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INT: Frank Miller

01.11.2007

Comic book writer/artist Frank Miller has written a slew of impressive graphic novels (Sin City, 300, Ronin) and has worked on comics such as Daredevil, Batman and Elektra. His initial foray into the film industry with Robocop 2 and 3 as a screenwriter left a sour taste in his mouth, but Robert Rodriguez got him to play ball with Hollywood again when he had him co-direct SIN CITY alongside him. Miller showed up on the set of 300 to see how the adaptation of his graphic novel was forging ahead and to share his thoughts on the production with us. Here's what unraveled.

Frank Miller

So we heard that this is your first day here on set?

Absolutely.

What do you think?

I’m in love. This looks like so much fun. The cast and crew must be having a ball. It’s as stylized as I prayed it would be. It’s not a realistic story but much of it is based on reality, but it’s a very stylized version.

Can you talk about where the story came from for you?

Oh, I’ve always loved this story, it’s the best story I ever got my hands on. I was a little boy, seven years old and I saw this clunky old movie from 20th Century Fox called “300 Spartans”. I was sitting next to my brother Steve who was two years older than I was, we were 7 and 9 so we were too cool to sit with our parents who were in the row behind us. SoI went, “Steve are the good guys gonna lose?” He went, “I don’t know, ask dad”. So I asked my dad, “Dad, are the good guys gonna die?” and he said. “I’m afraid so, son”. So I went and watched the end of the movie and the course of my creative life changed.

 All of a sudden I understood that heroes were people who did the right thing, and damn the consequences. And ever since then hero sacrifice has been a theme of my work. So I focused on the story, I studied and thought I had the skills to pull it off. I read up even more about it and then I went to Greece and spent 3 weeks there, studying Greek terrain and old Greek battles. I learned that researching history starts seeming like a chore but it quickly turns into a treasure throve. The story just got better the more I studied it. It’s an amazing story.

Your art is so stylized and very specific, were you at all skeptical that anyone could pull this off on this kind of scale and were you surprised by what you’ve seen so far?

I was mainly skeptical about the courage that they would have, but Johnny and Zack and Craig all approached this with utter determination to do it right. Also Mark Kent, and they ?? keeping very close to the book but adding their own dimension to it.

That’s great to talk about it now, but what about in 1999 or 2000 when they were negotiating with you? As you know Hollywood doesn’t sometimes make great translations of this type of work, what were your concerns with these people and can you take us back to that negotiation period?

I approached it with a lot of concern, the same way with Sin City. Because I thought, “Are they really gonna have the balls to do it right? It was mainly Johnny’s determination to tell the story, just as is, that convinced me.

Had anybody else approached you prior to him?

Oh yeah, you do a comic book you get an option deal. It’s almost automatically in the mail. But I always turn them down. And I was just convinced by Johnny’s determination.

It’s obviously very different than most of the other movies coming out like Troy and Alexander…

I hope so. (laughs).

When this movie started out, there were a couple of other possible Spartan films in development. What edge do you think this one had? Is it the fact that you can see on the page what you want on the screen?

I think the artwork helps a lot. When we were shooting Sin City, having the artwork there was a real godsend for the cast and the crew, it just answered tons of questions. Also this is a very streamlined version of the story, the other versions told tend to be much more elaborate, rather than the very sudden scary story that 300 deserves to be. It’s a three day battle, I mean, you don’t wanna dwell.

You got to co-direct Sin City…

Yeah.

Was there a frustration level now not to be able to step in and co-direct as well? Was a part of that relinquishing some of that, creative control?

It’s not hard, it’s agonizing. Damn Zack Snyder! (Laughs) But it’s in good hands.

Did you enjoy the experience of co-directing?

Try and stop me. (Laughs) I am finishing the script right now for Sin City 2 and another screenplay as well and I can’t wait to get behind the camera again.

So is this going to be the last Frank Miller adaptation that is not directed by Frank Miller? Are all future Frank Miller films going to be Frank Miller productions?

Yeah. (Laughs)

Irony is definitely in the air when a Frank Miller independent comic movie is being produced by Warner Bros., but what do you think about that? How have you been talking to them or is it all through the producers?

Mostly through the producers, but I have an excellent relationship with Warner Bros., I worked on the last Batman movie for a while and they publish my Batman comics, and generally it seems that you do need a Johnny out there and a Zack, to muscle it through, but they’re willing to be very open.

Had you seen the Dawn of the Dead remake before you knew Zack was gonna do this?

No.

What did you think of it?

It was pretty damn cool!

There are some new characters introduced in this, how do you feel about that? I mean it’s not something you created, that’s now in this project that kinda has your name over it.

I’ve been around the block, I mean I know what happens when you make a movie, you make adjustments. Sometimes you collapse characters into each other and sometimes you create new ones.

They didn’t come to you with suggestions?

Oh sure. We talked it all over. But it’s Zack’s movie, I know what it’s like to direct and the last thing you need is some producer hopping all over you like a grasshopper. And so I give him a lot of latitude. I don’t want to interfere with his process.

The Internet allows people to really put their opinion out there so much more than ever before, I was wondering if you read this stuff, do you ever read what they’re saying on message boards to see what these kids are saying?

I can’t, I really can’t. If the Internet had been around for Dark Night, they would have been complaining just as much as they are now, because the Internet is there for people to complain. And you know if Batman says goddamn, they get the vapors. Screw ‘em.

You’re writing Sin City 2, is there going to be a Sin City 3?

If I had my way there would be five. But that’s if I had my way. Five would take care of the graphic novels. But there’s new material that I am writing for the 2nd one that will probably also be a separate graphic novel that I’ll do. It’s a Nancy Callahan story that I’ve been wanting to do.

For this film, when you have the spears jamming down into the person’s mouth, are you saying anything about the excesses of war, are those some of the points you’re trying to make?

No. Its just was a sign of Sparta’s barbarity. The Spartans were the oldest of the Greeks, they’re Ionian, rather than Dorians like the Athenians were and they were quite brutal. The most offensive thing they ever did was tossing all those messengers into the well, because you kill the messenger. It’s considered blasphemy. Spartans didn’t give a damn, they were willing to commit blasphemy. You got to understand these people were slave owners, they were all trading soldiers and they were 15 slaves to every Spartan citizen. And they were a very rough crowd, because they’re the heroes of my story, I make them look as good as I can, but I wouldn’t want to have dinner with any of them.

Because killing a messenger would’ve been almost a breach of the law, but at the same time they’re sort of fighting for law and democracy.

Yes, it’s a wonderful paradox about the Spartans. They made possible a civilization that they never could’ve realized themselves.

A couple of months ago I read that you still had not seen Elektra, and that you maybe never would. Do you still feel that way or is there a morbid curiosity to see it?

She’s my daughter, I’ll always love her but she’s been sleeping around all over town and I can’t even talk to her anymore.

How long are you planning on sticking around the set and which scene, if you can make it, are you excited to see filmed?

The one I was seeing downstairs with the immortals was pretty amazing. I’m just grabbing it where I can. I’m going to be here until Friday.

Source: JoBlo.com

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