With Sin City 2 finally opening this weekend, creator and co-director Frank Miller is making the PR rounds, speaking out at length publicly for the first time since the mixed reception of Holy Terror and his incendiary Occupy comments. First up was a very nice front page of the Arts & Leisure piece in the Sinday Times — which is as close to anointment as a cultural figure as it gets. There was a polite Dave Itzkoff profile (ALERT: I am quoted in the piece):
Purveyor of a Stylish Brutality in which he talks about the reception of The Spirit for the first time:
“It tossed me back on my heels,” Mr. Miller said of the film’s failure. “And it made me smarter. There are a million things that can go wrong with a movie, and you’ve got to get them all right. I still approach the set with great confidence.”
There’s also a positive review of his books by Dana Jennings:
His loose line often jumps the tracks into raw Expressionism. Many of the drawings look as if they were backlit by chain lightning, and his renderings make snow, rain and cigarette smoke look as sentient as his characters. His panels are all slash and shadow, evoking the bold ink work of old comics masters like Milton Caniff and Alex Toth.
One of the most exquisite sequences in “Big Damn Sin City” comes in the brief story “Silent Night,” as the hulking Marv shambles through a blizzard, the snow whipping in an almost galactic darkness. Marv is a crucifix-wearing bruiser trying to set the world as right as he can, and in these few pages Northern Renaissance woodcut precision meets graphic novel guts.
And today there’s a 20 Questions with Miller in Playboy (NSFW) condustced by Rob Tannenbaum. A publicist made an excerpt available:
On his early Hollywood experiences: “I came back from RoboCop2 convinced that writing a screenplay was the equivalent of building a fire hydrant and then having dogs run around and piss on it. I swore I’d never touch movies again. I don’t see how I could function in film if I didn’t have my comics. I think screenplays are essentially stupid. I certainly do not regard working in Hollywood as a step up from comics, by any means.”
On why he changed his mind and helped adapt Sin City for the big screen: “Because Robert Rodriguez said he wanted to show me what he would do with Sin City. The irony here is that I designed Sin City so it could not be adapted to film. I wanted to show people what comics would do that movies couldn’t. When Rodriguez showed up, I was so ornery. I ignored his first three phone calls. I wouldn’t even meet him in my home. I met him at a Hell’s Kitchen bar. He showed me some rough work he’d done, and it was impressive. I thanked him and told him the answer was no. He went back to Texas. Then he said maybe we could shoot a scene just to see what it was like. It’s not the sort of offer you turn down. So I went to Texas, where he had built a fully functional set, and at one point Marley Shelton looked at me with her beautiful big eyes and said, ‘Why did my character hire somebody to kill her?’ Marley grasped it all and went out and gave three times the performance she had before. I walked over to Robert, kicked him in the shins and said, ‘I’m in.’”
On his current relationship with Robert Rodriguez: “He’s the P.T. Barnum, the overall boss of the crew and t
he most energetic force on the set. I’ve often joked with him that if he were Elvis Presley, I’d be Bob Dylan, because I like to go off alone and work quietly with people. I’m the guy actors go to when they need to ask a question about the characters. On my comic strips I work alone. When I first got involved in filmmaking, which I never thought I’d do, my biggest fear was working with actors. And it ended up being my greatest joy, because I know the backstories of all the characters and I finally have somebody to explain them to.”
On the prevalence of sex and violence in his films: “It’s not possible to tell a good story without conflict, and the best forms of conflict are sex and violence. I make no apologies for the kind of work I do. You’ll find plenty of violence and sex in grand opera and epic poetry too.”
On how 300 rattled Iranian politicians: “I’m ready for my fatwa now. [laughs] I’m banned from Iran, but believe me, I’ve made much greater sacrifices. What I love is that I actually made the Iranian government change its historical policy toward Persia. It went from despising the empire of Persia to all of a sudden loving it, after 300. Persia had been a globe-spanning empire, then Muhammad came along and changed the mentality and rewrote all the histories. Iran’s days of empire are long gone, and they were just looking for something to get pissed off about.”
On his thoughts about movies adapted from comics he wrote: “When people come out with movies about characters I’ve worked on, I always hate them. I have my own ideas about what the characters are like. I mean, I can’t watch a Batman movie. I’ve seen pieces of them, but I generally think, No, that’s not him. And I walk out of the theater before it’s over.”
On whether or not the stigma of being a comic-book artist will ever vanish: “I hope not. I hope we never lose it. People like to refer to comic books as graphic novels or sequential storytelling, all kinds of crazy words. Graphic novels sounds like we’re porn. I like the term comic book, because it sounds like something you fold up and put in your back pocket. I like the goofiness of them. One reason I enjoy the Marvel Comics movies is that they’re fun. A lot of superhero movies are pompous. At one point I was watching Superman, and all I could do was an impersonation of him saying, ‘Hi, I can fly and you can’t.’ Whereas Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man are a bunch of mixed-up crazy kids, just like the readers.”
On his “maladjusted” childhood: “I was maladjusted only in that I didn’t get along with the rest of the world very well. But I was a happy enough kid. I had an idyllic childhood in the country. My grades were pretty good until high school, when I discovered girls, marijuana and beer.”
On his views about masculinity: “I believe there has been a crisis of masculinity in modern times, and the 1940s-style gentleman needs to make a comeback—the sort of man who opens the door for women and compliments them and does things for them. I believe it’s a biological function of men, because we tend to be larger than women, to be protective of them. If I were to try to zero in, comic-book-like, on when masculinity went awry, I’d say it was when Rod Stewart sang, ‘You are my lover, you’re my best friend,’ rather than allowing there to be two people in his life who served two very important functions.”
Oh, Frank Miller.
Miller’s frail appearance at San Diego has elicited many comments and emails. Whether you think the above is wacky or not, clearly his personality is intact.
Sin City 2 opens this Friday.
Photo credit: Playboy/Gavin Bond
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.