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By Noor Nanji
Zack Snyder has been a Star Wars fan since he was 11. He even skipped school to go and see the films.
But the US director, who originally pitched his space concept more than a decade ago as a Star Wars film, says he’s glad that Disney rejected him.
It meant the film he eventually made for Netflix – Rebel Moon – could be much more creative, he told the BBC.
“Not only did I have more creativity, but also, I designed everything now. The entire universe,” he explained.
We meet at a hotel in central London. Snyder, the filmmaker behind 300, Man of Steel, and Army of the Dead, had arrived the night before from Mexico City. The night before, he was in Buenos Aires.
He pours himself a cup of tea, and berates himself for over-steeping it.
US director Zack Snyder has a loyal fanbase
Synder was in the UK to attend the London premiere of Rebel Moon.
It’s an epic science-fantasy event decades in the making. In fact, he says he first pitched the idea at college.
Fortunately, his college professor quite liked the idea. But life got in the way, and he says there was never a window to make the film.
He eventually pitched it to Lucasfilm, shortly after the company was sold to Disney in 2012.
When it was turned down, he went on to make two other films instead, Justice League and Army of the Dead.
But he later returned to the idea, and has now finally developed it into his own two-part film, which he hopes is the start of a new fictional universe.
“God willing,” he says, superstitiously knocking the table.
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Rebel Moon – or to give it its full name, Rebel Moon, Part One: A Child of Fire – tells the story of a colony on the edge of the galaxy, which is threatened by the tyrannical Regent Balisarius and his armies.
The protagonist is Kora, a young woman with a mysterious past. She becomes the colony’s only hope for survival as she rallies fighters from different worlds to help them put up a defence.
Snyder knows it is inevitable that people will draw parallels to Star Wars.
“You can’t move in popular culture on this planet and not run into Star Wars, let alone if you’re trying to do something in actual space,” he says.
But, he adds, Rebel Moon is more informed by “the movies of that era, say from 1977 to 1985”, than it is specifically by Star Wars.
The movie “is really sexy and really violent”, Snyder continues, adding: “It would never be possible in a Star Wars movie.”
The film will be released in limited cinemas before going straight to streaming. But Snyder disagrees that a film of this scale needs to be seen on the big screen.
“I kind of didn’t want it to go in the theatres at all,” he insists.
“I wanted people to have the biggest cinematic experience they could have in their living rooms.”
The cast embarked on a strict regime to get themselves fit
Kora is played by Sofia Boutella, an actor and dancer who has also appeared in The Mummy, and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Starring alongside her is Ed Skrein, who plays the main villain Admiral Atticus Noble, and Charlie Hunnam who plays Kai, a roguish pilot and smuggler.
The entire crew had to follow an extremely strict diet – including high protein, no sugar, no salt, no oil and no dairy – to get into shape for the film’s intense fighting scenes.
But Boutella – who has previously danced with Madonna and Rihanna – said she was used to following such regimes.
“I did all sorts of weird diets when I was a dancer,” she tells the BBC.
“When I was on tour with Madonna we would work out every morning, whether we had a show or not.”
All three stars are full of genuine praise for Synder.
“We love Zack,” says Skrein.
“He can tweak you emotionally in the scenes, he’s got the macro and the micro, but most importantly he’s a lovely geezer.”
“His mind is endless and he gave us something so rich to defend, with characters so interestingly complex and different,” Boutella adds.
Hunnam said Snyder had surrounded himself with a cast who were “all serious about exploring the human condition and what we’re all doing on this weird little world”, and that those themes went to the core of the film.
But does the world really need another fictional universe?
“I don’t know if we need a universe, I think that we need stories,” said Hunnam. “We need to be told stories.”
The Snyder cult
Snyder has a huge, and loyal, fanbase.
In 2019, fans launched a massive internet campaign for his version of Justice Film to be released – with the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut trending worldwide. Eventually, Warner Bros Pictures listened to the fans and Snyder was given more money to complete the film.
Meanwhile, Army of Dead became one of the 10 most watched films in Netflix’s history.
In 2022, the Oscars had two public votes and Snyder won them both, one for Army of the Dead and one for Justice League.
He even got a mention, somewhat mockingly, in this year’s Barbie movie.
After Ryan Gosling’s Ken introduces the patriarchy to Barbieland, one of the Barbies, played by Alexandra Shipp, quips: “It’s like I’ve been in a dream where I was really invested in the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League.”
Snyder observes that the Barbie joke was “an interesting place in popular culture, that I definitely wasn’t really trying to reach”.
But he acknowledges his fandom, which has been called “the Snyder cult”, has played a “huge role” in his success to date.
“There would be no Snyder cult or anything without the fans,” he says.
Snyder – and Netflix – will be hoping those fans turn out in the same numbers for his latest film.
Rebel Moon is in select UK cinemas from 15 December and on Netflix from 22 December.
SOURCE: BBC NEWS