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FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2008


SAN DIEGO -- After its Punisher: Wzr Zone presentation on Thursday, Lionsgate showed off its other December comics movie, Frank Miller's The Spirit, on Friday at Comic-Con International.

Following are highlights from the panel:

* Miller recounted a story of how he first met Will Eisner and their 25-year "argument" over comics. He originally turned down The Spirit, but realized he didn't want someone else to do it and teamed with producer Deborah del Prete.

"It's been a dream of a project," Miller said. "I've had moments of creative euphoria that I've never had before. And I think it's a real cool movie."

* Del Prete said The Spirit is a "dream project of a lifetime." She said that he and Miller talked about Eisner every day on the set and what he would want for the movie.

Del Prete talked to Eisner at his last Comic-Con about what he wanted -- and didn't want -- the film to be. "I felt very much that this film was somewhat of a sacred trust," she said, "that we really needed to make it the right way and to make it in the way Will wanted it to made."

* Del Prete said that being an independent filmmaker helped in getting Miller's vision on screen. She said technology now allows the art of the comic book to get into movies.

* Miller noted that in Eisner's work the Octopus was only seen by his gloves, but in the film he had to be played by "someone who could scare the crap out of everybody but also could be big enough and masculine enough to fill those gloves and be willing to look past those gloves into the heart of darkness.

* At that point, Samuel L. Jackson arrived on stage.

"It's a real honor to be able to put flesh and bones and voice and attitude and everything else to the Octopus, who has only been a pair of hands since 1930-something," Jackson said. "Frank was kind enough to allow me to create and explore and talk to him and pester him about doing things that turned out to be quite fascinating for us all. Even on a day to day basis, I was able to come on the set and surprise Frank."

* Jackson talked about a quest for a bigger gun, and that some guns were so big he needed wires to hold them.

* What was Miller like as a director? "Extremely open to suggestions," Jackson said. "Totally without ego, which is very different than most directors."

Jackson said Miller excelled at setting things up and explaining how and why he wants things to happen.

* Jackson said he was familiar with The Spirit comic books. "But now I know them all because Frank hooked me up with them," he said.

* Talking about Nick Fury, Jackson cracked, "It's so amazing that he finally evolved into something that makes sense to me."

Asked to describe his character, Jackson said, "I always visualized the Octopus as this guy who wanted to be so much more than he actually was early on in his life. As he put concoctions together and tried things and was buried in this morgue, he was waiting for this opportunity to just explode and be this kingpin as he knew kingpins to me.

"He wanted to be something excedingly different that an ordinary head of a mob. As he got rid of all those people and sold his drugs and finally found Denny to experiment on and realized he found the right thing to make him the indestructible being that he wanted to be, he kind of lost his mind.

"But in the midst of losing his mind, he found a way to create something that was different every day that gave him a reason to get up and be larger than life. He was the center of the universe in his mind. He's the Octopus, he's got his hands in everything."

Jackson said he tried out looks for Miller, including one that he called the Black Nazi.

* Stars Gabriel Macht (The Spirit) and Jaime King (Loreles) joined the panel.

King said that Miller described her character as "the angel of death." She said she has "an extreme love and fasciation" for Denny Colt and is a mysterious character who appears throughout the film.

"She goes from extreme love and admiration to extreme rage and anger, and every time The Spirit gets knocked out, she tries to beckon him to come to her," King said. "When that doesn't happen, she's not a very happy woman."

* Mecht said The Spirit is a character of wide range, someone who can laugh at himself of become deadly. He also falls in love with every women he mets.

"He was a joy to play, an amazing opportunity, the best opportunity for a young actor," he said.

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