Just Above Sunset
Volume 5, Number 10
March 11, 2007

Red Carpet Time

 The world as seen from Just Above Sunset -

"Notes on how things seem from out here in Hollywood..."

Just Another Day in Hollywood

Monday, March 5 - the red carpet and lights were out for the evening's premier - the North American premier of Warner Brothers' 300 at Grauman's Chinese Theater.  The security guys are looking ominous, to keep the curious tourists in line - but it's early.  They'll close Hollywood Boulevard around supper time and the limos will roll in.  Of course the movie actually had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 14, and received a standing ovation from the audience there.

Folks here should eat it up. It's about defeating those awful people from Iran - the folks the Bush administration now says are our real enemy. Actually the movie is about the Battle of Thermopylae - 480 BC and all that - three hundred Spartans fight to the last man against Persian King Xerxes and his massive army of one million soldiers. Facing (gasp!) insurmountable odds, the Spartans' sacrifice inspires all of Greece to unite against the Persian invaders. 

Maybe this is timely, maybe not. Everything you might want to know about the movie is appended below the photographs - like that the film, based on a graphic novel, was shot in only sixty days, on green screen, in Montreal.  In fact the thing was photographed completely in Montreal, with the exception of two days of insert shooting here in Los Angeles. It's one of those special effects things.

The North American premier of Warner Brothers' 300 at Grauman's Chinese Theater

Movie premiers at the Chinese Theater happen all the time - weekly, it seems.  Such things have been going on since May 18, 1927 - thousands of people lined Hollywood Boulevard and a riot broke out that night as fans tried to catch a glimpse of the movie stars as they arrived for the opening of Cecil B. DeMille's "The King of Kings."  And "King Kong" premiered here in 1933. This one may just be another movie.

The North American premier of Warner Brothers' 300 at Grauman's Chinese Theater
The North American premier of Warner Brothers' 300 at Grauman's Chinese Theater

On the sidewalk, life goes on, such as it is.

Clown, Hollywood Boulevard

Across the street, Mickey and Minnie are still on that perpetual date, on the wall of the El Capitan -

Mickey and Minnie are still on that perpetual date, on the wall of the El Capitan Theater, Hollywood Boulevard

A block east, this is now playing at the Stella Adler Theater, live on stage - concerning that woman who just won't stay dead.

Forever Blond, playing at the Stella Adler Theater, live on stage - concerning that woman who just won't stay dead.

On the corner, at the old bank building, Copernicus and his potted plants keep an eye on it all.

Copernicus frieze - First Hollywood Bank Building

If you use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me.

These were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0

The original large-format raw files are available upon request.

For the movie in question see 300 - The Movie - the Warner Brothers official website.

The inside scoop -

    "300" is a 2007 film adaptation of the graphic novel 300 by Frank Miller about the Battle of Thermopylae. The film is directed by Zack Snyder with Frank Miller attached as an executive producer and consultant, and was shot mostly with bluescreen to mimic the original comic book work. "300" stars Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Andrew Tiernan and David Wenham. The film is scheduled to be released in both conventional and IMAX theaters in America on March 9, 2007.

    The film "300" is a close adaptation of the graphic novel "300" by Frank Miller in which Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the last man against Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive army of one million soldiers. Facing insurmountable odds, the Spartans' sacrifice inspires all of Greece to unite against the Persian invaders. The story is loosely based on the Battle of Thermopylae which took place in 480 BC.

    In May 2003, the project was being produced by Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, whilst Michael B. Gordon had completed a second draft of 300 that was 121 pages long. In June 2004, director Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead") was hired to direct the film. Snyder, with the help of screenwriter Kurt Johnstad, worked to rewrite Gordon's script for production. Frank Miller, the author of "300," was also attached to the project as executive producer and consultant.

    The film is a shot-for-shot adaptation of the comic book, similar to the film adaptation of "Sin City." Snyder said that he had photocopied panels from Frank Miller's comic book and worked to plan out the shots that would lead up to the moment and the shots to get out of it after. "It was a fun process for me to kind of have to go, to have a goal, to have a frame as a goal to get to," said Snyder. The director also worked to craft the film style to be similar to the comic book. Numerous images and pieces of dialogue are taken frame for frame from Miller. One exception to the direct adaptation was using the character Dilios to narrate the story. Dilios was used by Snyder to show the audience that the surreal "Frank Miller world" of "300" was through the perspective of Dilios taking artistic license in his storytelling about the Battle of Thermopylae. Snyder also added the sub plot of Queen Gorgo trying to rally support for her husband.

    The film spent two months of pre-production in creating 125 shields, 250 spears and 75 swords, although some were recycled from Troy and Alexander. An animatronic wolf and 13 animatronic horses were also created. The actors trained alongside the stuntmen, and even Snyder joined in. 600-700 costumes were created for the film, as well as extensive prosthetics for various characters and the corpses of Persian soldiers.

    Warner Bros. provided a budget of $60 million to back the "300" project.

    "300" had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 14, 2007 and received a standing ovation from its 1700 strong audience. Alex Billington said "Be ready to be blown away on March 9th", calling it a film ahead of its time. Erik Davis heavily criticized the film, calling it "one of the most overly hyped films in history... a boring, fast-food version of better films, with better scripts, better acting and better battles. The hundred men fought to defend their freedom but, in the end, 300 people (including me) wanted their two hours back."

The film is not to be confused with The 300 Spartans (1962) - Ralph Richardson as Themistocles of Athens and Diane Baker as Ellas - and Richard Egan as King Leonidas. Frank Miller, the fellow who wrote (drew?) the graphic novel says he was inspired by the original Battle of Thermopylae after viewing the 1962 film "The 300 Spartans" as a child.

Some notes for the geeks -

    Post production took almost a year. The film was edited on an Avid, with an HD cut also maintained in Final Cut Pro The 3D was made using Maya, XSI, and Lightwave The 2D composites were made with Shake, Inferno, Fusion, and Combustion. The filmmakers prefer Macintosh, but large portions of the movie were made under Linux. Asset management was handled by custom software written in the Panorama development environment, made by Provue. Color management was handled by Truelight software. The film was scanned on a northlight scanner and was recorded on the arrilaser. Most of the film was shot at high speed, between 50 and 150fps. Normal film is at 24fps. The film was transferred to HD SR tape and QuickTime, and HD QuickTimes were the basis for the HD preview cuts. The working resolution for the film was 2K, at a working aspect ratio of 2.11 and a projected aspect ratio of 2.35.

And now you know.

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Last updated Saturday, March 10, 2007, 10:30 pm Pacific Time

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Alan M. Pavlik

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