INT: Sin City...1/2

Press Conference #1:
Robert Rodriguez, Brittany Murphy,
Rosario Dawson, Clive Owen

Opening this week is the latest comic book to make the leap to the big screen, SIN CITY (read JoBlo's review of the film HERE). SIN CITY isn’t your typical comic. Gone are the superheroes with colorful costumes and otherworldly powers, crusading for truth, justice and the American way. Created by Frank Miller (the mind behind the seminal "The Dark Knight Returns" series), SIN CITY is edgy, unflinchingly dark and intensely violent. It’s a world of hookers, thugs, crooked cops and vigilantes, all set against a gritty urban backdrop. This ain’t no Superfriends.

SIN CITY might never have made it to the big screen weren’t it for the passion of director Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez pulled out all the stops to obtain the blessing of a highly reticent Frank Miller, going so far as to shoot and edit an entire scene in order to show him what he had in mind. He even appointed Miller as his co-director. When the Director’s Guild balked at the idea (guild rules bars films from having two directors), he chose to resign from the guild rather than compromise his vision for the film. The result is a comic book adaptation that’s perhaps truer to its source material than any other ever made.

Last week, Dimension Films hosted two press conferences at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to promote the film. The first conference featured Robert Rodriguez, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen. Here are some excerpts.

How did the project come about? Were you a fan of the comic from the beginning?

Rodriguez: I was a fan of this one. People thought such a great idea to make it into a (movie). It took me years to figure it out. I've been buying it since 92, and I always wanted to do a film noir and never put two and two together that this should be the thing until just a couple of years ago when, after doing the Spy Kids movies, and worrying so much about lighting and technology, that I realized I could make this movie now — the time was right to make it and look like the book, and the more I looked at the book to adapt it, I realize it didn't need adapting. It was visual storytelling and it worked so well on the page, I thought it would work exactly the same way on the screen.

So my idea was: seriously, what would have happened is that if you liked the Sin City book, you take it to a studio, they'd buy it, they would give it to a writer who would then change it, because he would have to earn his pay on it. They wouldn't do what I did, which was put the book up and transcribe it directly word for word and then edit it down to pace; we'd just get further and further away from what you like to begin with. So I said let's not change anything. Let's not develop it. Let's start shooting right out of the book. There won't even be a screenplay; let's shoot right out of the book.

And Frank was like, “What? What planet is this?” He was so thrilled and when it started working, he saw how the translation was working and yeah, I think it's the same visual storytelling mediums and that's what makes the movie so unique, because it doesn't feel like a movie. And I didn't want to make a movie out of Sin City . I wanted to make movies into the comic. I wanted to turn cinema into the comic. Not take it and suddenly turn it into a regular movie. It just wouldn't have been right.

When Frank wrote the books, he purposely went and made something that he wanted to see himself. He had been through the Hollywood process, he had been screwed around, never got to make a movie. He went back to “I'm just going to do what I do best, I'm going to draw something which probably nobody wants to see. It's going to be black and white, really cool hardcore women, cool vintage cars, tough men, called Sin City. No one will probably buy it, but this is what I want to make.” And it became successful, and I thought that's the purest way to make something. He never foresaw it being a movie. He never foresaw it being mass-produced, and it was very unself-conscious, and that's why I wanted to do it and stay true to the book and not rethink because then we'd be too self-conscious.

I love this material. I've always wanted to do film noir. I love the seediness of the film noir. I love the excitement of it, the visceral qualities, the fact that we get to meet people you would never meet in your normal life, see things you would never see. It enters your dreams. Film noirs have always been enticing to people, and I think it's because it's the dark side of life and people like that.

It's probably the hardest I've worked on a movie. I thought it was going to be easy — hey, just copy what's out of the book, and there you go. It is a lot of work. I think somewhere near the end I realized — it's funny because it's sort of a trilogy all released the same day, so it was kind of like doing three movies in one.

Can you talk about your collaboration with Frank Miller? How did that work?

