Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens March 25, and we caught up with director Zack Snyder, who also handled the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest campaign. Snyder, a Green Bay native who directed 300, Watchmen, Man of Steel, talks about Jesse Eisenberg's villainous tendencies, getting Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in shape, Ahman Green's sort-of cameo and other topics regarding the film.
ThePostGame: Having worked with the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest, and also directing a couple popular movies in the past, would you rather see a Batman v Superman-related fan commercial or a 300-themed fan commercial?
ZACK SNYDER: I don't know. I feel like I've seen a lot of 300 fan commercials, which is fun, but I also feel like everyone has the info and the reference for the 300 one. So I'd be wide open on that one.
TPG: Actors normally have to train hard for action roles like Batman and Superman. What are some of the things that you recommended to the stars of the film, Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, to prepare for those roles?
SNYDER: Well, fitness has always been a big part of how we approach movies. I've always made movies and had the actors go through pretty rigorous physical training, sometimes four or five months in advance of shooting for their transformation to be ready. It's not one thing, other than be ready to experience a lot of misery and pain in your preparation, and I think that everyone's embraced that pretty awesomely.
TPG: How do you think such preparations relate to how athletes prepare for their respective games?
SNYDER: For us in the movies, it's the reverse. We get inspired by physical dedication that athletes have to their sport. You know what I mean? They're getting up at 5 in the morning and training for two hours before whatever workout they have and then training at night before they go to bed. They're never like, "no excuses," because they know that getting off their game, even in the smallest way, could lead to a disaster, and an advantage for their opponent. The inspiration from athletes and their dedication is a thing that I really try to draw on when talking to the actors about the "why" of being in shape.
TPG: Would you say you model the preparations after the athletes since you're inspired by them?
SNYDER: 100 percent. If you look at the Gym Jones approach–and Mark Twight is our trainer for the movies–if you look at that mindset, it's very much indicative of starting with the athletic concept. That's to say, "You need discipline, you need constant training, you need to tear yourself down before you can build yourself back up," and that’s as much psychological as it is physical, so it’s a thing that we really strive to instill into the actors so their character can be as intense as an athlete.
TPG: Speaking of athletes, former Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green was cast in Batman v Superman as Thug #2. How did you decide to cast Green in this role?
SNYDER: I'll be 100 percent frank with you, because of time, he ended up just in the director's cut. But there's a lot of amazing stuff in the director's cut, and there's a second storyline, but my relationship with Ahman Green is that I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I'm a huge Packers fan. Ahman Green came down to the set when we did the [first] Superman movie, Man of Steel. He came and visited on set, and then when it came time to make this movie, I was just like we got to get Ahman in the movie. By the way, he did a great job of acting. He really, really did an amazing job, and we were all pretty impressed with what he did.
TPG: What, if anything, did you learn about the high-profile stars like Ben Affleck from working with them on this movie?
SNYDER: What I learned about Ben is that he's incredibly generous with his time, and even though he’s directed movies and won an Academy Award for Argo with how incredible that is, with me on set, he’s 100 percent like, "Sir, what do you need?" or "How can I make this better? I'm just here to serve your vision." He's incredibly kind and incredibly disciplined.
TPG: How has working with Christopher Nolan influenced your directing, specifically with regards to the Batman role?
SNYDER: Yeah, Chris is an executive producer for Batman v Superman, and was a producer for Man of Steel and he's a great friend. The great thing about him is Chris is a great ally. It's hard when you're in these worlds where you're trying to protect secrets, there's a small group of people that you can rely on as touchstones for what you're doing. Chris has remained a big asset in that way.
TPG: You cast Jesse Eisenberg, who is most well-known for his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, as Lex Luthor. What went into the decision of casting someone who's not really known for villain roles, as a very high profile villain?
SNYDER: I met with Jesse for another role in the movie, and when I was talking to him, that's when it really occurred to me there was a possibility that there might be more to him, right? A little more potential. Over the course of the conversation it dawned on me that this could be a thing, that he could be Lex. That was pretty much the revelation. When he walked out, I said to my wife, Debbie, who's my producer, "You know, this guy Jesse could be Lex." And we all had to take a second to go, "That's true." And it just really evolved from there. It was the way he spoke to us and his confidence and his demeanor. In everything about him, there was something really interesting. We knew the Lex we wanted for the movie, and we saw that he fit that. It's hard to say until you see him in the whole role of the "why," but you'll see that it's pretty clear.
TPG: Do you remember what role you were talking to him about when you decided that he should be Lex Luthor?
SNYDER: Yeah, but that’s a little bit of a spoiler. You’ll see in the movie.
TPG: Do you hope that Eisenberg has a similar transcendent effect on Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in the 1980s that Ledger had on The Joker?
SNYDER: That would be amazing. My hope is that what he does, or the signature that he puts on it, will be particular to his point of view, and I’m hoping that that comes up. I think it will. When you see [Batman v Superman] you'll understand the point of view and you’ll understand the "why" of it. That’s my first hope and then we'll see what the pop culture ramifications are for that.
TPG: You've directed a lot of action movies in the past, most notably 300, and you’ve signed on to direct more of the DC Universe movies. What’s been your favorite movie to direct?
SNDYER: Batman v Superman has been an amazing experience for me just because it's really fun and it's given me an opportunity to work with the great Henry Cavill, Ben [Affleck], Amy [Adams] and Jeremy Irons. The whole cast is amazing and everyone’s working together toward the same goal. It's been a pretty satisfying experience. But the experience that most stands out for me is Watchmen because I love that it’s from a graphic novel and the unapologetic insanity that we embarked on in making that movie, and I'm really sure it’s a movie that resonates now as you see where movies have gone, where the genre has gone. For me, that was the next coolest.
— ZackSnyder (@ZackSnyder) February 8, 2016
TPG: Is there a story that you hope to write, produce or direct at some point in your career?
SNYDER: Yeah, there's a couple. I've always been a fan of The Fountainhead and that’s a thing that I’ve always been interested in doing. It's something we’ve talked about for the future.
TPG: Anything else you want to add about Doritos Crash the Super Bowl?
SNYDER: The cinematic achievements are amazing ... It's just incredible production value, and you would never know that they were made on a shoestring because of the visual effects, and they’re funny and everything you could hope for. But the guys are going to look up there, and one of the three is going to see their spot played and that’s how they’ll know that they've won the million bucks and a chance to work with me and Warner Bros. on one of the DC movies. It’s really exciting for them. You can't imagine this life-changing event that's going to be really fun to witness.