As for the man candy known as the Spartan soldiers, whose heroic bods rival the film's arresting art direction, no digital enhancements were necessary—only athletic trainer Mark Twight, who put the actors through Spartan-worthy bootcamp. "That's the way Frank drew them—naked," Snyder explains. "It wasn't about vanity. Their bodies were basically their costumes." Snyder himself went to bootcamp of sorts during the production. "It was insane," he says. "I learned a ton about visual effects, fight choreography and, basically, about what I can endure." But the toughest obstacle was the meager budget. "The movie had the potential to be popular, but still, you don't know. That's just business, but that was a particularly huge challenge for me because we wanted to make it an interesting movie. I always say it's like a student film on steroids."
Snyder, seen below on the 300 set with Gerard Butler as King Leonidas, is now back to spots and in preproduction on another graphic novel adaptation—Alan Moore's acclaimed The Watchmen. He quotes some sage advice from friend and fellow commercials director Tarsem, who made his features debut with The Cell in 2000. " 'Never make a movie to make another movie. When you make a film, there's a very good chance that it will be the only one you make. That's the way the movie business works.' Even when I did Dawn, at that time I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make 300 because no one wanted to do it. So on my first film, I thought, If this is my movie, if this is it, fine. I think it's the only way you can look at it."