MILLER HAS THE SPIRITThe Spirit Set Visit, Frank Miller Interview by Paul Fischer in Albuquerque
On a near brand new sound stage not too far from the Albuquerque soundstage, writer/director Frank Miller is shooting his solo directorial debut, The Spirit. With his trademark hat, the often droll, but secretive artist and director, was shooting a scene with the films star, Gabriel Macht, on stage 7 as he took a break to discuss The Spirit, not due out for over a year.
Paul Fischer: How does it feel being the sole director of this movie, andmaking your way up from the echelons of being a dual director?
Frank Miller: It's a real privilege. I'm in love with the material,and doing my best to be fair to it.
Paul Fischer: What challenges are you facing with the technology, and theimprovements in the technology?
Frank Miller: Well, this isn't a time really where I feel it'sappropriate to refer to challenges of technology, so much asopportunities. Right now, it's almost frightening what is possible.One of the challenges for the director of a movie that uses this muchdigital technology is what not to do. Is to tell yourself, "I could dothis, but should I?"
Paul Fischer: Give us an example of something that you were like, "I'llnever be able to do that," and then how you were able to figure out howto do it.
Frank Miller: Oh, I knew from working with Robert Rodriguez thatvirtually anything was possible and certainly with Stu Mashovitz I've learned some brand new things that I've never dreamt of.
Paul Fischer: What were you just filming over there with Gabriel?
Frank Miller: That's - that was Spirit hunting down the octopus, andgoing through some of his snipers on the way.
Paul Fischer: Can you talk about when you first discovered Spirit andWill Eisner's work, and the effect that it had on you?
Frank Miller: I was just probably about 13 years old. And I cameacross Will Eisner's Spirit as published by Jim Warren and wasblown away. I thought it was somebody new to comics, because it was sofar ahead of anything else coming out. Followed it religiously. Therewas one when - night, when I - I picked up the latest issue of TheSpirit, and I was so excited, I had to stop by a lamppost in Vermontwhere I lived and read it on the spot. It's the Sand Saref story,which is the basis of this movie.
Paul Fischer: Can you talk about the casting of this, and why Eva Mendesin thatparticular role, yes?
Frank Miller: I know you wear glasses, but you've got eyes.
Paul Fischer: There are some beautiful women in Hollywood. So, why thisparticular beautiful woman?
Frank Miller: Eva Mendeshas a wonderful exquisite anger to her. Hertalent aside, her beauty aside, she has an edge that the characterreally needs.
Paul Fischer: And the rest of the casting? Sam was theonly person you wanted as I understand.
Frank Miller: You know, from the start I wanted Sam Jackson to playThe Octopus, because I've always wanted to work with Sam Jackson. TheOctopus was always a cipher in the old comics, and I knew we couldn'tgo away with two hours of a guy whose face you never see. And so Ithought, who would be the perfect nemesis for the spirit? And SamJackson came to mind. It seems to me he's always had a part like thisinside him waiting to get out.
Paul Fischer: And he changes his look in every single movie. What's hislook gonna be this time around?
Frank Miller: He's The Octopus.
Paul Fischer: Do you play around with that unseen quality of The Octopusbefore you unveil in being Sam?
Frank Miller: Oh, if I started telling you - if I started answeringquestions like that, you could keep asking them. [LAUGHTER]
Paul Fischer: Talk about the reasons for doing a second movie greenscreen. As an artist, do you feel that's the only way to reallyrecreate the art and bring the art to life?
Frank Miller: I don't know. I'm a kid in a candy store. This is theonly way I've been trained to direct. And I love it because it bringsyou closer to the art of the page.
Paul Fischer: There's something to be said about having some sets orsomething for the actors to work out of, because obviously you have tolook at the pictures and kind of imagine everything's there.
Frank Miller: Sure. There's something to be said for every approach.
Paul Fischer: How do you deal with the passion for the project, and thefact that you have to use technology, it's not only art, it's alsoscience.
Frank Miller: I guess that's like asking a blacksmith why heuses a hammer.
Paul Fischer: Are you reveling in the technology? I mean, how has thetechnology developed the most since your mind?
Frank Miller: It's exploding all around us. It's so alive. I see agrand and beautiful collision between anime, live action, comic books -and I feel like I'm witnessing these forces all come together andborrow from each other. So it's a very exciting time. Fusion.
Paul Fischer: How is this movie going to look like Will Eisner?
Frank Miller: Well, Will Eisner was a little shorter than I was, and balding. But it's going to be quite faithful, I think, to Will's vision as an artist. I've often laid out storyboards my way,and then Will Eisner's way. And each case, I've gone Will Eisner's way.
Paul Fischer: And tonally, are you mixing a lot of comedy with the darkness of the comic? There is a lot of humor in this piece.
Frank Miller: It wouldn't be Will Eisner's Spirit if it wasn't.
Paul Fischer: What aspect of Will Eisner's Spirit is the thing that youmost wanted to get right in the film? The translation?
Frank Miller: The passion that Will Eisner and I always shared for NewYork City. And you'll see some very familiar touches that come fromWill Eisner, and come from the city we both love.
Paul Fischer: Did you learn anything from your day spent on the 300 set,as far from watching that? Did you watch anything from being on the300 set, and watching Zac work?
Frank Miller: I was only briefly on the 300 set. All I saw - youknow, when I first arrived to see it I had come in wondering if I mightjust knock him unconscious and take his job over. And I saw what hewas doing, and realized that I wasn't ready.
THE SPIRIT WILL BE UNVEILED IN THEATRES IN JANUARY 2009.