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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2007

THE SPIRIT SET VISIT: FRANK MILLER

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- Frank Miller says he's like a kid in a candy store, but a lot of the candy is still left to the imagination. It's Day 27 of shooting The Spirit, the live-action film based on the creation of his friend and mentor Will Eisner. Miller's overseeing an action scene with star Gabriel Macht as The Spirit is fighting his way through some bad guys.

Surrounded by green backgrounds, Macht -- dressed in a black suit with a red tie, black hat and black mask -- is on wires on the second level of a three-level structure, resembling the outside of a balcony. The scene involves him grabbing the level above him and attempting to back-somersault onto it.

After a take, Macht's facial expression is talked about. "What kind of face is that you are making?" Miller asks, wanting a snarl.

"Snarl? I thought you said smile," Macht says, drawing a laugh from onlookers and crew.

"Damn it, you are all fired," Miller jokes.

Miller, directing on his own after a successful and groundbreaking collaboration with Robert Rodriguez on Sin City, looks at home amidst the gigantic green and black screens creating mazes out of the stages. He's more than halfway through principal photography, but a long way from a finished picture -- with extensive post-production work before the film's Jan. 16, 2009 release from Lionsgate and Odd Lot Entertainment.

Miller took a few minutes between third-act scenes with The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) and The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) to talk to a dozen or so reporters, including The Continuum, visiting the set on Tuesday.

Below is a transcription of the interview.

Question: This is your second time directing. How does it feel bringing The Spirit to life?

Miller: It's a real privilege. I'm in love with the material and doing my best to be fair to it.

Question: What challenges are you presented with the technology?

Miller: Oh, this isn't a time really where I think it's appropriate to refer to challenges of technology, so much as opportunities. Right now, it's almost frightening what is possible. One of the challenges for a director of a movie that uses this much digital technology is what not to do. You tell yourself, "I could do this." But should I?

Question: Give us an example of something you were like, "I'm never going to be able to do that," and how you were able figure out how to do it.

Miller: I knew from working with Robert Rodriguez that virtually anything was possible. And certainly with Stu Maschwitz (visual effects supervisor) I've learned some brand new things.

Question: What were you just filming over there?

Miller: That was The Spirit hunting down The Octopus and going through some snipers on the way.

Question: Can you talk about when you discovered The Spirit and what effect Will Eisner's work had on you?

Miller: I was just about 13 years old and came across Will Eisner's Spirit as published by Jim Warren and was blown away. I thought it was somebody new to comics because it was so far ahead of anything else coming out. (I) followed it religiously. There was one night when I picked up the latest issue of The Spirit and I was so excited I had to stop by a lamp post in Vermont where I lived and read it on the spot. It was Sand Saref's story, which is the basis of this movie.

Question: Can you talk about the casting of this -- and why Eva Mendes in that particular role?

Miller: I know you wear glasses, but you've got eyes. (laughs).

Question: There's lots of beautiful women in Hollywood. So why this particular beautiful woman?

Miller: Eva has a wonderful exquisite anger to her. Her talent aside, her beauty aside, she has edge that the character really needs.

Question: And the rest of the cast.... Sam Jackson?

Miller: From the start I wanted Sam Jackson to play The Octopus because I've always wanted to work with Sam Jackson. The Octopus was always a cipher in the old comics and I knew we couldn't get away with two hours of a guy whose face wouldn't be on the screen. So I thought, who would be the perfect nemesis of The Spirit? And Sam Jackson came mind. It seems to me he's always had a part like this inside of him waiting to get out.

Question: He seems to change his look in every movie. What's his look this time around?

Miller: He's The Octopus! (laughs).

Question: Do they play around with it before unveiling it being Sam?

Miller: Oh, if I started answering questions like that, you'd keep asking them. (laughs)

Question: Is part of the reason of doing the movie green screen is that it's the only way to bring the art to life?

Miller: I don't know. I'm a kid in a candy store. This is the only way I've been trained to direct. I love it because it brings it closer to the art on the page.

Question: How do you deal with the passion for the project, and that you have to use technology? It's not only art. It's always science.

Miller: That's like asking a blacksmith why he uses the hammer.

Question: Are reveling in the technology? How has it developed since Sin City?

Miller: It's exploding all around us. I see a grand and beautiful collision between anime, live-action, comic books ... and I feel like I'm witnessing these forces all come together. So it's a very exciting time.

Question: How is this going to look like Will Eisner?

Miller: Will Eisner was a little shorter than I was, and balding. (laughs) The script will be quite faithful, I think, to Will's vision as an artist. I've often laid out storyboards my way and then Eisner's way, in each case I've gone Eisner's way.

Question: There is quite a bit of humor in this?

Miller: It wouldn't be Will Eisner's Spirit if there wasn't.

Question: What aspect of Will Eisner's Spirit has been most important to get right?

Miller: The passion that Will and I always shared for New York City. And you'll see some very familiar touches that come from Will Eisner and come from the city that we both love.

Question: Were you influenced from being on the set of 300 and watching Zack (Snyder) work?

Miller: I was only briefly on the 300 set. All I saw when I first arrived to see it, I had come in wondering, "If I just might..." Not in my conscious to take his job over. But I saw what he was doing and I realized I wasn't ready.



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