Rodriguez: It was very complementary. I wanted him to be a director rather that just there as a writer, a producer, because I felt if just came to that, they might just stick him in the corner and feed him a sandwich every once in a while. But if he was a director, everyone would have to listen to him. I didn't want it to be Robert Rodriguez's Sin City. I loved the book so much; I wanted it to be as close to something that he would do in the movie as possible. And it was very complementary. I tried not to do any contradictory directing. If he told an actor one thing, I wouldn't tell them the exact opposite. . . He let me handle all the visual stuff. He was really there working with the actors, knowing the characters so well. He was able to tell them things. I didn't know everything about the characters cause it's not all in the book, a lot of it is in his head, and they loved to be able to know where the character was going in future volumes, or what he was thinking when he put it together, and how it should be performed.

Did you have conversations with each other as to who would do what?

Rodriguez: It just kind of naturally flowed. I would be on the camera working with the actor there and he would be on the monitor and then come and tell the actor something and we’d talk about things. It just felt very natural. It felt like it just worked. And when I'd get a shot and I thought I'd had it and the actor knew, I turned around and Frank had a huge smile on his face: we got it, let's move on to the next shot.

Can you talk about your decision to leave the DGA?

Rodriguez: I didn't realize it was against the rules until I got to shoot and they came to me and said, “Well, you know, you can't have two directors on it.”

Really? I see two directors all the time.

“Well, those are special cases where they were already a team before they joined.” What about the guys at Pixar? They co-direct. ”Well, they aren't…they aren't represented by the guild.” They make the best movies of anyone! It shows the rules are so old they didn't conform to ideas of how things were done — and we're half animated anyway. We were just about to shoot and it felt so right, such a new thing, that it wasn't going to fit in a lot of rulebooks, so I just thought…rather than have them change their rules, which somebody might take advantage of…a studio head says "You have to make me a co-director now," and they really wanted that rule, they didn't want to turn into the writer's guild or the producer's guild where there are so many that you can't tell who did what.

So I understood their position and said…this was such a weird movie so I'd better leave anyway. I was already thinking about bringing Quentin on as a special guest director, and that would never fly, so it felt better just to leave. I can't do a studio movie that's developed by a studio now, but that just means I should be doing my own material. George Lucas wanted to do Princess of Mars at one point and couldn't get the rights so he wrote Star Wars. So that's what I should do anyway.

(Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy and Clive Owen join the conference, embracing Robert)

-- Jamie King, Rodriguez and Dawson at premiere --

Murphy: Down to the slightest minute detail and this man knows how to shoot women stunningly and beautifully and like them in a way that their bodies look unique and you can't see into the parts that don't work (laughs)...

Rodriguez: (to the actors) You were all great about coming in and doing it like it was in the book because that was the whole idea: let's start with the book and if doesn't work, then we'll change it and make adjustments, but you came in right away and said . . . okay, I'll try it on. And you loved it and it put you in character. (Rosario) cut her hair into that mohawk like in the book — it's a very weird hairstyle, I don't know if you want to do it — let's go for it!

Brittany and Rosario, how do you feel about all the violence against women in this film? If someone called this film misogynistic, how would you defend it?

Dawson: I think that’s been the question: are women going to want to see it specifically for that reason? I think absolutely. When she's standing there and he actually punches her across the face, and she actually tries to chop his pecker off...all the women working in Old Town — we take care of ourselves. We are very control of what we are. We know what our assets are. We make money off of it. We call the shots, which I think is really powerful. It's a very even keel sort of strength between the men and the women. The guys get their balls ripped off and the girls get to do it and will. It's a pretty tough town on both sides.

Murphy: I thoroughly agree with everything Rosario just said. If you look at the undertones of Frank Miller's writing, there's a balance to everything...also moments with Marv and Carla's character when she's crying and he says women just need to get it out.

Regarding casting choices, were there some people that you wanted that you couldn’t get?

Rodriguez: You never look back once you cast the person you end up with because they just become that character. Then you can never imagine your first ideas . . . for whatever reason, they end up not doing the movie or decide it's not for them. You find the right person and they come walking in the room and you go oh God, I'm glad we held out for this person. I'd just worked with Johnny Depp and thought of him for the part that Benicio played, and he was really into it, but this movie he was doing in Europe kept getting pushed and pushed, and it wasn't that critical.

