SDCC 2014: Frank Miller's Sin City – A Dame to Kill For Panel

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Live updating by Hilton Collins

All right-y folks… the Sin City: A Dame to Kill for panel starts in Hall H pretty soon, in like about 10 minutes, so geeeeettt ready…

Comic-Con's director of programming Eddie Ibrahim has come onto stage to introduce the panel. Now Geoff Boucher is coming out to moderate the panel. He's talking to the audience… playing around…

Director Robert Rodriguez and writer Frank Miller are walking onto the stage. Miller looks dapper in his hat.

Rodriguez saw that Miller was doing breathtaking visuals and Rodriguez didn't see why he couldn't take a movie and turn it into Frank's work. Comics and movies don't have to be separate, they can work together and make beautiful art.

When Sin City 1 was at Comic-Con 10 years ago, it was wonderful, Rodriguez said. Miller feels that recent comic book movies coming out have been getting better and better. He said it's great to take some existing character and throw him into a board room of people who thinks comics are crap and proving those people wrong.

Boucher wonders if Miller's on a Picasso-like journey to deconstruct art on the comic book page. Miller started Sin City when he'd always wanted to do crime stories. Comics were just about guys in tights, but Miller worked in as many crime elements as he could. In addition to that, Miller had worked on Batman and other projects, he didn't like the process of in a screenplay, there are too many people involved in the process, so he moved away from screen writing. Miller moved away from movies to make a comic that couldn't be a movie, and it was Sin City.

Rodriguez is showing us part of the opening scene from Sin City: A Dame to Kill for right now, live in Hall H…

Rosario Dawson (Gail), Josh Brolin (Dwight McCarthy), Jessica Alba (Nancy Callahan) come onto stage.

Boucher asks Alba about returning to the Sin City world. She feels like the luckiest girl in Hollywood to be coming back, and the sequel's an original story. Nancy was a sweet victim in the first movie, but in this sequel she turns into a warrior.

Brolin joked that he wanted to play Nancy but it didn't work out. Boucher says that Brolin's been to dark, violent places in movies, but what was it about Sin City that connected with him.

Brolin says you don't know it will connect with you at first, and he'd known Rodriguez for 21 years and got along with him. Rodriguez and Miller are two iconoclasts, and being involved with them is great. You HAVE to dive into what Miller's created, and it makes this different from other adaptations.

Dawson said that neighborhoods are cut off and segmented, and in Sin City, we see what makes people gravitate to one place or another, and it helps you feel the essence of Sin City. The movie takes you on a journey to different neighborhoods and communities in the city, and it's realistic in that way.

Boucher thinks the movie is anachronistic because the dialogue is from a different past. Brolin said that you can't naturalize that dialogue, you have to adapt to it. You have to do it properly. Miller comes up to tell them how to say things properly, and Dawson feels that it's nice, and it was great to see how Miller and Rodriguez would get giddy over the process and see the world comes to life. They'd correct the actor and help them bring the characters to life that gives the movie a class and energy. Modernizing the movie would soften it, but keeping it edgy and classic gives the movie its proper voice.

Rodriguez said seeing Miller grin was a good sign during the process because Miller doesn't smile often. That was the goal, "Make Frank happy with seeing this come to life."

Rodriguez wanted things to fit Miller's vision, he wanted to be more of a facilitator than a director and ensure that it was true to his vision. Miller already WAS storyteller with a pen, not a camera, and Rodriguez wanted to emulate that.

Dawson remembered the level of energy they put into it, using the comic, panel by panel, to help them make the movie, to match the perspective in the panels on the page on the screen, it was amazing.

Boucher said that Ray Liotta and Christopher Lloyd are in the movie as well. Rodriguez added that Christopher Meloni and Eva Green are in it as well. Rodriguez said that they tried to mirror the comic in lighting. Alba came in prepared and set the bar for what the performances would be like. The performances in this movie are amazing because they have experience from the first film.

Brolin wasn't available at first in the movie but came later when he became available. Mickey Rourke's scenes had already been filmed, so when Brolin came in, he wondered where Rourke was because he was expecting to work with him, but scheduling made the start rought.

Brolin and Dawson had discussed how being an actor means that you want to connect with whom you work with ,and Rodriguez blew that to smithereens. Actors trust directors to create something wonderful, and Rodriguez was wonderful. Brolin was on green screen wondering if things would come out right, but then he'd see it and it would be great thanks to Rodriguez's vision. Actors have to be more focused in this process and use their imagination more. Miller sucks you in with his work.

Boucher recalls that Miller had worked on things like The Dark Knight Returns and Daredevil in the past in comics, but the Sin City characters are ORIGINAL things he created. Miller said that he's protective of every character he works on, but with Sin City, he wanted a particular tone, antiquated feeling for this one. He had no intention of it being on the silver screen, but he thinks that, in the second movie, the whole world that saw it was used to the world of Sin City by then from the first one. Everyone from the audience to the cast became more comfortable with the dialogue he'd written. When Alba appeared on set, she was in-character and ready for a graveyard scene, and Dawson so owned the character Miller had nothing to really say to her. She was ready.

