Why Zack Snyder Recorded His Actors Reading The Rebel Moon Script Aloud

The premise of Zack Snyder's upcoming two-part sci-fi epic "Rebel Moon" is lifted directly from Akira Kurosawa's 1954 classic "Seven Samurai." Sofia Boutella plays Kora, a former army officer who must defend her modest moon-bound home from an encroaching battalion of fascists — fascists she once served under. Before the enemy can attack, Kora has to scour the galaxy for a small team of dedicated warriors to mount a defense. 

Kurosawa's premise is so simple and effective, it has been recycled many times since 1954. Famously, "The Magnificent Seven" transposed the story to the Old West, while "A Bug's Life" set it in a world populated by anthropomorphic insects. Jimmy T. Murakami's 1980 film "Battle Beyond the Stars" was, like "Rebel Moon," also a sci-fi rendition of Kurosawa's tale. 

The first half of "Rebel Moon" will be released on Netflix on December 22, 2023, and, like most of Snyder's films, promises to be enormously overblown. Snyder is credited as one of the film's co-screenwriters alongside Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten. The exact length of the script — or of the completed film — has not yet been disclosed, but since it's from the same filmmaker who gave us "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and a four-hour version of "Justice League," one might assume that it's not zippy and jaunty. 

/Film was recently able to visit the set of "Rebel Moon," wherein Snyder addressed journalists about his filmmaking process and his script. He revealed that he hired actor Ray Porter, who played the voice of Darkseid in "Justice League," to read the entire screenplay onto tape so that he, as a director, could hear the rhythms of his language. He also would play back Porter's recordings prior to shooting a scene, using the actor's instincts to guide his direction. 

Ray Porter was a stealth MVP of 'Rebel Moon'

Ray Porter also appears in "Rebel Moon," but only in a small role. Porter also played a roadie named Mick in Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" and, in a fun coincidence, a 2007 TV movie called "Last Stand of the 300," a mockbuster rendition of Snyder's own 2006 film "300." Porter played one of the oracle priests. The actor has a confident and bell-clear voice — he has read multiple audio books — and Snyder was lucky enough to hear him play every role in "Rebel Moon." According to Snyder, Porter was brought into the production early, and the director would ask the actor to read back portions of the script in person. 

Eventually, he hired Porter to read the entire script just like he would a book on tape. Snyder even played a portion of the recording for the visiting journalists. The director said: 

"Every day before I'd come to work, I'd listen to Ray read the scene. [...] So on the drive in, I'll listen to it to remind me, 'Oh yeah, this is what we're doing.' Hear the dialogue and everything. It's good fun. I've never done it for a movie, but I would do it that way from now on. Because you sit in the car and you have your script and you get carsick and you're like, 'Oh god, this is exhausting,' but if you just put your headphones on ... And actually, because I wrote the script, I'm always like, 'What did we say? What was that?'"

While a screenwriter will hear their dialogue read eventually, it must be a new experience to hear it in one voice in its entirety like that. 

'Did I write this? I never meant that. That's crazy'

Snyder continued: 

"And it's just nice to hear it back and be like, 'Oh yeah, that's right.' Because we gave that a lot of thought. Two years ago, that's all I cared about. That document becomes abstract. You're like, 'Did I write this? I never meant that. That's crazy.'"

It seems fair to say that Porter's performance altered Snyder's direction. The director had to rely on an actor's interpretation prior to getting anyone in front of a camera. This wasn't just a table read, but a dramatic rendition. Snyder didn't mention if he rewrote any "Rebel Moon" passages after hearing them spoken aloud for the first time, but that seems like something this author might do. Even with an experienced director like Snyder, it's possible to discover new filmmaking techniques and directorial flourishes. 

Snyder didn't mention if Porter's readings only pertained to the first part of "Rebel Moon," or both films. It may be safe to assume, however, that Porter read both scripts. 

Porter's audiobook career, meanwhile, involves a lot of fantasy novels and military thrillers, but also a few notable nonfiction books about either business acumen or Christian theology. He was likely quite comfortable reading multiple characters in a whol sci-fi story like "Rebel Moon." Should Snyder's film be adapted into a novel, it should stand to reason that Porter read the audio version of that, too.