Snyder, who directed "300" and "Watchmen," had been on the list of helmers ensconced in meetings with Nolan and Warners execs, who in recent weeks have talked to Darren Aronofsky, Ben Affleck, Matt Reeves and Tony Scott.
The job was so coveted that even Robert Zemeckis, retired to the world of performance capture, considered returning to live-action filmmaking in order to nab the gig.
A new Superman movie is one of the studio's top priorities, not only since it serves as linchpin for their line of DC superhero-based films, but especially since Warners needs to be in production on a new Superman movie by 2011 or risk losing certain copyrights to the heirs of creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel. (That litigation is still pending.)
Nolan, who revived Batman, teamed up with David Goyer for a new a way to revive the last son of Krypton. Despite grossing $200 million domestically, the last movie, 2006's "Superman Returns," was considered a disappointment and a hoped-for franchise launch never flew off.
Part of the problem stems from Superman's classic comic book characteristics: The character for decades was a beacon for positive characteristics and his stories usually painted in black and white, so from a point of view of a certain segment, he was not hip enough for a time that prefers its heroes more morally ambiguous and drawn with tones of gray.
Goyer is writing the script, which is rumored to have, like "Superman Returns," a Richard Donner Superman connection. In the movie's case, it's a villain connection: General Zod.
Nolan is producing with his wife and producing partner Emma Thomas, along with Charles Roven, and Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder's wife and partner.
Snyder, repped by CAA, is one of Warners favorite filmmakers, ever since he directed the surprise smash "300," the adaptation of the Frank Miller comic book. He followed that up with "Watchmen," the adaptation of the seminal Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons miniseries, and is now putting on the final touches on his original work "Suckerpunch," which is slated to open March 25, 2011.
Snyder just made his animated feature debut with "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole." The movie opened softly but is generating strong word-of-mouth, having fallen only 32% in its second week.
Because Nolan was godfathering "Superman," it initially was though that any filmmaker coming on baord would be someone who would be more of a mentee in a mentor-style relationship. Snyder, however, brings not only box-office clout but also, like Nolan, a reputation for being a visionary.
Snyder, who told Heat Vision that he was "psyched" about the gig, played down potential class differences.
"In the initial meetings, he's been super amzaingly smart and also amazingly kind, filmmaker-to-filmmaker," he said of Nolan. "I have great respect for him. The process has been amazing so far, and it looks like nothing but pluses."
Snyder first met with Nolan about a month ago, and while he didn't do any dog-and-pony show, "I defintely expressed my love for the character and interest in seeing him treated right."
Added Snyder: "The character deserves to be loved. It's his time"
The director said he and the movie's makers would work on the script a little bit before jumping to the next stage.
"We're moving quick," he said.