budget blockbuster? Was he receptive to coming on board as Zod?

ZS: Yeah, he was. We had early conversations where we talked about: “Zod’s not a complete psycho. He’s got a point of view, and it’s cultural.” Once Michael realised that I was serious about that, and I wanted there to be a ‘why’ of [Zod], I think Michael was really able to dig deep into this character. And I think he really has. He’s made a real villain for the ages with his point of view.

SM: So everyone’s attention kind of turns now to Justice League. Whether or not that film eventuates, whether you’re involved with it, I kind of want to ask you something similar to my first question: Is there anything, any pairing, you’d particularly like to see in that movie?

ZS: What do you mean? Like character wise?

SM: In the same way that you wanted to see Superman punch someone in a Superman movie, what would you love to see in a Justice League film?

ZS: Listen, I feel like what we’ve done is kind of created a world definitely set up for more Superman adventures, if that’s a thing that everyone wants to see. If there’s a way to start to talk about the expanded DC universe, in the context of a Superman story, that might be a thing that could happen. I mean, look, I love the DC characters. They’re super strong. Everyone knows the big three. It’s a great palette they have. It’s just a matter of, ‘How does Superman evolve in the context of the DC universe, and does that include him then running into other characters that we also know?’

Man of Steel is now showing in cinemas.

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