Today: May 23, 2024

Director & Writer Talk 300: Rise Of An Empire

300: Rise Of An Empire, told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster 300, is a new chapter of the historical saga which takes the action to a new battlefield – the sea. The story pits the Greek general Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces, ruled by the mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and led by Artemisia, the vengeful commander of the Persian navy. Knowing his only hope of defeating the overwhelming Persian armada will be to unite all of Greece, Themistokles ultimately leads the charge that will change the course of the war. FilmJuice chatted to the Director, Noam Murro and Co-Screenwriter Kurt Johnstad, about the challenges of creating such an epic of blood-soaked blokey bravery …

How does Rise Of An Empire relate to the first 300 in terms of time and place?
I think it’s a cool conceptual idea that you are actually have a companion film, or an ‘equal’, as we call it , not just ‘sequel’ or “prequel’. It gives you another perspective about the same thing that happened at the same time. So it really is something original in that construct, because, you have really never quite seen that done that way.

Who is Themistocles and what Sullivan [Stapleton] brings to the role?
Well, Themistocles always had been, and for me was a very complex character because he’s not only a warrior, but he’s also a politician. He’s a politician that is driven by ideas, and also by a personal agenda – of success and power and all that. So I think he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, and comes from the people in the poorer side, the lower side of Athens and rises up to become who he is. He has to have all of that complexity of being a charmer, and being sexy– being very smart, and driven, and have an ideology. We were looking for that character and I remember seeing Animal Kingdom, and was completely blown away by it. We looked and looked and looked and there was no question that he is “the guy”, and he’s amazing. We love him. I love him.

Kurt, historically, Artemisia was essentially in the right place at the right time – she had the ships, and she sided with the Persians primarily because they were her neighbours, geography. Why, then, did you feel the need to give her a more personal reason for revenge?
You know, it’s a fine line to walk and get sympathy for your villain, or for your bad guy. But we wanted to explore the grey areas here. People are complex. So giving her a backstory that has many layers to it, that there could be something fuelling her besides that she’s just a commander, that she’s a queen, or just flipped, flipped sides, but that she has something kind of deeply rooted within her that makes her want to watch Athens burn.

Kurt, is there a challenge in writing for something that’s going to have to be put together in so many different stages?
I don’t think so. I was lucky enough to be writing this with Zack Snyder, and … he never wants you to limit your imagination in the creative process. Zack has always said, “Just put your foot on the floor and the throttle wide open, and just go.” What ends up happening is that, if you get 50 percent of what you’re trying for on the page – and I think that we’ve got well over a hundred percent of what we were trying – is that you don’t have a movie, you have an experience. You go in for two hours and walk out with a completely different view of what just happened. It’s good.

Noam, tell us a little about the challenges of working in a complex environment such as the water …?
It is very, very complex because we shot, essentially, a naval movie in a studio with not a drop of water. It creates a variety of challenges. Also gives you an incredible opportunity, because you’re not encumbered by the physical aspect of the seas, and all of that. So I think that is really the beauty of it is that it really allows you to imagine everything … but it is complex!

As a Director, how do you approach the decision of what’s going to be real and what will be a visual effect?
I think that just like anything else, you just start analyzing each one of these scenes and shots and understand, per problem, how to solve it. How much do you build? How much do you build in post? And the idea that you build is, in modern filmmaking… Even if you go, “Okay, I’m going to build it now”, you still have to build it. You still have to build it in 3D. What lends itself to 3D — not just in terms of 3D like we imagine it, but 3D in terms of CGI, and understanding the complexities. Each one of these shots is analysed and put together as an architectural plan for the entire movie.

300: Rise Of An Empire arrives on Blu-Ray 3D, Blu-Ray and DVD from 29th September. The Digital HD version is available now.

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