We were lucky enough to sit in on a chat yesterday with Zack and Deborah Snyder, director and producer, respectively, of Watchmen. Our review will be up soon, but in the meantime here’s what Zack had to say about how he felt when first offered the project…
ZACK SNYDER:“People said ‘It’s unfilmable – what makes you think you can film it?’. What made me think I could film it is that I didn’t think about it…most of my conversations [with the studio] about whether we should do it was whether they would just accept what I wanted to do too. They call me and they say ‘We have a thing called Watchmen’ – this was their words – ‘We think it’s based on a graphic novel…[laughs]…it’s PG13, it’s two hours, the bad guy dies…”
DEBBIE SNYDER:“…and we want you to update it to make it the war on terror!”
ZACK SNYDER:“Yeah! “
DEBBIE SNYDER:“‘What do you think?'”
ZACK SNYDER:“‘We were thinking a cool thing to do would be…let’s send Dr. Manhattan to Iraq! [laughs] Wouldn’t that be cool?’ I tried to be cool, like ‘Yeah, that sounds interesting – yeah, I’ll take a look at that’. I think that’s one of the things that compelled me to do it. I think if they had come to me and said ‘We want Watchmen, we know exactly what it is, we want to embrace it one hundred percent and just make it’ , I probably would have been more likely to say ‘Yeah, I don’t know, that’s daunting’. But when they put it that way, with this franchisable, Happy Meal-makeable movie, I felt…I felt like they would move on from me and they would do that. They could find someone; there’s a lot of guys in Hollywood that would make that movie.”
DEBBIE SNYDER:“The success of 300, I think, made it easier to change all those things. That was rated R, and it was violent and it was based on a graphic novel, and it did well. I think it allowed us to say ‘Hey, we want this rated R too. And we’re not gonna put any big movie stars in it, because it’s about the performances’. You can’t get taken out of the film. It really needs to be the right people in the right role.”
ZACK SNYDER:“I knew that if I did it and it sucked, at least I did it, and it sucked. If I didn’t do it and…if there was a Happy Meal somewhere with Watchmen on it…[laughs] I’d have had to really re-evaluate my place in history, as much as to say that would’ve been my fault. Because I knew the difference.
This is a weird movie – I’ve got to say, for all of the studio’s lack of understanding of what it is at the beginning, when I showed them the three hours and ten minutes long director’s cut of the movie…
The way it normally works is they see the movie and you meet an hour later to discuss that. They said ‘We’re not ready for that hour’. And I didn’t know what to say – was that good or bad news? Are they going to fire me?
A day later they met me and said ‘We just don’t know what to say’. We had no idea it was going to be this crazy’. And also said that the movie is special and cool, and ‘We don’t wanna eff it up’. It needed to be shorter. That’s it.”
DEBBIE SNYDER:“It was too violent and too sexy and too long. But the visual effects take so long. You’re testing it, and it’s so unfinished…we only screened it once. Even while we were shooting, the fans were like…it was crazy how people wanted to get a part of it. We wanted to be very careful not to end up on the internet.”
ZACK SNYDER:“Not to mention the ending — “
DEBBIE SNYDER:“We couldn’t change the ending if the ending didn’t test well. This was like, the Watchmen ending. “
ZACK SNYDER:“There wasn’t going to be a re-shoot where we kill Adrian.”
The pair were asked about the logistic difficulties of presenting Doctor Manhattan, who’s mostly naked in the original graphic novel.
ZACK SNYDER:“This is the character who contemplates the relevance of mankind’s existence in general, but the discussion with him is always ‘Does his willy need to be hanging out?’ [laughs].”
DEBBIE SNYDER:“They said ‘Can’t he just put on the briefs?’. But as he detaches from humanity he slowly sheds his clothes more, so you can’t just arbitrarily choose to do that. And they did understand that. The fact that it remains in the film that way is a big testament to their courage in doing something like that. We did say we’d try and cut around it as much as possible and when he’s a hundred feet tall we’re not going to have him face the camera [all laugh].”
ZACK SNYDER:“In the director’s cut, which you’ll see in July, it’s just much…it’s a lot more Manhattan! [laughs] “
Snyder was asked (not by us) if he thought Watchmen could gain the level of audience of 300.
ZACK SNYDER:“I don’t know. When we made 300 we thought ‘Who’s going to go and see this movie with a lot of half-naked men running about?’. One thing that’s cool about Watchmen is that it’s a much more relatable subject-matter to pop-culture. Where we are in cinema now in terms of superheroes is where comic books were 25 years ago, when the book was written. Our superheroes have gone as far as they can.
The only thing about the Batman movies that doesn’t fit is Batman. It’s the only part of the movie that is self-conscious. It’s serious and it’s cool, and the only part you feel that doesn’t belong…it’s Batman! [laughs] It’s like he’s in the wrong movie. And I’m a fan of the movie, don’t get me wrong.
That’s why I think it’s interesting that Watchmen comes along after that movie, sort of as an evolution, saying ‘It’s okay, let’s really take a look at this and think about what we’re doing, as a culture’. Regardless of what you say, that’s our mythology, and it’s in the vernacular. Everyone knows. My mother knows Superman’s fortress of solitude…that’s just common pop culture.”
DEBBIE SNYDER:“It’s better that it took the movie so long to come out, because we’re primed for it now.”
Watch this space for more chats from us with the Watchmen cast, and for our review.
Watchmen opens in the UK on the 6th of March