Zack Snyder On Getting Back To Basics With ‘Army Of The Dead’ After What He Calls ‘Torture’

It’s not lost on Zack Snyder that he’s, most likely, the most interviewed person in the world right now, as I joked with him that the headline to this interview should be “Zack Snyder finally breaks his silence.” This is because of two reasons. One is, as you may have heard, his version of Justice League was unleashed, finally, to the masses a couple of months ago. And just as that whole entity (it feels wrong to just call that a “movie” since there’s so much else that goes with that whole project) started winding down, boom, here comes Zack Snyder again with a brand new Zombie heist movie, Army of the Dead. (Which will be in theaters this weekend and Netflix the next.)

Army of the Dead is a kind of back to basics for Zack Snyder, who says it was much needed because he is still, let’s say, obviously still pretty unhappy with his old bosses at Warner Bros. – launching, unprompted, into a list of grievances and describing the whole relationship as “torture.” I asked if he worried about any professional backlash from any of this and, well, I came away pretty convinced that, no, he very much is not.

Snyder still hasn’t seen the HBO version of Watchmen, though he plans to watch it. (He does seem like a very busy person.) Though I was curious if his position has changed about not using the squid in his 2009 adaptation of the comic, since the series did use the squid to great effect. Kind of surprisingly, his answer does sound like a “maybe,” with a few caveats.

Also, Snyder has already spelled out the plot of what his next two Justice League movies would have entailed. And he was clear he wanted to use the John Stewart version of Green Lantern in the movie we saw – going as far as to shoot a scene with the character, played by Wayne T. Carr (Warner Bros. wasn’t into the idea so he used Martian Manhunter instead) – and in the future movies. But what would John Stewart’s role have been in these future movies? Ahead, he walks us through that.

I think, right now, you are the most interviewed person in the world.

It might be true. I swear to god. If you go by my last three weeks and if you were with me, you’d say that is true. I don’t know how I could be interviewed more than I am right now.

I know more about what you have going on than I do close friends.

I’m sorry about that. I apologize. That’s not right. It is what it is, but yeah.

My joke headline for this piece would be “Zack Snyder finally breaks his silence.”

[Laughs] Oh, that’s cool. That’s good. “Zack Snyder comes clean.”

“He’s finally ready to talk.”

Yeah. I’m all warmed up. I’m ready to go!

Here’s my analogy. With Army of the Dead, it feels like a famous comedian who’s been in movies or the biggest series and decides, you know what? I want to do stand up again. Get back to my roots.

It is a little bit. I’d say it’s a good analogy because I shot the movie and I wrote the movie. Clearly, it comes from the well, if you will, in a pretty significant way. And so, yeah, I think that’s a pretty good analogy. I buy that.

Did you need that?

Oh god yeah. God yeah. It was cool to do the Snyder Cut of Justice League and that was fun and everything. But Warner Bros. still tortured me the whole time for whatever reason, they can’t help it. I don’t know why I’m such a fucking pain in their ass because I’m not trying to be, honestly.

Now what you just said right there – and I’ve seen your other recent quotes where you’ve said Warner Bros. isn’t being receptive to the SnyderVerse. Because look, every experience I’ve had with you is you are a nice guy and a really passionate filmmaker. But do you worry when you say things like that, not Warner Bros., but another studio might be like, “Well, if things go south, we don’t want to be on the receiving end of that”?

Well, I just don’t know who would ever end up on the other end? If you analyze what’s happened with Warner Bros., it’s not a normal situation. It’s a once-in-a-generation bizarro situation! I just had an amazing experience with Netflix and it was awesome and we had a great partnership and an incredibly great experience. So the only thing I would say is that it’s an unusual situation.

That’s true. And I just say that from a selfish standpoint because I want to keep seeing your movies and I don’t want you to get in too much trouble.

