Years have passed since the surprise hit 300 made its way into theaters, but next spring will find sequel 300: Rise of an Empire in theaters. Director and the main cast (, , ) sat down to talk about the film, and the similarities and differences we can expect between the original and the upcoming sequel.
How will you move away from 300, making your own movie with 300: Rise of an Empire without harkening back to Zack Snyder's style way too much. Noam Murro had this to say:
Noam Murro: I think the idea for that was that Zack [Snyder] had Frank Miller in the back of his head in the movie 300, and this was very similar in that way. The idea was always to take that DNA from that movie, and being able to look back on it and put it as a reference really, and built upon it. There is enough DNA in Rise of an Empire, enough 300 DNA, but I think there's a lot of new stuff in it. The goal and the challenge is how do you give enough of it, and create something original?
Could the cast talk about how they first came to come onto the project and what kind of affection do you all have for the comics and the Zack Snyder film?
Sullivan Stapleton: It was a real honor to be asked to make a film such as that. We've all seen the first one and I love it. I auditioned like everyone else, I think. I auditioned and luckily enough I got the gig. It's an honor to be a part of it. It's an epic film.
Eva Green: And for me, it's my kind of first action film so that was really cool. I've done serious films before and it was all kind of pretty much in my head so that was kind of a challenge to kind of be violent, cut people in half, kill lots of people. Lots of fun.
Rodrigo Santoro: Well for me they thought I looked like the guy who played the first one. [laughs] Just kidding. I was part of the first one and when I heard that they were doing the second one I was very excited. Actually in this one, there's a little bit of Xerxes' back story, so it was really cool to bring some humanity to this character and I was really excited about it.
With the first 300 movie people had various reactions to it. Some people found some humor in it, some people thought it was ultra-violent while other people just enjoyed it for pure entertainment. Can you tell us a little bit about the armies. Do you continue on that path or do you go a little more practical?
Noam Murro: From a storytelling point of view, we kept the same mythology as you will as to how make this film in the sense that it was all done on green screen. And a lot of the imagery is about creating these massive, epic scenes in post. So we certainly kept that, but there was a very important character here, which was the water, which wasn't ever created in the original 300, because it was all a land battle. So that was the challenge but to create the opportunity to take the water and radically manipulate it to do what you want to do stylistically and thematically as you will. I think this is really what the wonder is. The sheer idea is this is all naval, its a naval movie really because it happens in the water. The complexity of telling a story in the water and navy battles was fantastic. I think we had the tools to do it now which I don't think six years ago we could. There was a little bit of the underwater stuff. Some of it we did in London and we were able to shoot practically or some what practically. All the water, we shot it completely dry. I think all the water we had on set were things like this. [Holds up a water bottle] We did it intentionally and stylistically. It really allows you to create the world that you haven't quite seen.
For Eva Green, can you take us a little bit further into the character that you play?
Eva Green: It's great because as an actress, it's hard to find strong roles. You're kind of offered the love interest or the boring girlfriend. In here she is full-on, she doesn't do anything halfway. She's an extreme character and completely obsessed with vengeance. I enjoy playing evil, but not kind of one dimensional evil characters. I like when they have some cracks in the armor. She's ruthless and badass.
Noam Murro: She's badass, yea. The beauty of it is that there's really a complexity there to her character and unapologetically so. A lot of roles in the strong women feel like they need to apologize. I think they feel like men don't need to apologize for being ruthless and women somehow do. I think that's what's so nice here is, really we've talked about it from day one, is having a female role that's not apologetic, and that's pretty cool.
This question is for Sullivan. The original cast was subjected to physically grueling training regime before 300. Did you actually do that as well?
Sullivan Stapleton: Nah. I was already like this. [laughs] Of course I did it. It was ten weeks before shooting, they came into Africa and I was working on another show. So I left that set and I was going to the gym. It was an hour and a half of swords, that was a warm up. Then was hour and a half of weights. When I first saw it, you do this exercise, there were a couple of exercises, the training and you think that that was the workout, and that was the warm up. We went into the workout and it went on and on and on. When we were shooting, I thought how are we going to maintain this? I found out how to maintain that. While everyone else was at lunch, I was at the gym. Actually, Noam decided to work out as well.
I would love to hear the perspective of the director and also the actors about the trailer for this movie which I believe is one of the most popular trailers when it premiered. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Noam Murro: I saw the trailer. The Warner Bros family is wonderful and its one of those things where you get the trailer, you look at it and you think I did this? You need to know when to shut up. So I looked at it before it came out and it was just awesome. It was incredible. So there was no real, nothing to say other than to go "okay, that's great." I didn't quite understand the power of it until I really saw it. There was no marketing on it, it kind of came out and then all of a sudden exposed on the internet. I think it was really beloved. First there's the power of that on one hand, and the second thing is really understanding how many poeple are really invested in the story of the movie and the mythology and how good it was.
You talk a little bit about using the visual DNA from the first film and from the book. Can you talk a little bit about the music choices that you made, what you carried over and what you have added?
Noam Murro: I think that there is two things here. There is an operatic quality to a movie like that, and really that is at the heart of the music choices. I think that there's a couple of components here, one is an ethnic component that's going to be dominating here but also there's a tempo and there's a dramatic thing. It's a rock opera. it's going to be something different. I think really that's the heart of it to give it a point of reference musically that is ethnic but also give it tempo and feeling.
This is an interesting take because it's not like a lot of other prequels or sequels out there because you don't have a lot of cast return. You don't have the same director this time. How much Zack Snyder was involved in the day-to-day production.
Noam Murro: Well preproduction, I think the fact that he wrote it. He wrote it with kirk, so he was pretty involved with that I would say. Certainly in that component he was really involved, but I think the really great thing working with Zack is that he's a filmmaker, and at time was a busy filmmaker. It's a graceful operation because it allows you to have an access to him or his knowledge or his instinct or whatever you needed, but also he allows you to have the freedom or the hands-off when you need that. So that is really the best way, that's all you really can ask for. That really was the nature of the cooperation and it was incredible.
Rodrigo, you're the only one up there who's done this twice now. Was it any easier the second time or was it even harder the second time around?
Rodrigo Santoro: Not eating ice cream, that was hard again, harder this time. I've played the character before, but the interesting thing for me was that six years later, I got to revisit a character and there's some of his back story. How can I make this a fresh experience? And now I know the process of working against the blue screen which is a very particular way of working. Again, it was challenging. Makeup was still a long process and I was just trying to hold time to work little details and try to bring more and more humanity to Xerxes. At first you see him as the god king but in this one you see how did he become the god king. What was behind it. That was an exciting part for me especially.
300: Rise of an Empire will be out in theaters on March 7, 2014.