With Man of Steel opening next week, Warner Bros. recently held a huge press junket here in Los Angeles where I was able to interview producer Deborah Snyder. During the extended conversation, she talked about the last few weeks, what they learned from the friends and family screenings, deleted scenes, how long was the first cut, and respecting the Superman canon while still making slight changes. She also talked about what will be on the Man of Steel Blu-ray, could it have an extended cut, how one of the key fights in the movie almost didn’t happen, IMAX, were they ever going to shoot in 3D rather than post-convert, and more. Finally, I also asked her, “when you guys delivered the rough cut to Warner Bros. and they saw it, was it in the room they offered you Justice League.” Hit the jump to watch or read what she had to say.
Warning: Slight spoilers are discussed in this interview. Nothing that would ruin the movie, but if you want to be spoiler free, you probably want to wait to read/watch this interview.
Here’s the video. The full transcript is below.
DEBORAH SNYDER: I’m so glad.
[Laughs] Me too actually, I’m a huge superman fan. Talk a little bit about what these last few weeks have been like for you in terms of finishing the movie, getting it ready and then just showing it to everybody.
SNYDER: It’s nerve-wracking. You’ve worked on this thing for almost three years and it’s collaborative, but it’s also insular, right? But you’re making it for an audience, and then it’s time to finally show the audience. I think we’re really proud of the film, but you never know how an audience is going to react and you’re excited, but every reaction – because it’s a slow process or it feels painfully slow the last two weeks leading up to the release.
Did you guys do any test screenings?
SNYDER: We did some on-the-lot screenings.
So friends and family.
What did you learn from the friends and family screenings that perhaps helped you shape the final movie?
SNYDER: I think it was mostly pacing issues and length, where maybe it was dragging a little, where people wanted a little bit more action or a little less action. It was kind of like fine tuning the cut.
The final cut is 2:20 or so, how long was your first cut?
SNYDER: Gosh…I don’t even remember, I mean the first cut before Zack showed it to anyone – I think the assembly was over three hours.
But people should know that the assembly is every bit and bob.
SNYDER: Every bit and bell and whistle, it’s kind of where the editor puts everything together and then shows it to Zack, the director, and then he kind of takes it and works from there.
I guess what I’m getting at, where there a lot of deleted scenes? Compared, to say Watchmen, which had – I think the director’s cut of Watchmen is great and there are a few key scenes that make the film even better.
SNYDER: Better, yeah.
Obviously with Man of Steel you can’t go longer than 2:20, that’s the length the studio wants.
SNYDER: And that works for an audience, you know.
Yeah like 2:20 is max, a lot of people tap out.
SNYDER: By the way, that’s what we found. It was kind of the perfect length for the film. We only cut one entire scene, and we trimmed down scenes. So we only lost one scene in its entirety and it wasn’t due to length it was due to that it didn’t feel like it fit in with the rest of what we were doing. It felt a little off.
Was it a special effects scene or was it more dialogue?
SNYDER: It was one of the flashback scenes that we did with the Kent’s with Clark as a child.
I took someone to see it and one of the things we discussed was how great the character moments were, and how great the dialogue was, and how great the people were. How difficult was it for you guys to make sure that stuff worked? Talk a little bit about crafting those moments, because if you don’t care about the characters-
SNYDER: You don’t care about anything.
Yeah, the action means nothing.
SNYDER: Absolutely, I think that’s what’s so special about this film. I think people expect the action, the spectacle, but the depth of the characters and I think the struggles that they go through, that they’re very modern struggles and they’re very relatable struggles. That was kind of our goal to make him as human and as relatable as possible. Because I think before, at least for me, because I can only speak for me, but I found that he was always so good and super-boyscout-ish that I couldn’t really get a feel – at least in the movies, because that’s how I come to him, not really reading the comics but from the movies, and I feel like there is a reason that this character has lasted 75 years. I think it is all these stories inside the cannon that different people can relate to. Whether it’s the two fathers – I think we touch on family and the struggle what it is to be good. I think for us when we read this script seeing Clark being bullied, and seeing him lost in the world, and seeing him try to find his place that was the most interesting aspect of the story for me, because it was a superman that I had never seen before.
There’s a lot of stuff in the movie that is going to feel very familiar to fans and there’s also slight twists that you guys have done, which I found very good. I don’t want to reveal anything because this is probably going to run prior to release, which is unfortunate because I really want to get into certain things. There are certain twists to things that the fans might know, was that Zack? Was that you guys? Was that David’s script? Was that a collaboration?
SNYDER: Yeah, I think that was a collaboration. I mean, listen, David Goyer is the expert, whenever we were unsure – Zack has always been a fan of Superman and has read the comics, but by no means is he an expert on everything Superman, but Goyer knows a lot about it. So whenever we had a question we would go an ask Goyer, “Hey is that right?” Or, “We need the name of a character, find something,” because we really wanted to use a lot from the canon. I think then that’s how Zack came into play. Zack would try to add more things because respecting the canon, although we’re modernizing, it is something that was important to him. And getting those little tidbits, whether it’s the name of someone or a place – we created this Kryptonian language that in Krypton, on the walls, there’s this awesome calligraphy on the walls and its actually translated words and there’s phrases that are there scrolled on the walls. That’s not too spoilers because I didn’t tell you what they are.
Switching gears completely, I definitely have to ask this because it’s an ongoing joke, but when you guys delivered the rough cut to Warner Bros. and they saw it, was it in the room that they offered you Justice League?
SNYDER: [Laughs] You are tricky, you are tricky.
No there’s no trick about it, you guys delivered a fucking great – they’ve had some problems at Warner Bros. delivering superhero movies that don’t start with “Batman” and you guys delivered a great superhero movie. This is going to be a huge worldwide hit.
SNYDER: Well, we’re going to keep our fingers crossed because you never know.
Sure, I can tell you based on the traffic on my site that when I post Man of Steel stuff, compared to everything else, it’s another level. You guys did such a great job with this, is this a franchise that you guys have fallen in love with the point where you could see yourself, maybe after doing something else, coming back to it and doing a sequel? Or is it something where it was so overwhelming spending three years on it?
SNYDER: All I’m going to say is that it’s a character that we – this character, this new Superman we’ve created – we really love. And all the people that we’ve worked with, we’ve had an amazing experience with them. I think we’ll just have to see where it goes from there.
Sure, I really hope that you guys do land Justice League, or decide to do it, or do a sequel, but that’s a whole separate thing.
SNYDER: Okay, whole separate thing [laughs].
With eventually the Blu-ray that’s going to come out, obviously the studio’s already thinking about that because the window’s so short.
I’m sure in four to five months it’s on store shelves, especially with Christmas. Do you envision putting a lot of the deleted scenes on the Blu-ray? Do you envision an extended cut, or is the theatrical the one?
SNYDER: The theatrical cut is the cut that Zack wants out there and I think our feeling was the scene that was deleted didn’t really work so that’s why it’s not in the movie, although what I will say is we’re planning some really nice – Zack does love, and because it’s about world building and visual effects we have so much amazing art work, and I think we’re going to see not only Zack participate in the director walk-ins, but maybe some other special guests joining him this time to elaborate on the filmmaking process. It’s still being worked out who’s going to participate and everything, I’m not just being cheeky about it, but I think that to us is really interesting. I don’t know, it interests us and I think a lot of people out there like seeing breaking it down how are the scenes created and how did it go from the art work to the storyboards to what you see. So I think there’s going to be a lot of that.
During pre-production you guys are obviously working it out – costs, figuring things out from a producing stand point, because you have “x” number of dollars. Was there a sequence or two that came really close to being made but was pulled for whatever reason – script, budget, whatever?
SNYDER: Well it’s interesting because, as scripted, the original Jor-El and Zod fight on Krypton was supposed to be a very short beat and it almost got cut because of the budget. It became this very long – well, the fight is a decent action sequence, but it’s kind of the first bit of action you get in the movie. We don’t go to Smallville for a big set piece for quite a long time. That was in danger of not making it into the film, or a very shortened version was going to make it into the film, but Zack’s very good about moving things around and taking some sequences and shortening them to allow us to actually have the fight as it is in the movie, which is a much longer fight than was originally anticipated.
SNYDER: Yeah, Zack is a film guy. He wanted to shoot this on film. He said it’s ironic that Superman is the most realistic movie he’s made, and the idea was to ground him in reality. We’re just – right now we love film. You go to a theater and it’s sad that everything is becoming digital, there’s something about the grain and the flicker…there’s a grit to film.
Which camera did you use?
SNYDER: I can’t remember if it’s Panavision or Arri, I don’t remember.
So you shot on film.
SNYDER: We shot on film, I don’t remember which camera, because he uses both and don’t remember which on he used one his one.
Was there any consideration for shooting any bits in IMAX?
SNYDER: There was big discussions about shooting it in native 3D or converting it, and Zach wanted it handheld and shot on film. So we did a test at the beginning of shooting and we built a film rig to house two film cameras, because he said, “I’m not going to shoot on digital, I’m going to shoot on film. Let’s see if we can shoot this on film native.” We took the same footage and we shot it on digital and we took the same footage that we shot 2D and we converted it, and what we found was it was really difficult to shoot a handheld film with a rig with two cameras. It was just super heavy and time consuming, it slowed us down, and it was most important not to compromise the vision of the film. To have that moving camera was so much a part of the immediacy of what Zack wanted to communicate. Then we converted it and we cut it together with the native, and we couldn’t tell the difference. We really, honestly couldn’t. So we were like, “The decision is made.” but I think the key is we had the time, we said we would only do the 3D if we had the time to have the conversion happen simultaneously but also at the end of the movie so it’s not like, “Oh it’s done in a month, its rushed so much.” Because the technology is there and the people are there to do it the right way, you just need the time. So it was an easy decision for us to shoot it on film and convert it.
SNYDER: I personally see 2D movies, whatever movie it is. We saw Star Trek in 2D, we see everything in 2D so I’m just a bigger fan of 2D, but the 3D is really well done. It’s not in your face, it’s more immersive.
So more like adding depth.
SNYDER: Its added depth 3D as opposed to, “Hey, we’re poking in the face.” I mean, there are some moments. I think it’s great that you can have the choice to see it in IMAX – what’s really great is the Dolby Atmos mix, if you can see it in Dolby Atmos, to me that makes a big difference. Because the sound separates so much more, and the score is so beautiful and the sound design is amazing, and a lot of times there’s only so much you can do in 7.1, but the Dolby Atmos lets it breath. That’s my recommendation, 2D Dolby Atmos.
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