Zack Snyder Returning to Movies With Zombie Action Pic 'Army of the Dead' (Exclusive)

"No one's ever let me completely loose," the 'Justice League' filmmaker tells The Hollywood Reporter.
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage
Zack Snyder

Zack is back.

Zack Snyder, who directed 2017's Justice League only to step away from movies to deal with a family tragedy, has signed on to helm Army of the Dead, a zombie horror thriller, for Netflix. Snyder will direct and produce with his partner and wife, Deborah Snyder, via their newly rebranded production company, Stone Quarry. The shingle's Wesley Coller is also producing.

Snyder also came up with the story for Army, which has a script by Joby Harold. The adventure is set amid a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, during which a man assembles a group of mercenaries to take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantined zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.

Netflix, which is taking over the project from Warner Bros., where it was first set up in 2007, is going full throttle with Army. The movie is set to commence shooting this summer with a sizable budget that could reach the $90 million range, say sources.

To say Snyder is excited would be an understatement.

"There are no handcuffs on me at all with this one," Snyder tells The Hollywood Reporter in an interview.

Snyder was the chief architect of Warner Bros.' stable of DC Comics films for many years, and he was in postproduction on Justice League when his and Deborah's daughter committed suicide. The Snyders decided to step away from the movie, letting Joss Whedon film reshoots and finish postproduction. Since then, the duo has been out of the spotlight. There has been a focus on family, working with suicide awareness causes, and a regrouping of his company. But film projects can be cathartic, and Snyder says he has a desire to get back behind the camera.

"I thought this was a good palate cleanser to really dig in with both hands and make something fun and epic and crazy and bonkers in the best possible way," he says.

The new project features several full-circle moments for Snyder. For one, it brings the filmmaker back to the genre of his feature debut, 2004's Dawn of the Dead, which launched his high-profile helming career. It also reunites him with Netflix's movie head Scott Stuber, the executive who originally gave Snyder his big-screen shot on the Universal release. And as much as Snyder has made his name with high-flying comic book adaptations such as 300, Watchmen and the various DC movies, this new project is one he is proud to call truly his own.

"I love to honor canon and the works of art," he says of his adaptations, "but this is the opportunity to find a purely joyful way to express myself though a genre. It will be the most kick-ass, self-aware — but not in a wink-to-the-camera way — balls-to-the-wall zombie freakshow that anyone has ever seen. No one's ever let me completely loose [like this]."

Snyder says he's been energized by the prospect of making this particular story. "I love big action, I love big sequences," he says. "My movie brain starts clicking around and I was like, 'We need to be shooting this now!' Constructing these sequences really fired me up."

One thing Snyder has missed, even while making his mega-tentpoles, is actually operating a camera and "being in the trenches."

"When the movie gets super big, you get pushed away from the camera," he notes. "And in the last few years, I've had a reconnection with photography. This movie will be a chance to get the camera in hand."

Snyder's return also is noteworthy on other fronts. According to sources, Netflix identified the project and sought it out from Warner Bros., which led to dealmaking that could set a precedent for the studio selling other projects to the streamer. Terms for the studio deal and Snyder's deal were not disclosed.

Snyder is repped by CAA and Sloane Offer.