King Leonidas led 300 Spartans against Persia’s army of thousands. In the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s historical graphic novel, Gerard Butler portrays the legendary leader. When the film shows Leonidas taking out some 20 Persians in one stretch, Butler had to deliver.
"We took a whole day filming that," said Butler. "Maybe there’s a break halfway through it but we would do it the whole way through. Literally, that is me. In fact, that’s why my stunt guy said because they did ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Bourne Identity,’ and I really clung onto this fact because they said nobody in any of those films had to do a piece this long, uncut, with this many moves. So that took a lot of training and I almost didn’t do it."
As director Zack Snyder was setting up a special camera rig to capture the extended mayhem, Butler proved he could out-stunt the stunt men. "At the last second, Zack took half a day just to set up this special rig and he said, ‘I think we’re going to have your stunt guy do it.’ And I died because I knew I was ready. He hadn’t seen me do it but then he said, ‘Well, go ahead, just rehearse it a little bit.’ And then I ended up doing it and it was such a blast. Then there was a problem with the rig. It came out out of focus. There was some problem with the mirror. It was a new rig that had never been used before, three cameras, so we ended up having to shoot the whole f*cking thing again and that was depressing, but it actually came out even better."
Take one was essentially Butler’s rehashing of his rehearsal sessions. Once he got into it, the real meat of the fight came out. "I must have done that about 500 times training. And yet, still mistakes would happen every time and to be honest, that’s actually what makes it what it is. At a point, you go, ‘Well, you know what? If this was to look so smooth and perfect, it kind of takes away something from it.’ The first day I did it, there was something amazing about that. It was full of mistakes but it was so raw and hyped and the mistakes actually made it look even better. Things that went wrong, you’d go, ‘Oh, how cool does that look that I hit him in the balls instead of the stomach?’ Honestly, sometimes, I hate to say it, but when you pick up an injury, that’s the stuff that looks really good."
All this on one long stretch of blue screen. "Yeah, the whole studio was wrapped in blue screen so in actual fact, the blue screen doesn’t become that much of an issue. It’s not like you’re constantly waiting for stuff to be moved and lasers to be pointed. You’re just filming on blue screen so you just film away like you would."
"300" storms into theaters and IMAX this Friday and currently has a 75 percent Tomatometer with 12 reviews. Look for more coverage from co-star Rodrigo Santoro and director Zack Snyder throughout the week!