Sure, real-life couples working together on Hollywood projects may be nothing new, but how many can confidently say that they have created some of the biggest blockbuster films in modern history? Well, Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder can.
Now 17 years into their marriage, these successful producing partners have taken a favorable hold of several DC Universe films including the long-anticipated “Snyder Cut” version of Justice League, which premiered this past March on HBO Max.
Back in July, this passionate duo decided to team up with Netflix on a first-look two-year film deal through their The Stone Quarry production company. The agreement came about following the success of their original Netflix film Army of the Dead, with that cinematic world quickly expanding with a new prequel film released tomorrow on the video streaming giant titled Army of Thieves. Their next sci-fi adventure Rebel Moon is also in the works at Netflix, which producer Deborah says filming will begin this coming spring and director Zack telling me at Forbes, “It’s just like so gigantic and the world building and all the giant backstory that we have in it is just insane.”
“Netflix has been so supportive,” says Deborah. “What other studio before a movie would come out would greenlight two other projects on something that’s an original IP (Intellectual Property)? Having learned and grown up inside a traditional studio, there’s a set way of doing things but a lot of times. There is not a lot of chances taken. They want a sure bet. Even Army of the Dead, we tried to get made for about 10 years. What Netflix in particular allows for is they are taking chances on things. They’re doing things in a bold way and I think we’ve always kind of tried to push the limit, so it’s been nice to have this partnership.”
Zack adds about their new Netflix deal, “Just the relationship we had with them on Army [of the Dead] and how supportive they’ve been of this crazy, original IP and just rolling the dice on a whole universe that nobody has ever heard of. It’s a credit to them that the movie has been incredibly successful on the service, and we continue to support it with this additional content. For us, it’s a great home and they’re just amazing.”
So, just as their new Army of Thieves film is a captivating origin story for their beloved Army of the Dead “Dieter” character, the real-life origin of the love story for Zack and Deborah is also a tale worth telling.
“We met in the 90s,” Deborah reveals. “I was an agency producer and I hired him to do a Lady Foot Locker Reebok commercial. Then years later, early 2000s, we re-met again when I hired him to do this soft and dry deodorant commercial that was in New Zealand. Back then, the budgets were really big, so we were there for like three and a half weeks and there were some sparks (laughs). We kind of started dating right after that. He had just gotten Dawn [of the Dead]. Dawn is the only movie I haven’t worked on officially, but I always say everyone was like Who is this chick in the editing room with all of these opinions? They must have been like Who are you?”
While I had individual conversations with this hardworking husband and wife team for this article, I shared with Zack earlier comments from Deborah saying “there were some sparks” during their first encounters together and I was curious if he agreed. Zack replies, “There were some sparks certainly. Might not be professional, but there were some sparks and one thing lead to another.”
On September 25, 2004, Zack and Deborah got married, elevating their partnership on-and-off-set into a dedicated powerhouse to fight together in Hollywood for the epic film projects they wanted to see get made, including 300, Watchmen, Man of Steel, and many more.
I asked Zack and Deborah during my separate conversations with them what the pros and cons of their relationship are, being a married couple that is also often working side-by-side together on film projects. Without me hinting at all about what each had said about the other, their similar responses could not be more in-line, a clear testament to their devotion for one another.
Zack says of Deborah, “Well, the pros are of course that we always have each other and that you have someone that you trust 100% and without a doubt to have your back and support you through this crazy business that is not always super supportive (laughs).” Unknowing of Zack’s response, Deborah tells me, “I think the biggest pro is that we get to do this together and we have each other’s back.”
Regarding any possible cons to their professional and personal choices, Deborah goes on to say that the constant traveling to different parts of the world to film a movie can have its setbacks for some, but she and Zack seem to have found their footing over these past two decades. “I think that can be hard on a relationship because we’ll be in a place for a year, so your significant other either comes with you but you’re working 12 hours a day and what are they doing? Are they staying home? I think that often times it is hard on a relationship, so it’s nice. We just pick up the whole family. The dogs, the kids, and we just like relocate and we figure it out.”
