300: Rise of an Empire

While the hook of the film’s aesthetic may be the extensive use of green screen, there was still plenty of production design work to marvel at on set. The first stage we visited featured a fully erected Athenian village, complete with multiple stone houses, but the big showstopper came later in the day when we got to see the set featuring the exterior of Artemisia’s ship (separate from the interior set that Green was seen acting on). While the production team only constructed the front half of the vessel, it was still a massive build that completely took over the spacious stage where it was housed. In addition to being gigantic, the boat was beautifully detailed, featuring a huge winged figurehead on the bow and oar holes designed to look like masks of the elite Immortals (called protosamurai in the sequel).

Murro even found that there was a degree to which working in green screen environments added an interesting edge to the actor’s performances. The director admitted that there were moments on set where the chroma key made things very difficult, but there were equally others where it actually became liberating.

"There is an upside of it, is that it feels like theater," Murro said. "So you really are left with an effect of what acting is and that’s the beauty of it. You can really work on that and really feel that and the other side of that is you have to imagine everything."

It’s a scenario that one could imagine any actor finding extremely difficult, so it’s fortunate that the production has brought together a cast of talented performers. Stepping into the leading man position vacated by Gerard Butler, Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton is the central protagonist of the new movie, and according to the director as soon as he came in to audition for the role of Themistokles he was named the only choice for the part. "He came into the room, and I said, ‘I’ll never hire anybody but him,’" Murro told us when asked about choosing the actor for the role. "He was it, the instant, almost an instant thing."

Rather than just being a carbon copy of King Leonidas, Themistokles is a whole different kind of Greek warrior. While the Spartan leader was all about ultimate displays of strength and brawn, Stapleton’s Athenian is much more of a thinker. "He’s a brilliant tactician and basically has to unite all of Greece," Stapleton told us during an interview, dressed in full costume. "He’s quite the politician." Like Leonidas, Themistokles also has an incredible level of patriotism and pride in his country, but sometimes that can get him in some trouble, as Stapleton says that the character’s greatest weakness is his arrogance.

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