If you're reading an article about a Superman movie, there's a really good chance that – at some point – you've thought about making a Superman movie yourself, or at least what you'd like to see in a movie like Man of Steel. Deborah Snyder, along with her producing partner and Man of Steel director (and husband) Zack Snyder, got to live out that fantasy. It was really hard work.
Sitting down with Snyder at a soundstage at the Warner Bros. backlot in Burbank, CA, she and I talked about the responsibilities her production team had to the character, the initial trepidations, and the various details they fought for… and were convinced to shy away from. We also got into some MILD SPOILERS about various Man of Steel easter eggs fans are going to find throughout the movie, and what they might mean for future installments of the franchise. There's also a MILD SPOILER about Lois Lane.
We will reserve any spoilers – which again, would be minor – for the second page of the interview, so feel free to read ahead until the page break without any concerns.
CraveOnline: When you found out that you were going to produce Man of Steel, what was your first thought? Was it a worry, or was it like “Success!” What was your first inclination?
Deborah Snyder: We met the Nolans on a plane going to CinemaCon when they were there for Inception, we were doing [Legend of the] Guardians, and we never met them before. Yet we were both husband and wife team at the same studio and people kept saying, “Oh you guys have to meet.” So we had a really nice conversation of the plane and we said, “Listen when everything calms down we gotta get a meal together.” So a couple months after that we got a call and Chris [Nolan] had said, “Hey, do you guys want to come over for lunch and grab that meal, and would you mind if we talked to you about Superman?” Zack got off the phone and we were like… [Gasps]! And I said “I don’t know, Zack. I don’t know how…” And he was such a fan of the character, he had different trepidations, right? His trepidation was, “I don’t know how to do this character justice. I’m not sure I know how to do that.” And I was like. “I don’t know how you make him accessible to a modern audience.” But we said, sure we’ll come and listen and they pitched us the idea that Chris and [David] Goyer had for the story. We really felt that they had an in into making him relatable, into making you care about him. But of course we wanted to read the script because the pitches are usually better than the script, and we were so pleased when we read the script. It was a really great way of getting at him. So then it was like, okay… Zack said, “I want to do this. I really want to do this.” And I said, “I feel like they really figured out a way to make this work.” And then I don’t think you can think about what the responsibility is. [Laughs] It’s like, too huge, right? So then you just have to go about your day-to-day.
Can you let it drop entirely though? Because surely you realize you can’t make a decision that turns it into… not Superman.
But I think also, too, it’s about… Listen, in working on these beloved graphic novels or comics that we have, we know that respecting the source material, and in this instance because there [are] many comics… it’s about respecting the canon. We knew there were certain things you couldn’t do. He’s from Krypton. There’s a history there. His parents are who they are. You know, the suit. Redesigning the suit I think was a great example of the balance because, you know, you couldn’t keep it to what it was because audiences are much more sophisticated to what superhero suits are. Zack wanted to make sure the ‘S,’ the shield, was a proud symbol on his chest. He had to have a cape…
I heard he was fighting for the little shorts.
You know, he did. And we looked at so many iterations and it just …
Did you have to convince him? Did you have to sit him down…?
I didn’t because we looked at it and it was pretty obvious. Because they sort of get smaller and smaller and then it was like, “Okay, we’re hinting at them.” We have the belt…
Yeah, like those little ribbings along the side. Could those have been red? It just didn’t work.
Yeah. I felt like it just didn’t look as cool. You know? It didn’t look as modern. But we felt like we at least hinted at it. You know, we knew people were going to be mad. Some people. And, you know, you can’t please everybody…
At least until they see it work in a different way.
And people were mad about Heath Ledger as the Joker until they saw the Joker and went, “Oh, crap. That’s awesome.”
I think they’re going to be that way about some stuff in Man of Steel. Incidentally, I really loved this movie.
Oh, I’m so glad.
It’s the Superman movie I’ve been wanting to see. So, thank you.
You know, it’s a scary thing. You know, you take on these things. You work on it for a while. You don’t know how …
Every geek – and I’m one of them – they imagine “What ‘I’ would do… if ‘I’ had a Superman movie… and ‘I’ would make it work and it would be awesome.” Then, once it’s there in front of you, and you actually have to do it, then it becomes the series of little tasks. And was there ever any – we talked about the little shorts – but were there disagreements about directions to take that were really difficult decisions? t attack. What were the big decisions to be made?
No… Listen, I think that Chris and David had a really good story and then Zack is… the one thing about Zack is he’s very clear in his vision. Like it or not, he has a very clear vision of what, and he’s very good at communicating that, and I think at the beginning before we even came on to the project, he knew what he wanted to do with the script. He knew what changes, and Chris was really super… I think he liked what those changes were.
Was it changes to the plot, or was it more like, “Here’s a set piece I’d like to put in…?”
Yeah and, ‘I think it needs this.’ And again…
Can you give me one example that was something that Zack brought in?
Well, I mean, the sequence at the end with Jonathan with the car. The flashback where they are looking at young Clark. That was never in the script. That’s we he just added because he felt like he wanted that moment at the end of the movie, and he wanted to feel Jonathan’s presence. It’s interesting because it’s really kind of Martha’s flashback of how she’s remembering him. To me, that gets me still. You know, it’s funny how Jonathan, although his screen time is not that much, he resonates throughout the film so much.
Well, casting works to. You got Kevin Costner. It’s a small part but Kevin Costner is very specifically that guy.
When you see Kevin Costner, you see him on a plain. You can’t like see him, you know, in a cubicle like doing something. He’s always in a field or something. And it just feels right.
[Laughs] It does feel right!
And he’s, like, the dad everybody wants, you know. He is. And he was so… I really enjoyed working with him a great deal. I enjoyed seeing him work with the younger kids. He was super gracious. Like, when no one was looking, the advice he would give them off screen about blocking, hitting your mark and stuff. We got really, really lucky. Really lucky to have these amazing people because everything feels very believable and real. And they were inspired by it too. I think you feel that.