Zack also admits that even when they are not working and are technically “off the clock” at home, film planning talks often find their way into their leisure time, especially as the number of filmmakers in their family grows. “My son goes to AFI (American Film Institute). He’s studying to be a movie director, as well. So now you can imagine at dinner, it’s his thesis film and the movie we’re working on and Debbie is trying to figure out if we can get a visual effects adviser to help him on his thesis film at AFI. We’re like circus people.”
Devoted fans across social media have positively coined the phrase Snyderverse surrounding the cinematic worlds created by Zack and Deborah over the years, signifying a loyal support and an endless desire to see more projects under their leadership, public intrigue that is not lost on Zack.
“Snyderverse when I hear it said now, it really just to me represents this allegiant of really amazing fans that have supported me, not only through a difficult time in my life but a difficult creative time and really have championed this incredible movement that allowed not only Justice League to get made but helped fuel the success of Army [of the Dead] and hopefully we’ll be around for these movies that are coming up. I really want to make sure that my fans especially are included in the information and how we break the movies out. I’m really excited to when we start going in-person back to Comic-Cons, whether it be in San Diego or Brazil or wherever, just to really kind of stoke the fires, if you will, of these giants movies that we’re starting to make.”
Even though producers Zack and Deborah were unable to be physically on-set while filming Army of Thieves in Europe during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, its charismatic stars Matthias Schweighöfer (“Dieter/Sebastian”) and Nathalie Emmanuel (“Gwendoline”) tell me that they still felt the presence of their production leaders on-set, with Matthias even recalling Zoom calls happening with them almost everyday for nearly two years during the later production stages for Army of the Dead and throughout the filming process for Army of Thieves.
Nathalie shares her gratitude for her strong Army of Thieves role and for getting to join this new cinematic Snyderverse world saying, “It was such a blessing of a part and an experience and I wish, wish, wish they could’ve been there to be a part of it, but when we do get to be on-set, if we do get to do another one or on something else, I hope our paths cross in that sense professionally in some way in the future.”
Matthias, who also directed Army of Thieves and worked closely with Zack and Deborah on the set of its predecessor Army of the Dead, has nothing but kind words to say about his fellow filmmakers. “For me, Zack was always like one of the best directors, my number five most famous directors list. Debbie, his wife, she is such an amazing, strong, fantastic woman, fantastic producer, and mother. She’s my friend and Zack is my friend. This opportunity to do Army of the Dead and Army of Thieves, I’m so thankful for everything they did because they changed my life and they changed my way of doing a film, of seeing art and being creative. It was the first time I was allowed to dream big, like I wanted to dream big and larger-than-life. I will never forget that. Never.”
Nathalie and Matthias are not the only ones feeling gratitude for their career experiences so far. Deborah and Zack also express appreciation for their previous filming experiences, while looking ahead to their original content they are currently building from the ground up.
“I feel like from the years working at DC, we learned so much about world building and to do it where we’re creating the canyon is really exciting,” Deborah continued. “Listen, it was exciting to bring these larger-than-life characters that people adore to the screen and that had its own challenges and its own rewards. To have those stories that we told touch so many people, I’ve never had so many people reach out to us and to Zack about what these characters and how we told those stories, how much they meant. Some of them changed their lives in ways. That’s pretty profound to create something that can do that, but then to have something that’s wholly original that you birth and create is also amazing. We’ve been very lucky.”
Zack wrapped up the conversation with some profound words to share with their moviegoing base of passionate supporters. “I’m excited to know that there’s a group of people out there that take it as seriously as I do, they take it to heart as deep as I do, and it’s for those people that I want the movie to go all the way and touch them as deep as I can and have it mean something for that and that’s what it’s about in a lot of ways for me now.”