It wasn't one of the bigger roles and it wasn't being shot for a while. But then I saw Benicio at the Academy Awards with his long Wolf Man hair (I thought) “Oh my God, that is Jackie Boy right there.” So when Johnny couldn't do it, I said to Benicio, “Hey...would you be interested in doing it?” And now you look back and he was the right…things like that just happen. So yeah, you never think, I wish I could have had this person or that person.

What made you decide on Mickey Rourke?

Rodriguez: He and Bruce Willis were the people I first thought of for the parts because I'd worked for them before and known them. Mickey I'd worked with on Once Upon A Time In Mexico and when I look at the book again, I old Frank, there's only one guy I know who could be Marv, and you're not going to get it from any of his other work. The guy from 9 and a half weeks? Get out of here! You're not going to get it from any of his work. It's only cause I know him and what a tortured soul he is, that he's as close as we can get to Marv without hurting ourselves.

And Clive?

Rodriguez: Clive I remember . . . it was really tough because Frank draws the character of Dwight with so much character in his face, and you couldn't go to a young actor who has that kind of weight and presence...that has some vitality in him like that. And I looked at the BMW commercials again because that's the only things I know him from, but have always wanted to work with him from those...he just had a presence, a very mysterious presence. I showed Frank: I know it's not a whole lot to show you, but look at this...By that time we'd brought on so many actors who were so right, he just trusted me to say hey, if you think he's the guy let's bring him in. And he was terrific.

A lot of people will say that Bruce Willis is just playing himself?

Rodriguez: He is the character in the book. He's like that. That's why I thought of him. This is Bruce Willis...that iconic retiring cop, the knight in shining armor, that you can just…I couldn't think of anyone else to play him, and he was the first guy we went to. And Frank was just thrilled. He thought that would be perfect, so he looked at a couple of minutes of it, and said, I'm in. I know he loves film noir. I think he's perfect for that world. He fits right in.

For the actors, what was it like working so much against a green screen?

Dawson: It was just incredible I think, the green screen. You're standing there in this outfit, just completely naked and vulnerable to everything and this crazy dialogue…okay, I'm just going to trust. With Robert's experience – I was kind of lucky because I came out on the very last segment of shooting, so I was there three months into it and actually saw a lot of other footage, so I got the benefit of being able to look at it and go, “Okay, this does look really amazing, I'm just going to do whatever he tells me to do.”

But it was crazy because you're doing like…we had to move, not the cameras. Normally everything moves around you; we would have to do everything and go along with what the actual framing was. And he had this computer effect where he would actually take the actual framing — the books themselves became the storyboard. And every single thing we ended up shooting were exactly to the proportions and standing and distance as to what the actual frames were. It was just amazing, the entire process – the magic of talent and the understanding of the technology.

As directors, how did Robert and Frank differ?

Dawson: Frank Miller – it was great having him there. My Uncle Gus is a comic book artist, and we'd go out for beers and hang out, and all of a sudden it would just turn into talking about like blue pencils and paper textures and like I'm completely ignored in the background, and he'd draft something out and the next day they’d be like, “This is actually a good shot,” and he'd set it up. And what was amazing about it, it really (fit) completely into his vision. Sin City is in his head and in his body and how he draws. He breaks pencils all the time, he is so into it. And we were able to — every single thing that he wanted to do — it was how does this look in your head — how would you have drawn it if this is the direction you wanted to go with it. So it stayed completely true to what Sin City is and should be.

Owen: Having Frank there was absolutely essential for everything. He's the god that conjured up this sort of crazy world. I saw the film yesterday for the first time, and I have to say I think this guy is a genius. I was blown away by it. It's that world. I felt at the end of the movie like I'd been taken to some extraordinary place I'd never been before, and I think Frank's vision and world is that, and this guy has just gone and created it on film.

Robert can you tell us which part Quentin Tarantino directed and how that went?

