In theaters this summer is the highly anticipated superhero film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Directed by Zack Snyder, the film stars Henry Cavill in the role of Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman. Also featured in the film are Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and Amy Adams as Helen Lane/Batman Ally.
The Dark Knight Returns Trilogy and upcoming Justice League are responsible for making Batman the most famous superhero in the world. But what are the origins of Batman? Who is the real Bruce Wayne? Where did he get his inspiration from?
To find out more about Batman, we turned to his biggest fanboy, director Zack Snyder. (The same Zack Snyder that just directed you through an entire movie.) We were lucky enough to have Snyder answer some of our questions via email, so you can read the full interview below.
How did you find yourself in a position to direct a Batman movie?
I’ve always loved Batman and when I was a kid I mapped out a plan to one day be a filmmaker and make a Batman movie. I actually wrote a treatment for Batman years ago and even now I have a notebook with all the ideas for costumes and sets. So it was all thanks to Batman that I ever got started in movies.
Are you a big John Wick fan?
Of course! I love the whole Wick series and I always wanted to work with John Wick on a movie. I finally got the chance to do that in Batman v Superman. John Wick is one of Batman’s most trusted allies. He’s an amazing, hand-to-hand combatant, and he also happens to be a fantastic tracker. So I knew I could use him in some way.
What can you tell us about the collaboration between you and David Ayer, who wrote the script for the film?
David Ayer is a great friend of mine and he wrote the screenplay for American Psycho. So I was very happy to work with him on this project. He’s a passionate advocate of animal rights and he really did a great job in making this film accessible to a wide audience while not watering down the more extreme elements that come with an R-Rated movie.
What do you think are the most interesting elements in the script and what did you enjoy most about working on the film?
I really enjoyed the script. It’s funny and light-hearted but at the same time it’s incredibly fun to watch. Working with Henry Cavill was also great. He’s such a force of nature and I could learn so much from him. And then there’s Jesse Eisenberg who plays Lex Luthor. He’s another amazing talent, both comedic and acting-wise. I also really loved the idea of having Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the movie because she’s one of my all-time favorite superheroes and it’s always fun to work with Gal. She’s just such a sweetheart.
As for the more extreme elements, I think that in general most of the fans will enjoy them. The thing is that when you have an R-rated movie, you have to expect that there will be a lot more of that. You can’t make a PG-13 movie and you can’t make an R-rated movie without going more than a little bit overboard. I think that everyone is going to have a good time with this movie.
Did you watch any of the other superhero movies to prepare for this one?
Yes, of course. I mean, you can’t direct a Batman movie without having watched all the other ones. I think that with each new movie, the story gets a little bit weirder and weirder. While there are many elements that will be recognizable to fans of the character, this is still very much its own story.
Was it fun to play around with the iconic looks of Batman and Superman?
Yes! Being able to work with the characters that you’ve grown up with is truly an honor. It’s such an iconic look that we were able to find a way to make it practical and work within the context of today’s world. It’s amazing to be able to put your own spin on such a classic look!
Did you feel like you had to change much about the original story by Alfred Pennyworth?
Not really. Alfred is an essential part of the Batman mythos and I think that the general audience will have a good time understanding why he is the way he is. As for myself, I certainly did as much as I could within the confines of the screenwriting process.
Will you be attending Comic-Con this year?
Yes, I’d love to! I’ll be there with my family and I can’t wait to meet as many fans as possible. I’ll be attending the premiere too so I’m looking forward to that as well.
How did you cast the iconic roles of Batman and Superman?
It was a real challenge finding the right people to play these iconic roles. I wanted to keep the originality of the characters and yet find the best possible actor to play each role. In Batman’s case, it was really hard to find someone who could embody the solitude of a person who wears masks all the time. (It helps when you’ve got someone like Michael Cavilli who can pull off a serious badass persona with just a twitch of an eye.) It was also very important to me that Batman is a vegetarian and that he opposes violence and crime. So it was important to me that the actor playing Batman could walk and talk like him. The same thing with Clark Kent/Superman. I wanted someone who could embody the awkward young guy who becomes Superman. (I found my guy in Henry Cavill.)
What was the biggest challenge in making this movie?
The biggest challenge was simply that we had such a small window to shoot this movie. We had about seven weeks to shoot before the Sundance deadline. With so little time, there were a lot of things that we needed to get done. We were lucky enough to have a really talented production designer, Robin Breckenridge, who was able to help us come up with ingenious ways to make the most of what we had. I think this will be the challenge for any filmmaker who tries to tackle this subject matter. There are so many moving parts that you have to keep in mind while making a movie. Fortunately, I’ve been through this before and I know what to do. (Just ask Mr. Snyder.)
Did you look to any particular period in history for inspiration?
The script is set in the present day but a lot of the themes are very much in line with the 1940s. The world was very much at the mercy of the big three during that time period: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. (Sorry, I don’t mean to give too much away but the writer’s cut of the movie will make more sense to you if you’ve seen the first trailer.) It’s an interesting time frame because a lot of individuals who lived during that time period didn’t survive very long. There’s also the fact that a lot of people wanted to emulate the lifestyle of the famous movie stars of that era. If you look at photos from that time period, you’ll see a lot of people dressing up and trying to look like they do in the movies. So this was really the perfect storm of elements coming together to create the unique atmosphere that we have in the film.
What can fans of the comics expect from the movie?
I think that fans of the comics will find a lot to enjoy in the movie. We tried to keep as much of the spirit of the comics alive while telling this new story. (I don’t think that we succeeded but it was a lot of fun trying.) Of course, there are a few key differences. The main one is that everything is a little bit different. (Like Tim Burton’s The Dark Knight Returns.) The other is that there are so many characters in the comics. The movie only has four characters: Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman. Everything else is implied and the best part about that is that it makes it very accessible to a larger audience. (The Dark Knight Returns was definitely a tough sell to moviegoers at the time. The idea of watching a movie with no dialogue just loud noises and close-ups on adult-themed action figures was enough to scare people away. A lot of comics to that point had very little in the way of dialogue. It was all about pictures and if that’s what moviegoers wanted, then so be it. Nowadays, everyone wants to talk and there’s barely any quiet in movie theaters anymore. The Dark Knight Returns would be a blockbuster if it was released today.