Zack Snyder likes making comic-book films. Since the success of his directorial debut, Dawn Of The Dead, he’s made Frank Miller’s 300, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and has the task of rebooting Superman with The Man Of Steel. Everything about his latest film, Sucker Punch — from the posters to the trailer — suggests that it too originated as a graphic novel. But, in a year dominated by sequels and remakes, the 45-year-old director is bucking the trend of most blockbuster-wannabe films by making something completely original — a risky choice in today’s crowded multiplexes.
How tough was it to get the studio to back a big-budget film based on a completely original idea?
One of the bigger issues was that I didn’t intend it to have sequels. If you’re going to make a film, [studios think that] it would be nice if you could get some sequels out of it as well. But the action nature of the whole thing helped them to get excited. I don’t see how a sequel is possible — it’s not designed that way. But then I said the same thing about 300 and I’m writing the [sequel’s] script.
Obviously it’s still an effects-based film like 300 and Watchmen — have you ever had any desire to do something on a small scale?
Yes and no. I definitely do, but then even though Sucker Punch is a giant visual-effects extravaganza, in relative terms it didn’t have a giant budget. It was a struggle for all of us, which is good and keeps us honest. I’d love to do something low-budget, violent and super-sexy. Like a gangster movie —something that doesn’t have any restrictions on it.
You studied fine art in England — what do you miss most about the UK?
The rain. California is oppressively sunny sometimes. I lived in Hammersmith on St Dunstan’s Road. In the morning, before school, I would always have some fried eggs on toast at my local café down the street. I miss the little community I had there — the woman who worked in the local shop was super-nice to me and all my neighbours were super-sweet. I would always tell them that I wanted to be a movie director, even though I was at school to be a painter. And they’d laugh and say, “Oh, good luck with that.” [Laughs]
You also went to school with Transformers director Michael Bay, albeit back in the United States — are you both close?
I knew him very well. We don’t hang out [any more], but when I see him it’s like a reunion. He’s the same as he was back then. He was crazy in college — but in a good way.
Your next film will be Superman: The Man Of Steel — is it intimidating to be taking on one of the most iconic characters ever?
It’s difficult and crazy, but also super-fun as I’m a fan of the character. I’ve just tried to look for stuff that’s interesting. And that’s why we’re doing it.
Christopher Nolan, who knows all about superhero films, is producing — how has he been to work with?
Chris is awesome. And The Dark Knight [which he wrote and directed] is about as good as it gets with the superhero world. This role as producer is interesting for him. He’s generous with his time, but he’s also super-respectful of the filmmaker. If you want to talk about ideas, he’s there.
You’ve previously said that the film will be an ‘origins’ story, much like Batman Begins. Can we expect a similarly dark treatment?
The way to think about it is that we’re taking a human point of view which makes it more relevant and emotional.
Which tells us basically nothing… Are you getting a lot of fans pestering you for information?
The ones I come into contact with, absolutely. I try to be honest with them, but without giving them any spoilers. Or any real information [laughs].
What did you make of Superman Returns? It’s not thought of with affection…
I have no problem with it. [The film’s director] Bryan Singer is a gifted filmmaker. We’re just taking a different approach.
Who’s the best Superman?
Christopher Reeve. He’s just classic.
Until we see Henry Cavill in The Man Of Steel, of course…
Man of Steel is at cinemas nationwide from 14 June