Rodriguez: He was great. Originally, I had thought there would be more shorter stories in the movie as well when I first told him about it and then it ended up being the longer ones. So, I told him “Well, you can direct one of the sequences,” because Frank (Miller) originally issued them in small issues. That’s why you always see these characters die every ten minutes because he always wanted you to come back to the next comic book. So, each book was made up of several smaller issues. I had to basically do an issue which was where Benicio and Clive were in the car together and Benicio’s got the gun barrel and he’s talking. It was Quentin’s idea to have him speak in an outer voice, where it was voice over, to actually speak it out.

He did something kind of like that in Reservoir Dogs and Clive didn’t know until the day. Quentin was like, “Wait a minute. All this monologue that you were going to do with voice over later, you should do it on the set. Can you learn it real quick?” Clive really impressed the hell out of Quentin. That’s all he ever talks about is the fact that Clive went away for five minutes and did the whole monologue right there off the cuff. Especially since he’s trying to do an American accent so he had to figure that out as well right there on the day. Quentin came in so prepared. Frank and I had been shooting already. This was our last episode. He was afraid he’d be unprepared so he over prepared and made Frank and I look like bums. He came in with every shot written up, all this visionary stuff – “Oh, it’ll stay black and white and we’re going to use colored flashing lights on them.

He’ll speak in an outer voice and the camera will come down…” and I’m like, “Wow, you really worked this out.” He said, “I was so afraid I’d be unprepared that I over prepared.” We just blasted through it. He had a blast doing it. The first shot I said, “We’ve got a car there that you can put the actors in but truthfully, we haven’t been using the cars. We can’t quite get the angles. We’ve just been sitting them on a green apple box with a steering wheel.” He was “Oh, no. Put ‘em in a car. I want to see ‘em in there.” Quentin’s very real for real – “I want to see them in there squeezed together and confined.”

After one shot he’s like, “Okay. Get rid of the car.” The rain, the car, the road, nothing was there. He got to just concentrate on getting performances. That’s the beauty of a green screen for us. All that other stuff that used to take up time for rigging, then hurry, hurry and get the performance. All of that was gone. You were just getting performance. That’s why the performance was so great. That’s all they were concentrating on was eye-to-eye, working with each other.

Murphy: Then Quentin stayed.

Rodriguez: He stayed. He loved Brittany and said, “We can have a little Brittany Murphy film festival after this." He was like, “Brittany is terrific. I’m going to try to weasel my way into tomorrow’s work.”

Murphy: My first day I had three directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino. That wasn’t planned and there were certain shots where I remember you guys saying “That’s too Quentin.”

Rodriguez: He’d say something because he wanted to get in on working with you. You said, “Oh my God. There’s three of them.”

Rosario, did you do this right after Alexander? What was it like going from that to this?

Dawson: Not straight after. It was a few months later. Refreshing! It was a strange thing because it felt epic in the exact opposite way. Because we were actually on location in Morocco and Thailand and we had camels and elephants. Suddenly, I’m in this room with absolutely nothing but my outfit which was more than what I wore in Alexander. It was the most opposite thing you could have gone through. And, having two directors, I mean it was really amazing.

Robert, what will you say to people who will criticize you for the over-the-top violence?

Rodriguez: I guess that’s what it is, that is it so over-the-top and stylized like in the book. That’s what helped temper it was that it was so black and white, so abstract, so representative that it’s easier to watch than if it were realistically rendered. I think the tone of it has really changed it. I never got any flack for Desperado at a time when people would criticize guys like Quentin for cutting an ear off – off camera – I was mowing down people in my movies and nobody said anything about the violence because of the tone. And I think that’s the same thing for this. As violent as it is, like in the comic, it felt tempered by the stylization. That’s why we didn’t have any trouble with the MPAA or anything. They just said, “This is R material. You don’t have to cut it.”

Clive, have you heard anything more about playing Bond. What’s going on?

Clive: The same as always. There’s nothing to it whatsoever. That’s just people writing about it. It’s not substantiated at all.

Would you like to be Bond?

Clive: Next question.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com



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