The folks over at The Red Bulletin were kind enough to send us an excerpt from their August 12th issue, which includes Ann Donahue's interview with Sin City: A Dame To Kill For's Robert Rodriguez. The entire article will appear in print, and online at www.TheRedBulletin.com next Tuesday.
Rodriguez is crazy enough to have changed the world of filmmaking. Instead of working under the watchful eye of corporate overlords in a huge a studio in Los Angeles, he operates Troublemaker out of Austin, Texas, in hangars on the city’s abandoned airport. He created all of his new movie, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, here: from casting to filming; from creating the wardrobe and props to composing the score; from the special-effects work to designing the posters. Given that his latest release is a sequel to Sin City, a movie that made US$158 million worldwide, this level of autonomy in the big-business, all-eyes-on-the-bottom- line world of Hollywood is astonishing.
“Someone else created the Hollywood system and the business, but for a creative person, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense,” says Rodriguez. “You have to have a little incubator of ideas where you can feel free to fail, feel free to take a chance on something. You can’t always go to a studio and say, ‘Hey, let me go borrow your soundstage, and I don’t even know why. I have an idea. Let me feel it out.’ They’d say, ‘Get out of here.’”
The closing credits of a Rodriguez film are thick with repetition: for Sin City 2, he’s the co- director, producer, composer, cinematographer and editor. “My favorite hobbies growing up were photography, drawing, music, making movies,” says Rodriguez. “I chose filmmaking because I could still keep all my favorite hobbies under the project of a film. So on all my early films, I did everything. And then as I got into the Hollywood system, I thought, ‘I don’t know why I should give up these things. They’re still some of my favorite jobs.’”
It’s a work ethic born from a history of making movies on a tight budget. Rodriguez’s first film, El Mariachi (1992), about a musician who is mistaken for a murderer, was made for $7,000. The distribution rights were acquired by Columbia Pictures, which then spent $1m to market the film. It went on to earn twice that amount, and the legend of Rodriguez as a run-and-gun director – someone who could shoot an entire feature film very cheaply, in just a month – was born.
Hollywood’s faith in Rodriguez was cemented by his Spy Kids series; the four films since 2001 earned over half a billion dollars globally. It gave him the power to pursue whatever passion project he wanted, and what he was obsessed with was a series of brutal film noir graphic novels by Frank Miller. “I would go to the comic book store, buy a Sin City, and go home and realize I already had three copies,” Rodriguez says. “I just loved it so much, and I knew nobody could ever make a movie out of it, because they would just ruin it.”
What entranced him was the book’s unique visual style. Miller draws in stark black-and- white lines; just like his characters, there are no shades of grey. He tells tales of disfigured murderers, prostitutes, vengeful cops and corrupt politicians. In the first Sin City film, Rodriguez brought to life the grit and gore using as much of Miller’s visceral style as he was comfortable showing in 2005. “The first film, I didn’t push it as far because I thought people wouldn’t understand what they were looking at,” says Rodriguez. “It would be too distracting, it would be too strange. And then people thought it was visually groundbreaking. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t even go all the way with it.’”
The filming of Sin City 2 began with one phone call: Rodriguez dialed the number of actress Jessica Alba, and asked her to turn up as soon as she could at Troublemaker. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, Robert, you have to give me more notice than this!’” says Alba, laughing. “But that’s the way it works.”
Since Alba appeared in the original Sin City as the exotic dancer Nancy Callahan, so she wasn’t surprised at Rodriguez’s spur-of-the moment summons. She’d received the script six months earlier and was working with a choreographer to master her dances in the sequel. After all that prep, her work in Austin was done in a matter of days. “He just bangs things out,” she says. “He’s really calm and kind.”
Besides Alba, Rodriguez had not cast any other actors when he started shooting. “When you have your own studio, you don’t have to ask permission to get going,” he says. “Once the train has left the station, people jump on board.” Sure enough, within days, those who had signed up included Eva Green, playing the titular dame to kill for, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who portrays a gambler on a mysterious mission.
Filming the first Sin City, Rodriguez was one of the pioneers of the green-screen technique, which places actors against a blank background and then fills in their surroundings digitally during post-production. Rodriguez’s green-screen soundstage at Troublemaker is immense, a cavernous set the size of an industrial factory floor, all painted in the DayGlo green of a tropical insect.
It can be a mind-bender for those who haven’t worked in the medium before. “When Josh Brolin showed up, he said, ‘Where’s Mickey Rourke?’ and I said, ‘I filmed him already,’” recalls Rodriguez. “And he said: ‘All my scenes are with Mickey?! He’s carrying me around and we’re drinking together and he’s driving me in cars!’ and I’m like, ‘I know. I’ll figure it out when I get there, and it will work because I’ve done it before.”
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is made up of four of Miller’s stories: two previously unpublished, the title graphic novel and another, The Long Bad Night. The movie takes a vignette structure that mimics the first film, but Rodriguez wants this one to be bigger, bolder and more in line with the shock-and-awe style of Frank Miller’s works. It will retain the black-and-white severity of the original – but this time there will also be a 3D version. “I wanted to go further towards what the books originally offered,” says Rodriguez. “When you have a property like this that’s magical, you want to do right by it.”
For the remainder of the article, please visit: http://www.redbulletin.com/
Co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez reunite to bring Miller's visually stunning "Sin City" graphic novels back to the screen in 3D in Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame To Kill. In a town where justice doesn't prevail, the desperate want vengeance and ruthless murderers find themselves with vigilantes on their heels. Their paths cross when they converge on Sin City’s famous Kadie's Club Pecos... The film opens with fan-favorite “Just Another Saturday Night,” when Marv (Mickey Rourke) finds himself in the center of carnage as he tries to remember the events leading up to it. “The Long, Bad Night” tells the tale of Johnny, a cocky young gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on a winning streak taking his chances with the biggest bastard of them all, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). The central story, Miller’s critically acclaimed "A Dame To Kill For," has Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) facing his final confrontation with the woman of his dreams and his nightmares, Ava Lord (Eva Green). “Nancy’s Last Dance" follows Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) in the wake of John Hartigan’s (Bruce Willis) death. On a downward spiral filled with grief, she will stop at nothing to get revenge.
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame To Kill For opens August 22.