Zack Snyder had the potentially thankless task of creating a new Superman movie that would both galvanize fans, cause non-superhero fans to flock to the theaters (a la The Avengers) and most importantly, give Warner Bros. a firm platform from which to build their Justice League.
To say that Snyder achieved all of the above is an understatement. His first triumph was casting Henry Cavill in the title role, along with Amy Adams as the iconic Lois Lane and then zeroing in on a villain in General Zod that would have an Oscar-nominated actor portraying him in Michael Shannon.
It didn’t hurt that superstars lined up to join the franchise, including Russell Crowe as his Kryptonian father and Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as his Earth-bound adoptive parents.
We met Snyder recently at the Warner Bros. lot to talk about the toils and triumphs of his Man of Steel. The conversation had to start with… why Zod?
Movie Fanatic: What was it about the character of Zod from the Superman mythology that made him perfect for your Superman world?
Zack Snyder: I think the cool thing about Zod is that he offers a real threat to Superman, a physical and emotional threat to Superman that is much stronger then any Earth-bound threat. He's able not only to match him physically but also represents his people. He's a hard opponent that way.
Movie Fanatic: The best part about your Zod is that the audience can see the justification for what he is doing. Unlike Terrence Stamp’s Superman II General Zod, we can almost pull for him. Was that something you shaped with Michael Shannon?
Zack Snyder: Yes, Michael and I talked about it in the beginning that we wanted his point of view to be pretty clear... if this was happening to your planet and you were trying to save the people that you loved, what lengths would you go to?
Movie Fanatic: One of the things that worked so well in the film teased in the Man of Steel trailer is that it is non-linear. Why did you choose to not tell the Clark Kent/Superman story from farm boy to fan boy’s dream?
Zack Snyder: You're with Clark and he's making his way and you're sort of getting these cool insights into the why of him. I think it's fun to do it in a way, rather than when he's facing a decision. You get to see the why on why he's making those decisions. Presenting it that way allows the momentum of the story to keep going and you also get an insight into the man in a way that is interesting. It serves the movie in a really fun way too.
Movie Fanatic: Take us back to the beginning of how you got this gig and how Christopher Nolan helped make you the man who would bring back Superman in Man of Steel.
Zack Snyder: Debbie (his wife and producing partner) and I went and had lunch with Chris (Nolan) and Emma (wife and producing partner) and we talked about this Superman project. I remember the first time when we were setting the meeting it was like, "Hey, you guys want to have lunch and if we talk about Superman... is that weird?" We thought no, no, Superman is cool. I was worried about Superman honestly as a project because it was a thing that I was interested in, but then on the other hand I was scared of because Superman is Superman.
Movie Fanatic: Was a titanic challenge?
Zack Snyder: Yeah, it seemed at the time like a lot of work to make it work, though I will say after I read David's script and after talking to Chris there was no fear in the script and the idea. The idea was very straightforward and very confident and I think that's what gave me this feeling of confidence that I felt like I can make cool. Maybe I need to just let go of the fear of this icon. I do like Superman as a character and I have followed him throughout the years.
Movie Fanatic: What were your biggest emotional speed bumps to making this movie?
Zack Snyder: Could I honor what he's been and what he has the potential to be? I think David (Goyer, screenwriter) did an amazing job with the script and what was in there we just had to go after it. I think the vision was sort of an unapologetic Superman movie that we wanted to make that just didn't apologize for Superman for his costume, for his origins, for the way he fits into society. We just wanted to say no, no, this is the mythology and this is how it is and it's supposed to be.
Movie Fanatic: Did you feel pressure to include Lex Luther in this first film?
Zack Snyder: There's no kryptonite and there's no Lex Luther… Well, OK, within the parameters of this story there's no kryptonite or Lex Luther. But… that’s not to say they don't exist in the world. That's an entirely different question!