Zack Snyder Interview – WATCHMEN

     August 10, 2008

Okay…I know Comic-Con a little while ago. And yes…I know the interviews that I’ll be posting this week should’ve been online already. But what you may not know is…I got hurt at Comic-Con, as the back of Hall H collapsed and a beam holding the curtains fell and landed on my head. While it didn’t hit me at full force (or I’d be a lot worse off than I am) it did some damage and it’s taken me a number of days to get back on my feet. I won’t bore you with any more of the details except to say I’m finally starting to feel a lot more like myself so by the end of this week all the interviews that are left on my desktop will be posted.

Anyhow, the interview below is with director Zack Snyder for the movie “Watchmen.”

For the two readers that don’t know about “Watchmen,” the movie is based on the iconic graphic novel from 1986. Here’s the official synopsis:

A complex, multi-layered mystery adventure, “Watchmen” is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock” – which charts the USA‘s tension with the Soviet Union – is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed-up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion – a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers – Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity…but who is watching the watchmen?

Just to be clear…the interview below was done backstage at Comic-Con in roundtable form. Also, it was done right after they showed the “Watchmen” footage to 7,000 screaming fans…so needless to say…everyone was in great spirits. And with that, enjoy the interview….

Question: Are you relieved now?

Zack Snyder: No I’m not, you know. A little bit. It is fun. It’s fun to show it. It’s like you know your friend who loves Watchmen, and I have a few, and I go hey, let me show you something, that I did. It’s kind of like that on a giant scale.

Q: Were there any specifics parts of the book that you could combine into one scene? To try and combine story.

Zack Snyder: Let me think for a minute. I’m sure there were. Well for instance, Vietnam, you know we visit Vietnam in one, in one, oh, no, that’s not true, we go twice. Because in the book, of course, we go to Vietnam during the comedian. During the funeral. And then Manhattan is revisited, and as Manhattan’s story’s being told on Mars, he goes again, he talks about Vietnam again, Nixon ordering him to go to Vietnam, and then him there and everyone you know–we did a big shot with all the Vietcong bowing to him in this huge compound. It’s pretty cool. Which you know in the comic book is this shot of them all being arrested but we thought it’d be cooler to just see this mass of him going why?

Q: One of the great thing about graphic novel, maybe the greatest thing, is it’s a commentary on the meaning of graphic novels.

Zack Snyder: Absolutely.

Q: So in transferring to a movie, what happens there? I mean, does something get lost…does something get added?

Zack Snyder: I think that’s what happens. I mean that’s what we did. I feel like–let me just say two things. One, the sales of the graphic novel are, it’s like number two or number one on Amazon right now. Which is awesome. And I think that in the end if the movie is a three-hour advertisement for the book, then so be it. I succeeded. But when you decide to make a movie out of it, you have to be, the movie has to try to get at the ideas. And I think that when we talk about mass culture embracing superhero movies, and you know, just for instance with Ozzie’s costume, it’s ‘oh he has nipples, it’s like a Joel Schumacher thing.’ We talk about this, but just like…you read our thread and I go like that’s not an accident, we know. Nipples didn’t just show up on that costume cuz we thought it was cool. It’s because we want to say yeah….frickin’ Joel Schumacher made a bunch of superhero movies. It’s crazy. And that’s part of the language now, though, of cinema. But like you can see it in like Nixon’s war room. It’s like, we did, it’s so Strangelove it’s ridiculous. We were in there going we’re going to get sued for this, this is crazy. And you know when Rorschach walks down the streets of New York, it’s Taxi Driver. And you have to do that, with that stuff–

Q: So it’s not just superhero movies.

Zack Snyder: It’s not just superhero movies, you know. It kind of has to, because Alan did it–it wasn’t just, it was comic book movies, or comic book literature, but it was all of literature as well. You know, he’s very, he’s a smart guy. So we tried to, we definitely tried to reference as much sort of superhero cliché, movie cliché as we could without it becoming self-aware. That’s a fine line.

Q: Is there more pressure for you as the fans trust you to interpret graphic novels very well?

Zack Snyder: I do a little bit, I do a little bit. But I also feel like I want to make the best movie I can. I put pressure on myself just as a filmmaker, whatever, to say what’s the coolest movie? And if the coolest movie’s three hours long, then that’s the movie. I understand and respect my partners at Warner Brothers, and I want them to have financial success with the film, you know, when you look at it that way. They invested a lot of money in it, they want it to be good. But on the other hand I go, I think, and I would say to them that the very thing they think are too long or too hard to understand or too violent or too sexy, , are the very reasons to go to the movie. It’s difficult to say make the movie, oh it’s too sexy, it’s too violent. I’m like guys, should we just like release nothing? Like it’s–

Q: What you’re talking about right now is addressed with the Dark Knight. It’s a huge success worldwide and in America, it deals with very adult themes and adult subject matter…do you think that will help you with the studio?

Zack Snyder: I would think it would. It feels like it would, on paper, when you think about it. I mean like I can go in a room and say look, Watchmen should be at least 15 minutes longer than Batman. I mean, that’s like any geek will tell you that. Go to Comic-Con, do a poll. Go out there and ask like if Watchmen as 15 minutes longer than Dark Knight, does that make sense to you? Yes. Yeah. Just in, regardless if we have enough footage, it just should be.

Q: It’s like the Lord of the Rings.

Zack Snyder: Yeah.

Q: When you did 300 you did a movie that was basically completely CGI created. Now with Watchmen a lot of it actually existed. So how tough was it to make these drawings of Dave’s actually exist in the world?

Zack Snyder: We built them into the sets. That’s basically how we did it. It was all, everything that we designed, everything that we built, all the um, all the, every little Easter egg that we planted in there, we planned from the beginning. You know, so I didn’t have to worry about, if we had a frame that was from the graphic novel, any of these, those are all in the movie, you know, pretty much exactly as they are. But we had to build the sets like that. Rorschach on the window frame, anything, you know?

Q: There’s a lot of practical stuff in the movie – as you talked about. But with the footage you showed downstairs there is definitely CGI added… How much CGI is put into the majority of the film? Is it basically a practical look with CGI enhancing everything or–?

Zack Snyder: Yeah, yeah. I mean, not in everything. Problem is you have Manhattan in a lot of shots, and he’s just CG, you know? It’s really amazing for me, the one super cool thing, I was telling Billy about it cuz he hadn’t even seen it, he hasn’t seen–I mean that shot of Manhattan walking thru Vietnam, whatever, he’s 30 feet tall, that’s like a superhero thing. The thing to see, and the revelation to me, is him just talking and doing nothing. And just emoting in the subtlest way, which is something I haven’t really seen from a CG character that really, all he’s doing is acting. He’s not blowing stuff up or jumping off the walls or doing CG stuff. He’s just being sad. It’s pretty cool.

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