Interview: Robert Rodriguez, Eva Green and Jessica Alba talk Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
The director and stars are making a return to Frank Miller's graphic neo-noir universe
Nine years after Sin City was released, Robert Rodriguez and co are back with a sequel to Frank Miller’s dark graphic novel. James Mottram discovers part two is as politically incorrect as ever
If there’s been one question Robert Rodriguez has faced over the past nine years, it’s this: When are you going back to Sin City? ‘To have a movie that people chase you down about to get a sequel for. That just doesn’t happen,’ nods the 46-year-old Rodriguez, who knows a thing or two on the subject, after making three El Mariachi films, two Machete movies and four Spy Kids adventures. ‘You don’t get that often, which is why we knew we needed to make a sequel.’
A slavishly faithful adaptation of Frank Miller’s grisly, neo-noir graphic novel, the original Sin City made a mint (well, $158 million) – impressive when you consider it transported audiences into the rotting bowels of the fictional X-rated Basin City, a place where strippers, thugs and even cannibalistic serial killers rub shoulder-to-shoulder. Sublimely realised on screen, via green-screen and CGI, it looked like a living comic book drawn in inky black-and-white with splashes of vivid colour.
Its success meant a follow-up was always on the cards, even if Rodriguez and Miller took their time. The resulting Sin City: A Dame To Kill For takes us back to Basin City and is another series of vignettes – part-prequel, part-sequel, as various strands wrap around the original. It blends familiar mugs like Mickey Rourke’s memorable bruiser Marv with newcomers like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wise-ass gambler Johnny (in the new Miller-penned story, ‘The Long Bad Night’).
The centrepiece, however, is the titular A Dame To Kill For, first published by Miller in 1993, as the follow-up to the original Sin City comic. Inspired by Billy Wilder’s classic 1944 noir Double Indemnity, Eva Green stars as sultry femme fatale Ava Lord, former lover to one Dwight McCarthy. The story takes place before events of Sin City’s ‘The Big Fat Kill’, when Clive Owen starred as Dwight (here played by Josh Brolin; a change allowed because their character undertook facial reconstruction in between the two yarns).
Petitioning Dwight to help her escape her abusive spouse, all is not what it seems with Lord. ‘She’s a perfect seductress who can transform herself into men’s deepest desires,’ smiles Green, who has already entered into Frank Miller’s world once this year, in the Greek-Persian fantasy 300: Rise of an Empire. ‘She has so many facets. She’s like an animal. She’s not intellectual. It’s all with her guts. She starts with her body. And she adjusts to how men react.’
Even before release, Green’s appearance caused consternation, with US censors banning a teaser poster featuring the scantily-clad actress for its suggestive nature – specifically for its ‘curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown’. Green sighs at the topic. ‘It’s boring. I don’t understand where it comes from really,’ she says.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, simply scoffs: ‘I created that poster myself. It was not meant to be shocking. I was actually following the comic pretty close, and I kept it silhouetted and they felt like it needed more covering up, for public consumption. It fits the character – when you see the book, when you see the movie, you have to have something that gets your attention. If you tell people “You can’t look at this, it’s not for you, it’s too much”, that’s the first thing they want to look at.’
The first Sin City film has its detractors, with accusations of misogyny made (Dana Leventhal, in Bright Lights Film Journal, claimed the female characters were ‘servants of debased male gratification’) and it’s safe to say an unapologetic Rodriguez and Miller haven’t toned things down for part two. Take Nancy, the stripper-with-a-heart of gold played by Jessica Alba. She returns in brand new vignette ‘The Fat Loss’ – now left to cope with the suicide of Bruce Willis’ sacrificial saviour cop.
‘It wasn’t like I was playing the same character as I did nine years ago,’ says Alba. ‘In this one, she’s been corrupted by all of it.’ Nancy goes from ‘sweet and naïve’ to ‘cynical, sad, and self-destructive’, suggesting that Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has darkened its doors even more. As for those pesky claims of anti-female bias, Alba waves them away. ‘You don’t usually see in a lot of films so many strong characters that are women,’ she agues, ‘[particularly] this genre.’
Still, with the male 18–25 demographic the principal target audience, it’s hard to see if many viewers will care if this Sin City sequel is as politically incorrect as its predecessor. Rodriguez was simply glad to be directing again with the unstoppable force that is Frank Miller. ‘It was like no time had passed and we were on set together again, Frank and I. We had a blast! It was like old times.’ Which, if you’re looking to take another trip to Basin City, is probably what you want to hear.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is on general release from Fri Aug 22.