Dave's Tavern on Central Avenue in Plano, Illinois remains entirely unscathed after the disaster that has hit the rest of the town's main drag.
As discussed in its own story, production on "Man of Steel" has turned Plano into Smallville
, Kansas and, in turn, Smallville, Kansas has been turned into Ground Zero in a clash-of-the-titans-style conflict between Superman
) and an assortment of rival Kryptonians and other mystery adversaries.
Outside, the air is thick with the smell of well-supervised pyrotechnics, to say nothing of the usual summer heat. Squib detonations, gunfire and swarming helicopters present their own cacophony.
From this, Dave's Tavern is an oasis and serves as a home base for the small cadre of reporters on the "Man of Steel" set. We sit poised around a pool table as the proprietor looks at us nervously and periodically tells us to stop messing up the felt. His trepidation towards us is probably a micro version of Plano's trepidation towards the massive Hollywood production, except that a group of online reporters probably won't do much to goose the local economy, even if we keep mentioning "Plano" in our set reports. Heck, we sit in the tavern for a full day and collectively we don't purchase a single beverage. We periodically exit the bar to watch a particular scene being shot before retreating and awaiting the arrival of a Henry Cavill or a David S. Goyer.
The sun ducking below the horizon means that director Zack Snyder
is losing his light, which means it's finally be time for the "300" helmer to duck in for a few minutes. While we've spent much of our time in relatively air-conditioned comfort, Snyder has been running up and down Central Avenue working on multiple set-ups. He's been orchestrating aircrafts, actors and wirework, all while dealing with a set that, producers tell us, doesn't have a second unit, meaning Snyder is in charge of everything you see.
As production halts for the day, Snyder slips into the bar and is immediately handed a beer. He barely gets to settle into a chair before being told that he's on a tight clock, because he has to sign off on a car for the next day's shot.
Snyder admits that after the soundstage-heavy focus of most of his recent films, working outside and on locations have presented unfamiliar challenges.
"I guess for me, in the TV commercial world I was known for shooting locations, beautiful landscapes and things like that," Snyder notes. "So, it's interesting. It's challenging in that it's been a while since I've been pressured by the sun and things of that nature. I try to stay away from those problems. But, on the other hand, you know, when the sun goes down you go home, so that's good. I don't know. It's fun. It's been exciting. It's kinda cool. I miss being outside. But now I'm tired of being outside."
Snyder is no stranger to tackling properties that come with an abundance of pre-release expectation. With "Watchmen," he stared down perhaps the most revered graphic novel ever, while "Dawn of the Dead" remade perhaps the most revered piece of zombie fiction. And even if "300" didn't come with the same level of mainstream cache, Frank Miller texts come with their own weight of anticipation.
Perhaps that's why Snyder doesn't indicate he's feeling extra pressure for "Man of Steel," even with the long and storied history for Superman in all media. In fact, that long and storied history may make things easier, Snyder suggests.
"He's so mainstream that most genre guys don't defend him," Snyder says. "Right? Like they don't stick up for him because he's too mainstream. So they're just like, "Yeah, Superman. The public can have him. He can be on People Magazine. F*** him." Where like, "Watchmen's" like, "That's my thing. You can't make a movie out of my thing. That's my personal thing. I own that. That changed my life."
We'll see how possessive fans feel towards Superman when "Man of Steel" opens on June 14.
Follow through to Page 2 for highlights of Snyder's chat with the press in Dave's Tavern, including his thoughts on Superman, his decision to post-convert the film into 3-D and the impact of stars including Cavill, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon.
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