The Inverse Interview

Zack Snyder Aims for the Stars

“People have never accused me of exploiting the male form, though I probably do that quite a bit.”

The Inverse Interview

A hallmark, perhaps the hallmark, of action filmmaking is showing off the rippling muscles of its beefcake protagonists. Gods among men like Arnold Schwarzenneger or Dolph Lundgren made careers out of wearing very little while kicking a titanic amount of ass. For Zack Snyder, a pillar of modern action, it goes beyond simply showing those bodies cut from granite. To hear him tell it, the Greek God aesthetic is almost a way of life.

“I’ve always been sort of obsessed with making sure everyone was in great shape,” Snyder tells Inverse. “I had this ideal aesthetic that I was always chasing with the actors and was always having them really train hard. 300, obviously. Even Manhattan in Watchmen…

Since 300 turned him into a household name, rippling abs and bulging pecs have become a calling card of sorts for Snyder, whose latest film, Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver, is streaming now on Netflix. His highly stylized visuals and emphasis on slow-mo have always served the purpose of lionizing the physiques of his stars — and it’s not something he shies away from.

“People have never accused me of exploiting the male form, though I probably do that quite a bit,” he says with a laugh.

Gerard Butler and his rippling abs in 300.

Warner Bros.

That adulation of the human form is what led Snyder to cast Sofia Boutella as the anchor of his burgeoning franchise, Rebel Moon. A former dancer, Boutella has rapidly become a scene-stealer in action films like Atomic Blonde and Kingsman, her combination of grace and ferocity catching the eye of Snyder. He wrote Rebel Moon with Boutella in mind, giving the actor her first major lead role in a blockbuster.

“I wasn’t sure the studio would go for it because it’s a giant movie,” Snyder says. “But we shot a little scene with her, and she was so good that everyone was like, ‘OK, obviously this is how we’re going to do it.’”

Boutella’s background in dance gives her a balletic quality that’s made her transition into a full-blown action star seamless, but that doesn’t undersell the blunt force of her movements. She’s a livewire of kinetic energy, something Snyder was blown away by while on set.

“Her physicality, what she’s able to do in the movie with her body, running around, shooting and making mayhem … that’s a thing that you don’t dream that is possible, and it was an amazing opportunity for us to have her,” Snyder says.

Snyder builds Rebel Moon – Part Two: Scargiver around Sofia Boutella.


Boutella’s Kora and her ragtag band of misfits are set to make their last stand in Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver. The Scargiver isn’t simply the conclusion to this part of the story of what Netflix hopes to be their next franchise, but the culmination of an idea Zack Snyder’s had in his head his entire career. Long before zombies, owls, or superheroes, Snyder had space-operatic daydreams of outcasts bonded together by tragedy, intent on the toppling of a fascist regime. If this all sounds familiar, it should: Snyder’s been very clear that his opus was directly inspired by Star Wars and Seven Samurai. Once pitched to Lucasfilm as an entry into their universe, Rebel Moon finally found life last year at Netflix.

“It’s exciting because it’s been gestating for a long time. It’s one of those things where you’re like, maybe one day we’ll shoot a sci-fi movie, I don’t know. And then now to have it really on the verge of being released … it’s the final chapter of all that.”

Those visions made their debut in December with Part One (Child of Fire), which followed a team of unlikely heroes across a besieged galaxy who came together to finally say “ENOUGH” to the evil empire known as the Motherworld. Like all great space adventures, Part One left us on a juicy cliffhanger with Sofia Boutella’s Kora falsely believing she’d taken out Ed Skrein’s Admiral Noble and our heroes returning to the farming planet known as Veldt for the coming last stand. A stinger further teased the relationship between Kora and her despotic “father,” the sadistic ruler of the Motherworld, Belisarius.

Zack Snyder with the cast of Rebel Moon.

John Nacion/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Part One is a lot to take in; you’re met with a disparate group of warriors in a world that’s entirely new to you. We’re bombarded with brand-new names, concepts, and alien worlds never before seen. While initially conceived as one film, releasing his epic in two films has allowed Snyder to step back and let the action-packed Part Two reap the benefits of the first film’s setup.

“It’s interesting because the movies were shot together,” Snyder says. “It’s important now to get the final piece out because it really does make the story all make sense, and you really understand the why of the whole thing. I’m excited for people to get the opportunity to now experience that as a single idea.”

Returning to what makes him such a force in modern action, it isn’t just those glistening muscles his camera loves to linger upon. Snyder also employs a wide diversity of stuntwork in his films. On Part Two, he and stunt coordinator Freddy Bouciegues up the ante from the first, delivering a full-scale war between the rebels and the empire. In the film’s climactic battle, a team of over 40 stunt pros worked to fill out a cast of villagers and soldiers alike, often doubling themselves. As Part Two closes the book on this chapter of Rebel Moon, the story of stunt performers in Hollywood and the work they do feels like it’s finally being told. As calls from across the industry for a stunt Oscar heat up, Snyder agrees that it’s long overdue.

Snyder takes particular pride in the 300 charge.

Warner Bros.

“I don’t think that there’s a question that that isn’t a category that should be awarded an Oscar,” he says. “We get so much of what happens in movies through the stunt lens… the supervisors and the choreographers and everything. Without them, some of the greatest things that you’ve seen in movies wouldn’t exist. So absolutely, that’s a thing that should exist.”

As for the stunt he’s proudest of himself, Snyder takes it back to the film that shot him into the stratosphere, the film that became his lifelong calling card to make grand, violent epics like Rebel Moon.

“I think one of the most iconic stunts, and it’s a long time ago, and we’ve continued to achieve these amazing stunts and fights, but I think of the Leonidas charge in 300 because it’s Gerry,” Snyder says, referring to 300 lead Gerard Butler. “He had worked so hard. But it’s an example of all the stunt guys making it work, you know? They’re all having to die all over the place to make it work. That, to me, is a pretty iconic sequence and also really relies on so much support. Gerry does a great job, don’t get me wrong, but if all the elements don’t happen, it’s a disaster. That stands out in my mind.”

Rebel Moon - Part Two: The Scargiver is playing on Netflix now.

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