300 (film) - Production

Production

Producer Gianni Nunnari was not the only person planning a film about the Battle of Thermopylae; director Michael Mann already planned a film of the battle based on the book Gates of Fire. Nunnari discovered Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, which impressed him enough to acquire the film rights. 300 was jointly produced by Nunnari and Mark Canton, and Michael B. Gordon wrote the script. Director Zack Snyder was hired in June 2004 as he had attempted to make a film based on Miller's novel before making his debut with the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Snyder then had screenwriter Kurt Johnstad rewrite Gordon's script for production and Frank Miller was retained as consultant and executive producer.

The film is a shot-for-shot adaptation of the comic book, similar to the film adaptation of Sin City. Snyder photocopied panels from the comic book, from which he planned the preceding and succeeding shots. "It was a fun process for me... to have a frame as a goal to get to," he said. Like the comic book, the adaptation also used the character Dilios as a narrator. Snyder used this narrative technique to show the audience that the surreal "Frank Miller world" of 300 was told from a subjective perspective. By using Dilios' gift of storytelling, he is able to introduce fantasy elements into the film, explaining that "Dilios is a guy who knows how not to wreck a good story with truth." Snyder also added the sub-plot in which Queen Gorgo attempts to rally support for her husband.

Two months of pre-production were required to create hundreds of shields, spears, and swords, some of which were recycled from Troy and Alexander. Creatures were designed by Jordu Schell, and an animatronic wolf and thirteen animatronic horses were created. The actors trained alongside the stuntmen, and even Snyder joined in. Upwards of 600 costumes were created for the film, as well as extensive prosthetics for various characters and the corpses of Persian soldiers. Shaun Smith and Mark Rappaport worked hand in hand with Snyder in pre-production to design the look of the individual characters, and to produce the prosthetics, props, weapons and dummy bodies required for the production.

300 entered active production on October 17, 2005, in Montreal, and was shot over the course of sixty days in chronological order with a budget of $60 million. Employing the digital backlot technique, Snyder shot at the now-defunct Icestorm Studios in Montreal using bluescreens. Butler said that while he did not feel constrained by Snyder's direction, fidelity to the comic imposed certain limitations on his performance. Wenham said there were times when Snyder wanted to precisely capture iconic moments from the comic book, and other times when he gave actors freedom "to explore within the world and the confines that had been set." Headey said of her experience with the bluescreens, "It's very odd, and emotionally, there's nothing to connect to apart from another actor." Only one scene, in which horses travel across the countryside, was shot outdoors. The film was an intensely physical production, and Butler pulled an arm tendon and developed foot drop.

Post-production was handled by Montreal's Meteor Studios and Hybride Technologies filled in the bluescreen footage with more than 1,500 visual effects shots. Visual effects supervisor, Chris Watts, and production designer, Jim Bissell, created a process dubbed "The Crush," which allowed the Meteor artists to manipulate the colors by increasing the contrast of light and dark. Certain sequences were desaturated and tinted to establish different moods. Ghislain St-Pierre, who led the team of artists, described the effect: "Everything looks realistic, but it has a kind of a gritty illustrative feel." Various computer programs, including Maya, RenderMan and RealFlow, were used to create the "spraying blood." The post-production lasted for a year and was handled by a total of ten special effects companies.

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