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NEW YORK -- With a broken hip, Frank Miller couldn't attend, but appropriately was there in spirit for The Spirit movie panel on Saturday.

Producers Michael Uslan and F.J. DeSanto and Denis Kitchen, former Kitchen Sink Publisher and Will Eisner's agent, carried on to discuss the film, which Miller is writing and directing for Odd Lot Productions.

DeSanto read an e-mail from Miller to the crowd:

"Sometimes life really sucks. I slipped on a patch of black ice on a Manhattan sidewalk, smashed my left hip to bits and have spent the last bunch of weeks undergoing medical procedures and missing out on all these chances to tell everybody how much fun I get to have writing Will Eisner's The Spirit. Don't go expecting a nostalgic, tongue-in-cheek romp here. Remember, remember how scary Eisner got whenever he chose to. And remember how he broke your heart with the story of San Serif. So expect some hair-pin turns, some dead-end, back-alley madness, the wet kind. Get set, we're on our way to some dark places."

Here are highlights from the panel:

* Uslan said he promised to do The Spirit the right way and that's why the developmental process has been so long.

"And I've held to that promise," he said. "And it's been painful. We've had many lucrative deals put in front of us that we have turned down over the years. We've dealt with people in Hollywood, who have said, 'Great. You want to do a Spirit movie? That's something we would be be interested in financing and distributing. Let's get him out of this tie and jacket stuff. Spandex and cape, we'll work on some designs. And, of course, he'll need super-powers. He'll really die and come back as a ghost and it will be supernatural.'

"And I said, 'That's a great idea. We can call it The Spectre or maybe Deadman."

* Uslan said he got to spend a lot of time with Eisner before his death, seeking his input and preferences.

* Miller's teaser poster for the film was shown over the big screen. "That kind of gives you an idea what Frank was talking about," Uslan said.

* Uslan related a story how he hadn't seen Miller for some time, but ran into him at Eisner's memorial service, just after the Sin City movie had opened.

Uslan told Miller he could see the techniques used in Sin City to create The Spirit movie and suggested to Miller he was the man to make it.

"Frank's reaction back was almost immediately, 'You expect me to do something worthy of Will Eisner? I couldn't possibly do that,'" Uslan said. "And having thinking about this for some time he came back and said, 'I can't let anyone else do it. I've got to do it.'"

* Miller is currently writing the final draft of the screenplay.

* DeSanto said he thought 300 was a perfect translation of Miller's material to the big screen, it has inspired him to create Eisner's vision.

* Kitchen said that he thought Eisner, who was Miller's friend and someone he respected, would have approved of him working on The Spirit movie.

* DeSanto said Miller has copied Eisner's work, cut out panels and put on his wall, arranging them and filling them in with his own drawings, to map out the film.

"It's not an origin story," DeSanto said. "When you meet The Spirit, he is The Spirit. We hit the ground running with it, and that's what's really great about it. The Eisner elements are in there.

"Central City is its own sort of world. With the technology that they made Sin City with, that they made 300 with it, we're at a really unique point in film-making where we can make this world as Eisner-esque as possible. We can really make it Central City and keep it true to Will's vision."

* DeSanto said the movie will contain Eisner's famous femme fatales.

* Uslan said the film will not be one of Eisner's whimsical stories.

"However that doesn't mean when we move to some animation projects that we won't necessarily cover it then," he said. "But that's a story I'm not allowed to talk about."

* Uslan talked about characters who will be in the film. "Commissioner Dolan will be in the film, and believe me, you're understand why he is so different from Commissioner Gordon," Uslan said. "Ellen Dolan will be there. San Serif and that magnificent romantic triangle will be there.

"There are villains and femme fatales sprinkled throughout that will delight you and surprise you with the way that Frank is dealing with them."

* Uslan said that the film will have a timeless sense and that Eisner never created The Spirit stories with a nostalgic sense.

"The only thing I can throw back to you is what Tim Burton did in our first Batman picture," Uslan said. "A lot of people, if you ask them, weren't certain if that movie took place in the past, present or future."

* Both Uslan and DeSanto said they have received a lot of attention from agents of actors who want to be in the movie.

"Frank's got a few choices who could really cement this and bring it to life in the best possible way," DeSanto said.

* What are the producers looking for in an actor to place The Spirit?

"It's got to be someone who is a little scary," Uslan said, "somebody with a sense of humor, somebody who can really, really win the hearts of all these femme fatales who seem to be at his feet or stabbing him in the back, depending on the moment. He's got to able to take lots of punishment.

"I know that Frank has some very definitive ideas in mind regarding casting and we expect to be pursuing some of those ideas. And some of those ideas are pursuing us."

* Uslan said that Robert Rodriguez, who co-directed with Miller on Sin City, will not be involved with The Spirit. "This is Frank Miller's baby," he said.

* Uslan said that making The Spirit independently is imporant.

"There will never be a situation, where, by our choice, we ignore 60 years of history and mythology of the character just to create something of new cloth just to throw it out there," he said. "It's great creative freedom where we get to respect the fans and the material."

* Uslan said it looks like The Spirit might go into production before Sin City 2. "But anything could change at any time," he said. "Frank's got to get up and around and get to feeling 100 percent."

He said actors' availablity could also be a factor.

"We're moving like lightning," Uslan said. "The next draft that Frank's turning in should really be it. We should be in a position to get moving pretty quickly."

* Uslan said if he had to guess, The Spirit would be "a really hard PG-13."

* Uslan also talked about his upcoming projects, Shazam! and The Shadow.

"We are so enthused about Shazam! It's making great progress," he said. "New Line is a thousand percent supportive."

He said to stay tuned for announcements New Line.

Uslan said that The Shadow was the first gig he ever got writing comics and that he was thrilled to be working with producer Sam Raimi on the film.

"This is special stuff for me, and we are determined it be done the right way," Uslan said. "We really think the story's been cracked the tone, we have a really great writer, Siavash Farahani, who is doing a bang-up job."

Uslan didn't want to comment on in which period The Shadow would take place.

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