No “300” film is complete without a small group of protagonists facing impossible odds and a strong uniting figure to lead them into battle. In Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “300: Rise of an Empire,” that hero is Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton (HBO’s “Strike Back”) playing the Athenian general Themistokles, who is driven to defend Greece against the powerful Persian Navy.
Previously seen on the big screen with supporting roles in “Gangster Squad,” “Animal Kingdom” and “December Boys,” Stapleton is poised to become a newly-minted leading man, thanks to “300: Rise of an Empire.”
Producer Zack Snyder comments, “Sully brought great charisma to the part and the confidence that Themistokles clearly has to have in order to persuade people that what he is saying is right and that his way is the only way. Those are pretty important qualities to have when you’re pushing people into war and trying to convince them to shed blood for a cause.”
“What drew me to Themistokles and what I liked about him was his tenacity and his drive and focus to fight the Persians and to save Greece,” Stapleton offers. “He unites all of Greece into fighting the Persians as one army. Previous to that, they fought as separate city-states and obviously smaller armies and weren’t so successful.”
Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel “Xerxes,” and told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster “300,” this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—on the sea.
Themistokles is part soldier and part politician, using his abilities as both in the pursuit of one goal. Stapleton remarks, “Whereas Leonidas rules Sparta in a very authoritative, military style, Themistokles must be a great speaker to rally all of Greece to fight as one. He knows, even then, they may be no match for the Persians, but he loves his country and believes in this new idea of democracy. The script gave me insight into what was at stake at that time.”
The expected physical attributes that defined the characters of “300” are in evidence, but Stapleton’s Themistokles also possesses an air of confidence and cunning worthy of a leader. “It’s really one man’s drive and military brilliance to go and meet the Persians out in the water, which obviously is very different from the first film,” he notes.
War is coming to Greece. The only question is whether the individual city-states will unite in time to defend their borders against the Persian God-King Xerxes and his innumerable forces. Sparta’s King Leonidas is already marching his 300 best men to meet the enemy on what can only be called a suicide mission. But Athens is not Sparta.
“Themistokles is not a king; he must operate under a different set of rules,” director Noam Murro says. “Athenians have the freedom to choose whether to go to war or to try and negotiate peace. Themistokles must win the people’s hearts; he has to work on multiple levels, psychologically, philosophically and politically, to get their support, and that’s where he excels.”
Stapleton dove into extreme fitness and fight training to believably accomplish the action in the film and credits a lot of his success in doing so to his companions onscreen. The camaraderie between he and the actors playing his fellow Greek warriors, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, and Jack O’Connell, was borne through an intense fitness program designed by trainer Mark Twight, and it shows on set as they wield their weapons against the Persians. This is a tight-knit bunch and Sullivan seems to relish the bond they bring onscreen together.
A native of Australia, Stapleton first gained international attention with his supporting role in David Michod’s “Animal Kingdom,” which received the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Dramatic. The Australian Film Institute recognized his performance in the film with a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
He was recently honored with the 2013 Australians in Film Breakthrough Actor Award.
Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, March 06 in IMAX 3D, Digital 3D, 2D and 30mm format, “300: Rise of an Empire” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.