by David Wharton
The battle of Thermopylae took place 2,500 years ago, but a new film aims to place it squarely back in the public's mind.
Adapted from the graphic novel by Frank Miller, "300" is the underdog story of how 300 men held off a million (men).
The fight pitted a portion of the Spartan army against the much larger Persian Empire. The Spartans stood their ground, helping the Greeks unite and preventing the Persians from spreading into Europe.
ABC's Joel Siegel spoke with the director of the film, Zack Snyder, who calls it, "half real world, half Frank world."
"I took the battle of Thermopylae and turned it into a myth. I think my movie is the way a Greek would tell the story of Thermopylae months after it happened, not with 2,000 years of hindsight," Snyder said.
In "300," the Spartan king Leonidas faces off against the Persian tyrant Xerxes. Some media reports speculate that one or the other is supposed to represent President Bush. Snyder, who also co-wrote the screenplay, says that he began the script long before Bush was elected, and that any connection is purely speculative.
"I think it's awesome that our little movie about the crazy Frank Miller version of Thermopylae could evoke that kind of discussion, and like I said in [The New York Times] article, if people are saying, 'I think Leonidas is Bush' and the other is saying, 'I think Xerxes is Bush,' and those two people are having a debate about world politics because they saw my movie -- hey, that's pretty awesome," Snyder said.
To create the fantastical look of the movie, all the scenes were shot entirely on green screen. Snyder was worried that not being able to visualize the finished product would affect the actors, but that wasn't the hardest aspect for him.
"I was afraid that the actual fighting would be the hardest part, but it turned out that when an actor is swinging a stick at an actor and trying to hit him in the head, they tend to duck and it looks real. The harder part of the movie for me was actually the post-production side of the movie -- the year of post production it actually took to finish the movie," he said.
The actors leaned on each other for inspiration.
"It doesn't really matter if there's a sunset or a mountain, as long as when they're looking into the eyes of the actor in front of them and that's real, then that works," Snyder said.
Snyder freely admits that the film isn't a by-the-numbers historical representation. In ads and scenes for the movie, you see loin-cloth-wearing, bare-chested men with weapons and only a shield for protection. In reality, the Spartans wore heavy body armor.
Snyder brushes off criticism of this aspect. "It's funny because, you know, I had been criticized by people that said, '[In] the real battle of Thermopylae, the Spartans had chest plates and they had armor on and that's what the Spartans really look like and in your movie they're depicted bare-chested.' Victor David Hansen, this historian I showed the movie to, said, 'In some ways, what you've done is similar to the way a Greek vase painter paints a hoplite naked.' That is sort of the Greek ideal of what a warrior would be," Snyder said.
One thing Snyder did not want was for audiences to oversympathize with the Spartan way of life.
"Real Spartans were pretty hard core," he said. "It's like the way Spartans raise their children. They do crazy stuff -- they beat on them, they make them fight. If they're not perfect, then they chuck them off cliffs. They're pretty hard core."
Snyder's previous film was a remake of the George Romero horror classic, "Dawn of the Dead." Snyder does not want to be seen as competing with his heroes.
"'Dawn of the Dead' is a love letter to George Romero, there's no two ways about it. I mean, that's my version of the movie. And Frank's book, I tried to make it as faithful as I could to the graphic novel, so it's not like I'm trying to take those guys on and say, 'You're wrong! I can fix your thing. I can make it better!'" he said.
Despite all the hype about "300," Snyder takes it in stride.
When asked whether he and his filmmaking style were the future of movies, Snyder replied, "If the future of the movies is having a good time, then maybe."
"300" opens in theaters Friday.
Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures