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Frank Miller interview

Crime Scene

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Frank Miller interview

Graphic novelist Frank Miller talks about his film adaptation of comic book legend Will Eisner’s groundbreaking 1940s crime-fighter strip, The Spirit.

‘At first I found it too daunting, because Will Eisner had been my mentor. But after three minutes of careful thought I decided that nobody else could touch it. So I went from protecting The Spirit to exploring what I perceived as Will’s intent, which was to create something new and exciting. Accordingly, I didn’t want to make a piece of stodgy memorabilia. I wanted to do something with modern technology that was as adventurous as Will was with his horsehair brush and ink.

‘We use digital effects similar to the ones Robert Rodriguez and myself used in Sin City. What’s happened with computer technology is perfectly timed for someone with my set of skills. I tell stories with pictures. What I love about CGI is that if I can think it, it can be put on the screen.

‘The stories that make up the core of this movie were three: ‘Sand Saref’, ‘Bring in Sand Saref’ and ‘Showdown’. The first two introduce one of The Spirit’s many femme fatales, played in the film by Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Jaime King and Paz Vega. The third story was a bloody fight between the Spirit and the villain the Octopus, played by Samuel L Jackson, that demonstrated both of them could withstand inhuman punishment. Working out how to justify that allowed me to make the Spirit a man who is existentially confused about why he came back from the dead – he knows that he is a cop who was shot dead and mysteriously came back to life, but not why.

‘We set out to make a movie based on and with great love for The Spirit. But it’s not a translation or a replication. We stayed true to the heart of what Will Eisner did, but we made the film within the boundaries of our times. Will wrote his character to be contemporary and I followed his example. But we mix elements from different eras, so you have automobiles from the 1950s and cell phones.

‘Were he still alive, this is how I think Will would speak of the movie: “Frank, the Spirit never picked up a gun. That’s good! The chicks look great! I’m going to sell a ton of books!”’

The Spirit is on general release from Fri 2 Jan. Reviewed next issue.

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