Rodriguez said that Dawson goes all the way with her performance with this one, and she showed up onset one day with a shaved head and said she didn't want people to think she didn't bring it for the second movie, but she TOTALLY did.

Alba was a completely different person for the movie, and Rourke and Willis gave her props for her performance. She really set the bar. Miller's thought when he said hello to Alba was, he hadn't seen her in eight years, what did he do to piss her off. Alba said she connected with Nancy's dark side, and it was hard to detach from that until filming was done. She was connected the whole time to Nancy's spirit during filming. She felt she was more mature this time, she's older and wiser now compared to when she was in her early 20s during the first one. She felt comfortable the second time around and wanted to kick ass.

Boucher asks Alba if she worked with Powers Booth much on this one, and Alba said he was pretty scary. After filming, she watched the movie with him and felt he was intimidating despite the fact that he's a cool guy.

Rodriguez mentions cast members who aren't there, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Johnny). Miller drew original storyboards onset, which was thrilling for them, and Frank built a new story in part onset. Miller draws that way he draws and saw Alba onstage once, and she was in a pose he'd drawn, which was an impossible pose, and he was stunned.

Technology's changed a lot in 10 years from when Rodriguez did the first Sin City. Rodriguez recalled having big cameras that Jim Cameron had used that made things swift for the second film. They also used smartphones, which helped when Rodriguez was making music. He wrote songs on his phone during at times, and it was SO convenient.

In answering an audience member's question, Alba said it was tough getting into Nancy's head because she herself is nothing like Nancy, who's psychotic. She said it was cool how Brolin just showed up and just said the lines. Brolin said when you start acting, it's awkward for the first few days, but eventually you get into it.

Miller said that the lack of visual background (thanks to green screen) seemed to increase the rapport between the actors. In the first Sin City, Alba and Bruce Willis bonded well in a scene when Nancy professed her love for Willis and there was nothing really there physically except for a couch, but the chemistry was excellent.

Miller mentioned that and Rodriguez are already talking about Sin City 3 right now, in response to an audience member's question about if they'd do an adaptation of another DC Comics property, Ronin. Neither said that they would, though.

In responses to other audience questions, the following information was given:

Miller said that there's a chance he'd do another Sin City graphic novel but wouldn't know when he would.

He also said that Martha Washington on the big screen would be great but it would have to be done right, and done HIS way.

Rodriguez said that everyone wants to be true to Miller's vision. Actor Dennis Haysbert, who replaced deceased actor Michael Clarke Duncan (Manute) from the first Sin City, did an amazing job in this latest film.

 
Update – Adding coverage by Will Romine

Hello Friends!

photo (11)They say that good things are worth waiting for.  I disagree with that statement in all possible contexts except for today where, after nearly a decade, we get to see footage from Sin City: A Dame to Kill.  Not many sequels get made with this much of a lag after the original. We get to go on another adventure with our old friends Nancy, Marv, Dwight, and others.

Present are Robert Rodrigues, Frank Miller, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Josh Brolin.  It's been 10 years since Robert Rodriguez and company first showed footage of the original movie here at San Diego Comic Con.

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller relate how their movie broke the mold by, instead of trying to adapt a comic book for the screen, they made a COMIC BOOK MOVIE.  There was nothing broken with the source material, so there was no need to adapt.

Interestingly, Frank Miller claims that he wrote Sin City intending to make a comic book that couldn't be adapted into a movie, and he succeeded. The visuals showed today showed the comic on the screen, not a comic translated to film. We saw the opening sequence to the film, based on the Sin City short, Just Another Saturday Night. In this clip, Mickey Rourke slips right back into the Marv role, saving winos from frat-boy immolation, faithful to Miller's art and writing.

The director and cast spoke at great lengths about how the use of green screen has changed between the filming of the first Sin City and today.  When Rodriguez shot the first film, green screen acting was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today.  The cast described it as "the ultimate actor's challenge", where you have to act against an actor without responding to their reactions.  Brolin was at first daunted by the challege, but eventually became sucked in by the quality of Miller's work.  Mickey Rourke and Josh Brolin, despite sharing a lot of screen time, never actually filmed together, despite Brolin's 20 year desire to work with Mickey Rourke.

The plot will be largely original, with slight inspiration from the original.  Unlike the last film, there was no comic to act as a storyboard.  Millar actually drafted original Sin City art on set.  As Miller-drawn storyboard was being filmed, Miller was amazed at some of the contortions that Jessica Alba twisted into.  When he asked why she moved so, she replied "That's the way you drew me, Frank." Very Jessica Rabbit.

The best news?  Miller and Rodriguez are already planning Sin City 3, and Miller said that a new Sin City graphic novel is "inevitable," but not immediate.  All he said is that he has stories.

I'm going to be in Hall H until the last special guest of the last panel has left the stage, so follow me @notacomplainer.

About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.

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