An inside look at 300 the movie

The critically acclaimed300 is set to hit theatres this March 9th. I’ve seen the trailers and was memorized by the visuals. Of course, I was interested. Below are some findings from my research.

About the movie: Based on the epic graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy. The film brings Miller’s (Sin City) acclaimed graphic novel to life by combining live action with virtual backgrounds that capture his distinct vision of this ancient historic tale.

The history Wikipedia has a great listing on the Battle of Thermopyla, from which I derived the following. In the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC, an alliance of Greek city-states fought the invading Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae in central Greece. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the enemy in one of the most famous last stands of history. A small force led by King Leonidas of Sparta blocked the only road through which the massive army of Xerxes I could pass. After three days of battle a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks, revealing a mountain path that led behind the Greek lines. Dismissing the rest of the army, King Leonidas stayed behind with 300 Spartans and 700 Thespian volunteers. Though they knew it meant their own deaths, they held their position and secured the retreat of the other Greek forces. The Persians succeeded in taking the pass but sustained heavy losses, extremely disproportionate to those of the Greeks. The fierce resistance of the Spartan-led army offered Athens the invaluable time to prepare for a naval battle that would come to determine the outcome of the war.[1] The subsequent Greek victory in the Battle of Salamis left much of the Persian navy destroyed. Xerxes was forced to flee to Asia and left his army in Greece under Mardonius, who was to meet the Greeks in battle for one last time. The Spartans and other Greek allies assembled at full strength and decisively defeated the Persians in the Battle of Plataea, putting an end to the Greco-Persian War and with that, Persian expansion into Europe.

The performance of the defenders at the battle of Thermopylae is often used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment and good use of terrain to maximize an army’s potential, as well as a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds. The heroic sacrifice of the Spartans and the Thespians has captured the minds of many throughout the ages and has given birth to many cultural references as a result.

How they did it: The movie appears to be a visual treat, and a little bit of research into how it was made indicates we are seeing a new type of movie-making. According to a interview in HowStuffWorks, director Snyder’s mandate from the studio was “to create a world that you hadn’t seen before, to reinvent the epic movie and do it much less expensively,” about a third of the cost of “Troy” and “Alexander,” and that meant no big, marquee names.

Except from several outdoor scenes, the entire film was shot indoors against a blue screen. Because location wasn’t important, it was cost-effectively filmed in Montreal for it’s 61 day shoot, which was finished in January 2006. The real challenge came next over the next year as over 500 artists touched each frame to add the backgrounds and environment. Most of the work was done in Shake or Inferno.

How did they get so buff?
Another aspect was how to turn 300 men into buff spartan warriors. For 3 months the crew trained 2 hours/day, six days week, with weights, cardio, running, and circuit training. They also went on a calorie-restricted diet to reduce fat — 30% fat, 30% protein, 40% carbs. This is similiar to mine, but I haven’t gotten to same results! Vincent Regan, who plays the captain, started at 210 and in 8 week was 170, dead-lifting 355 pounds. Word is he was completely dedicated to the program and did extra sessions, which also ended up giving him tendonitis in several spots. His wife, picking him up at the airport, didn’t recognize him after his first month in montreal.

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