Interview: Producer Bernie Goldmann on ‘300 Rise of an Empire’

Producer Bernie Goldmann has worked in the film industry as both a producer and as a respected studio executive. He was a producer on Zack Snyder’s blockbuster “300,” starring Gerard Butler. The 2007 film earned more than $450 million at the worldwide box office.

Read Evan’s review of Rise of an Empire here.

Evan: It used to seem to be an impossible sell, releasing a hardcore R-rated action movie in the middle of March and now, it seems like the thing to do. So were you surprised about the success of the first film? Do you think 300 played a part in creating that trend?

Bernie Goldmann: “I was definitely surprised, it absolutely performed  beyond anyone’s expectations. We were very lucky with our support from Warner and Legendary. We’re also very thankful for the fans and it seems to have continued to play well in the seven years since it’s come out.”

Evan: Frank Miller has yet to release ‘Xerxes’ which is his sequel to the original 300 book, and apparently what this film is based on. Had you guys been in talks with him about making a sequel before, were they being made side by side? Does it sort of work as a blueprint?

Goldmann: “The sequel started with Frank saying ‘hey, there’s another story to tell here, we should have another film.’ his outline was really the genesis of making the project.”

Evan: Zack has great vision and really knows how to capture the essence of a comic page to film. But Zack has been busy with Man of Steel, so you guys passed directing on to Noam Murro, who does a great job at recreating that colorful, stylized feeling in a hectic battle. How do you go about finding new directors in a case like this, and what drew you to Noam to direct Rise of an Empire?


Goldmann: “He’s somebody I had met before that Deb Snyder [Zack’s wife] had worked with on commercials, and we were all very aware of his work. And he’s probably in the top 5 commercial directors in the world, a lot of huge commercials. And frankly, we met with a lot of people, and Noam had a great presentation, knew the first movie very well and he had a great idea of where he wanted the second one to go.”

Evan: It’s arguable to some people that what set 300 apart from a lot of action movies, aside from the visual style, is that Leonidas and the Spartans are ruthless warriors. However, this film follows many more characters, and many more stories: Sullivan Stapleton plays Themistocles for example. He’s much more of a traditional hero – what do you think makes him able rival Gerard Butler as Leonidas?

Goldmann: “As you said, he’s definitely rivaling Leonidas, and Themistocles is an elected official. He needs to get votes and approvals and he’s a completely different kind of guy, and he needs to share forces with all leaders of Greece. The rules they each create are completely opposite and it’s interesting to look at how one operates in a democracy and how the other operates in a monarchy, and I think Sullivan did a great job playing both a statesman and warrior.

Evan: So Rise of an Empire introduces a new character, a villain, actually, in Eva Green as Artemisia, the right hand of Persia, and in some ways is the true ruler. She was almost definitely my favorite part of the movie. Was a powerful female lead something you guys wanted to accomplish with the film?


Goldmann: “Well, historically it’s accurate that Artemisia was the leader of the Persian Navy so that defined the role, since she existed in history, and it created a great opportunity for another kind of voice. So for me personally I was excited that there’s a really kick ass woman who’s in charge of her own sexuality and power. She’s surrounded by 10 thousand men and yet she’s all alone. She’s  an interesting, modern woman in an ancient world, and Eva did a perfect job at portraying that character.”



Evan: What projects do you plan on moving forward with after this? Rise of an Empire almost ends on a cliffhanger in a way.


Goldmann: “I definitely got a lot of cool projects coming, and there’s a lot of more stories in the world of 300 and greek history, and I would love for us to be able to tell some more of them.”

Evan: You think there’s a possibility of working with George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead) again? Maybe get some zombies in a 300 film?

Goldmann: [laughs] “George Romero is an amazing person. He’s a personal hero of mine, he’s a friend of mine, and I’m a super big fan of his, and whenever George wants to make a new movie, I’ll always be first in line to make it, or even first in line to see it.”

 In 2012, Golmann produced “Mirror Mirror,” a reimagining of the Snow White fairytale, starring Julia Roberts, Lilly Collins and Armie Hammer. He is currently in pre-production on “The Last Witch Hunter,” to star Vin Diesel under the direction of Breck Eisner. He had previously served as President of Production for Village Roadshow Pictures. During his tenure, the company co-financed and co-produced “The Matrix,” “Training Day,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Space Cowboys,” “Analyze This,” “Miss Congeniality,” “Three Kings,” “Cats and Dogs,” “Deep Blue Sea,” and “Saving Silverman.” Prior to that, he was Senior Vice President of Production for Walt Disney Pictures. His other producing credits include “Fool’s Gold”; “Taking Lives,” starring Angelina Jolie; and George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.”


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