No, I agree. I don’t want to get in trouble either, but I’m not going to sit here and let them act like that and not… Look, they’re the ones that have been aggressive, not me. I haven’t done anything. Every day they’d turn around and do some weird passive-aggressive thing. So, I don’t know. It’s weird. But look, like I say, I had a great time making Justice League. I’m super glad I got to finish it.

And it’s not lost on me that you’ve been very supportive of Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot. And I am curious, with Army of the Dead, and it’s not the same thing, but when you replaced Chris D’Elia with Tig Notaro, when was the moment you realized, “Oh, we have a problem here?”

No, it was pretty instantaneous. As soon as it got brought to me and they were like, “This is the thing,” I was like, “Well, that’s problematic. We’re going to have to do something.” And I think it also became kind of a technical thing, right?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really even know about it until after I saw the movie. It looked seamless.

Maybe I’ll get some kind of technical award as a DP for putting her in that movie, because that part was hard. It was funny because I shot the movie in a really super organic way, and I was like, oh, this is going to be cool, available light, and it’s going to be minimal and all this. And then cut to me on the stage, I have to recreate that in the most sterile circumstance possible with the most lights and the most everything. And so it was interesting. You have to really understand where the light is all the time to make it match, and you light the green screens correctly, it’s really problematic, but it was good. It was fun. It was an awesome exercise. And Tig is awesome.

She is great. Will this influence how you cast in the future? Because from her quotes she even seems surprised about being in this movie.

I don’t see it. It felt normal. It feels natural to me. I was like, this is amazing. I was shocked that she said yes, frankly. So that was the goodness for me, that she wanted to do it. So it’s worked out great for me. But yeah, my casting decisions, choices have been always slightly problematic for the studio. They’ve all come around, everyone is convinced. Not so much on Army, but on all my D.C. movies.

Right, people weren’t into Jason Momoa at first, now everyone loves him.

Yeah. And Gal has always been slightly controversial, but once you see her in the role, you’re like, okay, she’s amazing.

I’ve been wanting to ask you this, and maybe you’ve been asked this already because, again, you’ve been interviewed so many times…

I’m breaking my silence.

I do love your Watchmen movie and I’m curious if you saw the HBO series.

I have not seen it yet. I do plan on seeing it at some point, but I have not watched it yet.

The reason I ask is, in flashbacks, they used the squid to great effect. And I’m curious if now, with the technology we have, if you now think you could have pulled off the squid, because back then you said it wouldn’t work because it would look weird, or whatever.

And by the way, I love Watchmen. I have no regrets. I love that movie 100 percent. It’s exactly what I wanted. And in some ways, I think there’s a great college class that someone could teach on the difference between Dr. Manhattan and the squid. And why we would have chosen Dr. Manhattan and how thematically that works as it relates to the climax of that book. But I would also say, that based on doing the movie that I just did, Justice League, I might consider it. Only because I feel like it would have required a slightly longer movie to do the squid, than say, Dr. Manhattan.

Well, that makes sense. And they had a whole miniseries to do it.

Yeah, exactly. And I think that to have the squid in the movie that I made, the movie would be a little bit longer. We had Manhattan already, so we didn’t have to set him up or anything.

Says the man who just released a four-hour movie a couple of months ago.

Exactly my point.

I was rereading the piece about where the next Justice League movies would have gone. You mentioned how you really wanted to use John Stewart’s Green Lantern but you had to use Martian Manhunter instead. I’m curious how John Stewart would have fit in in the whole story and what his role would be.

Well, you know I shot it, right? I shot John Stewart. So, yes, I wanted to use him. So basically what was going to happen is he had two roles. One, we would have seen him in the post-apocalyptic world. He was kind of like their scout and kind of like their, you know, “join the team.” And then in the final battle against Darkseid, he would have gotten the Green Lantern Corps and organized them to fight against Darkseid. Those would have been his jobs.

I like Martian Manhunter, but John Stewart’s the best.

I do, too. I like Martian Manhunter. By the way, Martian Manhunter was going to be in there anyway. So you would have both.

‘Army Of The Dead’ opens in theaters this weekend and hits Netflix the following weekend. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.