300: Rise of an Empire won the box office with an impressive $45 million debut and we got to talk to the film’s producer, Bernie Goldman, for an exclusive interview. We chatted about what he thinks it is about the world of 300 that is still so compelling, seven years after the first one, and he even admits their concerns of doing a follow-up without the star who uttered those famous 300 quotes, Gerard Butler.
Goldman also let us in on a little secret: 300: Rise of an Empire scene-stealer -- Eva Green -- was originally thought of for the role that went to Lena Headey! Fate is a funny thing, as we cannot imagine 300: Rise of an Empire without her and her villainous ways!
Movie Fanatic: This 300 world has so resonated with people since it first came out, and clearly from the response to 300: Rise of an Empire… it is beloved. What do you think it is about it that people love so much?
Bernie Goldman: I really don’t know to tell you the truth. I could speculate. Someone told me that before we did the first 300, there was 3000 copies of the graphic novel in circulation. I was astounded by that figure because it seemed like from the online chatter -- and this was seven years ago, the beginning of movie fans talking to each other on the internet -- there was so much buzz. The success of the first movie was largely due to how much fans talked about the movie on the internet. When our first trailer came out, Zack’s original idea was “I want to take Frank’s (Miller) book and put it on screen.” When people saw that, they were blown away. Zack’s a great artist and a great director and he was doing something visually that hadn’t been done. When you do something visually arresting in a genre with action that people love, then you’re rewarded.
Movie Fanatic: It was something that has been often imitated since. I was so impressed with what Noam Murro did, picking up the mantle from Zack. What was it about Noam that most assured you guys that he was the guy to carry on Zack’s legacy with 300?
Bernie Goldman: We spoke and met with a bunch of directors and frankly, Noam had a great grasp of the material and he did a great visual presentation. He was prepared. He knew the first movie and knew what he wanted to do and how to push it forward. When someone comes in the room and is that commanding, you better give him the job.
Movie Fanatic: Is that what Eva Green did when she came in? Because she just exploded on screen, as we said in our 300: Rise of an Empire review...
Bernie Goldman: It’s interesting -- no one’s talked about this! But, we first met Eva for Gorgo years ago. We ended up going with Lena Headey. She is such a stellar actress, and there is nobody out there like her. She was the only person on our list for the part. I don’t know what we would have done if she had said no. I still can’t think of anybody else! She’s so interesting and commands the screen in the role that she does. We really wanted her and sent her the script… and thank God she said yes.
Movie Fanatic: We touched on it with the world of 300 and its resonance. But, what do you think it is about the world of ancient Greece that, no matter the story, we’re still drawn to it thousands of years later?
Bernie Goldman: All of our stories are based in that tradition. From Shakespeare to whatever movie you want to talk about, any hero's journey, it all started there. And then you look at the history, and there’s so many stories there. It was a crazy time [laughs]. There was a lot of great characters. There were a lot of people writing about it. It makes it interesting. It’s historical, but there is a lot of interpretation that you can bring to it. It still has resonance on all of our lives. The idea of fighting for family and fighting for your way of life, it resonates as much today as it did thousands of years ago. These aren’t new themes, but they’re themes we like to be reminded of. We all think if we were the hero, what would we do?
Movie Fanatic: Was there any concern from you as a producer, or from the filmmakers, that you were making this film without the man who became a huge star in the first one, Gerard Butler? Clearly you couldn’t have him in this, because he died in the first one, but he does linger over 300: Rise of an Empire.
Bernie Goldman: Look, we all love Gerry. We made this movie together seven years ago and had a blast together. Gerry was a big part of it. I still don’t think it would have been that much more fun to make this one with Gerry. There was no part for him. We wondered if there was some way to bring him back… bring him back into our family. But, there wasn’t. There is a lot of love on both sides between the filmmakers and Gerry, and frankly everyone involved. We had as much fun making this movie. Hopefully we can find a way to work with him again and hopefully also find a way to keep making movies in the 300 series.
You can witness the beginning of the magic and watch 300 online!