Director Zack Snyder talks Man of Steel
When Zack Snyder’s kids didn’t know what Krypton was, the director knew Man of Steel would have to start the Superman story from scratch.
“It’s funny because my kids, we were talking and [I was telling them] we’re going to do this really big Krypton and they’re like, ‘What’s that?’ And I was like, ‘That’s the planet where Superman comes from!’ ‘He comes from a planet?’ And I thought, ‘Oh right, we do need to do this. This is important. Because these kids have no idea what’s happening.’”
Man of Steel, to be released in Australia today, starts right at the beginning of the Superman story, with infant Kal-El being born on the doomed planet Krypton.
In a bid to save his son’s life, Kal-El’s father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) puts his newborn in a capsule and sends him to Earth where he is later pursued by Krypton’s sole survivors, a banished military group led by General Zod (Michael Shannon).
Die-hard Superman fans may miss some of the comic book’s staples (the red underpants are gone for instance, and the ‘S’ on his suit isn’t really an S, it’s Krypton’s symbol of hope) but Snyder says he felt the only way he could approach the “awesome and daunting” prospect of making a Superman film was to pretend it was the first.
“When we came to make the movie, I was like, ‘Ok, our basic philosophy is let’s pretend no movies have been made, let’s set the movies aside, and just let’s just go back to the source material and just really dig into that mythology and create a Superman we feel is kind of complete’,” he says. “You know, we’re not drawing from little pieces here or there, or cherry picking from this movie over here, or stealing this little idea from [TV series] Smallville over here… we’re just trying to make a Superman movie.”
One of the most pressing tasks of creating a film with such an iconic central figure is, of course, finding the man to play him. So how did Henry Cavill, a relatively unknown British actor, come to land the role?
“We had been looking at a bunch of guys and [Cavill] showed up on this casting tape, and he was just reading this normal scene, this straight-forward scene… and he did a great job,” says Snyder. “So we said, ‘You know, I like that guy, he’s pretty good, we should bring him over. So he was in England and we brought him over to LA.
“We put him in the costume – in the old Christopher Reeves costume we made, because the archives wouldn’t let us have that one – and it was a very unimpressive costume. A horrible costume. I mean, I have great respect for it but when you see it in the box, it looks horrible. It’s all shrivelled up – it’s spandex, and spandex is difficult for anyone.
“So we put him in the suit, and I don’t know – he just came out of the trailer, and we were like, [whispers] ‘Whoa.’
“And there were a bunch of snarky dudes around too, there were a bunch of old crusty people like grips and gaffers and stuff like that around, but everyone was like silent. There were like, [whispers] ‘Wow, it’s Superman.’ And that’s real. That’s not made up. It’s like, you forget that it’s Superman. You forget that everyone has a weird relationship, their own relationship with Superman. And you spend so much time working on [the film], the technicalities of it, you lose track of the mythological powers of Superman. And then you see this moment where this guy steps out of a trailer and looks like Superman and all these grown men are just like, afraid of him. Well not afraid, but ready to bow down to him.
“And that’s when we knew. We did. We went, ‘What are we doing? This is our guy.’”
Cavill is backed up with a cast not nearly as low-key, starring alongside Hollywood heavy-weights Crowe, Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne. Snyder credits Superman himself as being the drawing card for such an acclaimed cast, all of whom (with the exception of Cavill) have been at least nominated for an Academy Award in the past.
“I credit Superman a lot for that. The power of the mythological scale of Superman. Like you can call Russell Crowe and be like, ‘Russell! Play Superman’s Dad!’ and he’s like, “Ok that’s something to think about.” That’s Superman,” he says.
“Same thing with Kevin Costner, Amy [Adams], Michael Shannon, Lawrence Fishburne, all those guys, Diane Lane, all those guys, they just came on board."
Despite the fact the film has garnered plenty of attention for its large-scale battle scenes (in Snyder’s words, “a hearty mix of delicious action,”) these are not the director’s favourite moments.
“My favourite moment? Where I fist pump?” he asks.
“You know, it’s hard because after so long, seeing it so many times… but I guess for me.. there are a couple…. Kevin [Costner] and the kid [Dylan Sprayberry] I guess, when they’re in the basement and he says, ‘You are my son.’ … that’s pretty good stuff.
“But I didn’t do anything. Those are those guys. Good thing I had the camera running! I’m high fiving myself for turning the camera on!”
Man of Steel opens in Australian cinemas today.