The big-screen adaptation of Frank Miller's acclaimed graphic novel '300' doesn't hit theaters until March 9, 2007, but we here at Moviefone got a chance to see a big chunk of the film this past Monday -- and, frankly, it looks amazing. Director Zach Snyder ('Dawn of the Dead') was onhand to introduce and explain the footage, and creator Frank Miller and star Gerard Butler ('The Phantom of the Opera') joined him afterwards for an informative -- and funny -- Q&A session. Here's what we saw and learned about the flick, which tells the tale of 300 stalwart Spartans (led by Butler's King Leonidas) who faced down one million Persians in a battle royale at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
In the first sequence Snyder screened, a young Leonidas is trained to be a Spartan warrior whose ultimate goal in life is a glorious and honorable death on the battlefield. His "education" includes pummeling other adolescents in fistfights, crossing swords with full-grown soldiers and finally battling a snarling wolf while wearing only a loincloth in the dead of winter. Good times.
FUN FACT: Many of the images, including the one above of Leonidas preparing to grapple with a ravenous beast, are taken directly from Miller's graphic novel. A popular question asked (repeatedly) by other press in attendance was: How closely does the film adhere to the look of the source material? As you can tell from the image, it's not quite realistic, but not quite fantastical or cartoonish either. And according to Snyder, this was his goal: to remain as true to Miller's vision as possible while filling in the gaps between the individual images of the book. To do this, all filming was done in front of a blue screen and the backgrounds and color treatments were applied retroactively.
In the second clip, a messenger representing Xerxes of Persia requests that Sparta accept Xerxes' rule -- and Leonidas makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that this just isn't going to happen. Following this decision, in the third clip, a naked Leonidas seeks advice from his equally nude queen (Lena Headey, pictured above) as to whether he should engage Persia in battle. In what may be the first "rear-entry palaver" ever put to film, the queen advises her king to make war ... while they make love.
FUN FACT: In order to maintain his muscular physique -- for both the battle and love scenes -- Butler worked out for six hours a day, starting five months before filming through the end of production. At one point, he was working with three different personal trainers at once. The women at this screening all seemed pleased with the results.
The next clip featured a kick-ass battle sequence in which the Spartans drive the first wave of Persians back to the cliffs and over the edge to a watery grave.
FUN FACT: Miller noted in the Q&A that this is perhaps his favorite image from the film.
ANOTHER FUN FACT: The clip features an extended sequence, with only one cut, in which Leonidas takes on 14 foes one after another in quick succession. And if you think a stunt double was used, think again. Although Snyder thought a double might be the best way to go, Butler insisted he at least attempt the shot. According to the actor, "Zach didn't know how badass I was." He does now. Butler nailed the sequence on the first try.Unfortunately, a camera glitch necessitated doing a reshoot weeks later -- and Butler kicked even more ass the second time around.
Following this Persian beat-down, Xerxes requests a meeting with Leonidas, during which he offers Leonidas a leadership position in the Persian army and -- in a stroke of unintentional homoerotic genius -- gives the king a nice little massage. Needless to say, Leonidas turns down Xerxes' offer ... and his advances.
FUN FACT: Although Xerxes may not look familiar to you, chances are you've seen him before. He's played by a virtually unrecognizable Rodrigo Santoro, the Brazilian heartthrob who wooed Laura Linney in 'Love Actually,' got Drew Barrymore all hot and bothered in 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle' and most recently joined the cast of TV's 'Lost.'
ANOTHER FUN FACT: Butler and Santoro are both roughly 6'2", but Santoro's Xerxes towers over Butler's Leonidas in this scene. This was accomplished by having Butler act opposite a large pole with a photo of Santoro's face on it and having Santoro deliver his lines while looking at a little blue rubber figurine created in Butler's likeness. Whereabouts of this blue rubber figurine are currently unknown, but word has it Smurfette has been seen around town with a new man.
WATCH: See the '300' trailer