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’300: Rise of the Empire’ Set Visit: “Lots of Killing and Swords and Fun”

300 Rise of an Empire
Warner Bros.

’300: Rise of an Empire’ isn’t exactly a sequel. It is, in fact, the events happening at the same time as the battle of the Hot Gates from the first film. Thermisticles (Sullivan Stapleton), who was a real life politician and warrior, has a pretty brilliant idea. (Seriously, check out his Wikipedia page here.) It’s an idea that may save the Greeks. Okay, fine. It did save the Greeks, considering the fact that we live in a democratic society.

Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is back and we’re actually learning quite a bit about his past. Though we didn’t get to chat with Santoro on set, we talked to director Noam Murro about working with this much CGI, Sullivan about his role and Eva Green about her real-life female warrior. Check out what they had to say below.

Murro told us about working with a green screen for a large part of the film. “You know, there are moments where it’s very difficult, and there are moments where it’s liberating, because there is an upside of it, is that it feels like theater, so you really are left with an effect of what acting is and that’s the beauty of it, so you can really work on that and really feel that and the other side of that is you have to imagine everything. So, I think it’s modern filming, modern cinema, filmmaking, cinema, movies, but it’s sort of going there.”

He talked about taking on the sequel when the original film was so iconic in its style. “I think that what we have to do, is we’re guests, to a certain extent, I have responsibility as a guest to honor the house. I remember when 300 came out and it was just one of those things you just went, ‘What the f— is this?’ I remember seeing it, as a preview I remember it. I don’t remember what movie I was in and I looked at it and said ‘What the f— is,’ and I think that we are trying at least, humbly so, to do the same thing, that you look at it and you go ‘What the f— is this,’ with a bit of history, and I think we’re going for something that has a, you can recall some of the aesthetic, but God forbid we’re repeating ourselves for the sake of repeating ourselves. The issue is to further it. Part of what makes this interesting, I think, from a thematical point of view, from a visual point of view, from any point of view really, is this is not a, this is a second story to a building. This is not a copy of suburbia. We’re not just building Type A building again. We’re building a second story to something that is complex.”

Murro worked closely with Zack Snyder on the film. “Look, he’s created an unbelievable franchise that was completely original,” he said. “I’ll say it again, these are big shoes to fill in that sense. It’s got to work on many levels. The amazing thing, and I want to make sure I communicate it, and it’s not just lip-service, is that as a filmmaker, he’s allowed filmmakers to work in their own way. This is not one of those relationships, and I could name you a few, but I won’t, filmmakers that allow other filmmakers to make a film next to them because they have, you know, but they really don’t. He is not that guy. He is, he gives you the freedom and the wisdom and there’s no, really if you pressed me, I couldn’t tell you one bad thing about that relationship.”

We asked Sully (it’s OK, Stapleton told us to call him that) about his character. “At the moment, I’ve probably got more brains than muscles,” he said, “but that’ll probably change. It’s quite… uh, I didn’t realize what I was signing up for. I actually thought it was going to be… Um, the first ’300′ was lots of killing and swords and lots of fun. Themistocles talks a lot. I mean, he’s got a lot of things to say. I didn’t realize that. He’s a brilliant tactician and basically has to unite all of Greece. He’s quite the politician. Unfortunately, they talk.”

Well, sure, but he told us this standing in a leather speedo, so we don’t think talking is all he does.

He even mentioned that when we asked him about doing a role like this. He said, “It takes a lot to get used to. Some days it can be fun; you literally go back to childhood. We’ve got swords, and we’re on a ship … I’m 35 years old, and I’m standing in a pair of leather undies, and my skirt’s blowing in the wind … And I’ve got to pretend we’re going to die. It gets kind of weird, and you’ve got to take it seriously.”

That brings us to Artemisia, the female lead in the film. Now, this woman was a real person in this battle. She commanded a ship, which wasn’t exactly the thing back in ancient Greece. Green told us that this Artemisia was not quite the same, though. (They don’t exactly have a ton of records on the woman, you know?)

“Actually, it’s quite a different story because Xerxes and Artemisia, we kind of are in love,” she said, “so it’s a fiction. It’s very different, let’s say, from the original story.”

She isn’t a shrinking violet and pure love interest, though. “My character is so ballsy. She’s not like a girl in a film, a girlfriend or a love interest. She has some guts. She’s driven by revenge. She’s a very complex character, very exciting. It’s always been kind of a fantasy for me to play an action hero. I’ve never done that, so I had to train with swords.”

She continued, “She’s very bright, very manipulative and there’s also kind of a very interesting relationship with the lead, Themistocles. Yeah. There are many layers and you never know what’s in the back of her mind. She’s a baddie, but she’s a cool baddie, let’s say. She’s human too, so that’s important.”

’300: Rise of an Empire’ will hit theaters on March 7, 2014.

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