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How Zack Snyder Saved 'Watchmen' From Terry Gilliam's Ruination

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | March 4, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | March 4, 2014 |

Our favorite celebrity interviewer, HuffPo’s Mike Ryan, sat down with Zack Snyder and his wife this week to discuss the sequel to 300, Rise of an Empire (which was handed off to director Noam Murro, though Snyder is still producing), how Snyder’s style has been “ripped off” by other directors, and how much fun Zack Snyder had springing his Batman vs. Superman casting announcements onto the public. During the course of the interview Ryan — because the man knows how to elicit a good quote — turned the conversation toward recent critical comments producer Joel Silver made about Snyder’s Watchmen, suggesting that the Snyder was a “slave to the material.”

Snyder’s response, which throws Terry Gilliam and his version under the bus, is still surprisingly fair and probably accurate. Snyder’s film wasn’t overwhelmingly well received by the Internet audience, but Gilliam’s version probably would’ve incited a nerd riot.

From HuffPo:

Was “Watchmen” the most “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” project you’ve ever been a part of? Now Joel Silver is criticizing you for being a “slave” to the source material while touting a very different from the source material script that Terry Gilliam was going to film.

Zack Snyder: It’s funny, because the biggest knock against the movie is that we finally changed the ending, right?

Right, you used Dr. Manhattan as the threat to bring the world together as opposed to the alien squid.

Zack Snyder: Right, and if you read the Gilliam ending, it’s completely insane.

Deborah Snyder: The fans would have been thinking that they were smoking crack.

Zack Snyder: Yeah, the fans would have stormed the castle on that one. So, honestly, I made “Watchmen” for myself. It’s probably my favorite movie that I’ve made. And I love the graphic novel and I really love everything about the movie. I love the style. I just love the movie and it was a labor of love. And I made it because I knew that the studio would have made the movie anyway and they would have made it crazy. So, finally I made it to save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world.

In Gilliam’s version, Dr. Manhattan is convinced to go back in time and prevent Dr. Manhattan from existing. But the specter of his existence is the threat to the world, which is kind of what you did at the end of the movie anyway.

Zack Snyder: Right, of course. It’s just using elements that are in the comic book already, that’s the only thing I did. I would not have grabbed something from out of the air and said, “Oh, here’s a cool ending” just because it’s cool.

Deborah Snyder: But it’s interesting because, you’re right, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You have people who are mad that the ending was changed and you have other people saying, “Oh, it was a slave to the graphic novel.” You can’t please everybody.

Zack Snyder: And that’s the problem with genre. That’s the problem with comic book movies and genre. And I believe that we’ve evolved — I believe that the audiences have evolved. I feel like “Watchmen” came out at sort of the height of the snarky Internet fanboy — like, when he had his biggest strength. And I think if that movie came out now — and this is just my opinion — because now that we’ve had “Avengers” and comic book culture is well established, I think people would realize that the movie is a satire. You know, the whole movie is a satire. It’s a genre-busting movie. The graphic novel was written to analyze the graphic novel — and comic books and the Cold War and politics and the place that comic books play in the mythology of pop culture. I guess that’s what I’m getting at with the end of “Watchmen” — in the end, the most important thing with the end was that it tells the story of the graphic novel. The morality tale of the graphic novel is still told exactly as it was told in the graphic novel — I used slightly different devices. The Gilliam version, if you look at it, it has nothing to do with the idea that is the end of the graphic novel. And that’s the thing that I would go, “Well, then don’t do it.” It doesn’t make any sense.

I can’t imagine people being happy with that version.

Zack Snyder: Yeah! If you love the graphic novel, there’s just no way. It would be like if you were doing “Romeo and Juliet” and instead of them waking up in the grave area, they would have time-traveled back in time and none of it would have happened.

See? You want to defend Terry Gilliam against Zack Snyder, because Terry Gilliam directed Brazil and Zack Snyder directed Sucker Punch, but you have to admit that Snyder has some good points. And as someone who has read exactly two graphic novels — Watchmen and V for Vendetta — I didn’t think that Snyder’s version was that bad, save for some terrible musical choices.

Anyway, you can read the rest of the interview over on Huffpo and I’m sure there’s something in there you can take issue with, and also check Mike Ryan’s archive daily, because it’s where you’ll find the best celebrity interviews on the webs.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.