WN: In the film, a tiny bunch of European freedom fighters hold off a huge army of Iranian slaves. Everyone is sure to be translating this into contemporary politics.Whether you think George Bush or Ahmedinejad have any resemblance to ancient leaders I suppose depends entirely on whether you have a positive or negative impression of Leonidas or Xerxes, which is why these arguments really are so boring. At the end of the day, Leonidas was still an autocrat defending his country's institutionalized slavery and caste system*, and Xerxes believed he was chosen by God to lead a global empire. If George Bush sees this movie and thinks he's got anything in common with either leader, we're in worse trouble than I thought.
Snyder: Someone asked me, "Is George Bush Leonidas or Xerxes?" I said, "That's an awesome question." The fact they asked tells me that this movie can mean one thing to one person and something totally different to another. I clearly didn't mean either. I was just trying to get Frank's book made into a movie.
That kind of debate is unavoidable right now. I don't live in a cave, but on the other hand, the film's about a 2,000-year-old conflict. People will say, "You made this because we are going to war with Iran." I'll say, "We are? Not if I have anything to do with it."
*Thermopylae is still a great story. I'm a strong proponent of recognizing the flaws of previous eras without letting that get in the way of genuine nobility.