Sucker Punch by Zack Snyder, King of Geeks

Interview with Zack Snyder


Filmmaker Zack Snyder, who had established a name with “300” and “Watchmen,” wanted to push the envelope of what is fantasy versus reality in his first film to be based on his own wholly original concept, “Sucker Punch.”


Escape: Literal and Figurative

Snyder, who conceived of the story and co-wrote, produced and directed the film, states, “Sucker Punch is a movie about escape, both literal and figurative. It shows how the mind can create an almost impenetrable barricade against the real world, and to what lengths we’re willing to go, what sacrifices we’re willing to make, to get out of a difficult situation.”

On the heels of “300” and “Watchmen,” the visually complex film is the result of an idea Snyder says “was an evolution for me. I’m inspired by fantasy art and magazines like Heavy Metal. It’s sort of a mash-up between those influences, as well as ‘Twilight Zone’ and the writings of Richard Bach.”

From Babydoll to the Story

The full story was years in the making. “I’d written a short story a while ago, which included a character named Babydoll,” Snyder says. “As I worked on it further, the idea evolved and expanded, and took on a life of its own.”

Producer-wife Deborah Snyder adds, “It was so liberating for Zack to create something for which there were no preconceived expectations. This movie could be whatever he wanted it to be, and even though the story changed over time, at its center it has always been about this young woman, Babydoll, who is faced with so much adversity that she retreats into these fantastical worlds in her mind in order to cope with what’s going on around her. In so doing, she finds great strength within. She’s a survivor.”

Co-Writer Steve Shibuya

With the story and characters fleshed out, Zack Snyder turned to longtime friend Steve Shibuya to co-write the script. “Together, Steve and I worked through how it was all going to fit together.”

“When Zack first approached me, I thought his ideas for the film were so daring,” Shibuya offers. “He wanted to make a movie without any limitations on the action, to have an almost endless amount of space within these vastly different worlds to push the on-screen battles as far as we could—or even farther—all within this story of a young woman literally fighting her own demons on a journey to redemption.”

Forbidding Mental Institute
Ironically, though the story has virtually no boundaries of time and space, it is set in one of the most confining places imaginable—a forbidding Vermont mental institution in the 1960s. Nonetheless, the film transports the viewer along with Babydoll as her fantasies take her to otherworldly places at once ancient and futuristic and everywhere in between. She and her fellow warriors, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber, battle everything from gargantuan samurai beasts to reanimated zombie soldiers to fire-breathing dragons. At the girls’ disposal: their wits, an arsenal of deadly hardware, and their willingness to work together to survive.

It would seem that there are no limits to Babydoll’s imagination as she falls down a rabbit hole of her own making.


In “Sucker Punch,” Babydoll pulls each of the key characters into her multiple fantasy worlds, which meant that each of the actors would have to play multiple roles, first as their characters in the asylum and then as heightened versions of themselves in her mind, some good, some evil.

Emily Browning

Emily Browning took on the role of the young woman determined to be free at all costs. “The words ‘baby doll’ make you immediately think of something really fragile,” Browning says, “but she’s not at all. That’s what was so cool to me about this character—she’s actually pretty tough, with an unexpected stoicism.”

Delving inside Babydoll’s psyche led Browning to discover what might have influenced her and made her so resilient.

“I think the people in her fantasies represent her experiences, the oppression she has had to put up with throughout her life. She has this almost simplistic view of the good guys and the bad guys, the bad guys being men like her stepfather and, later, some of the monsters in her fantasies. And the Wise Man in her dreams represents the ideal father figure, strong but really caring and able to guide her and help her make the right choices.”

“Babydoll symbolizes that transition between thinking like a child and thinking like an adult, when your perception of the world changes,” Zack Snyder says. “She is a warrior, both delicate and strong at the same moment, and Emily really personified everything I had envisioned about Babydoll. She has this mystic, timeless, almost unquantifiable look and completely brought the character to life for me.”

Browning felt the full support of Snyder as she worked to embody a character so dear to him. “Zack obviously had a clear vision and knew exactly what he wanted, but at the same time he was really collaborative and was totally open to other ideas,” she notes. “He always wanted to make sure that I was happy with my performance.”

Snyder says that each of the characters offers the audience a different perspective of the story, declaring, “I couldn’t have asked for a better or more committed group of actors to bring this story to life. On top of playing all the emotional dimensions of the characters, it was a very physical movie to make, and everybody brought their A game to the set, every day.”