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Feature: Sin City

In the beginning…

Co-director Robert Rodriguez takes us for a ride through his creative collaboration with Frank Miller, the author of the original graphic novel

With the current trend for adapting comic books and graphic novels into blockbusting films showing no sign of abating, the upcoming big screen version of Frank Miller’s exceptional illustrated stories looks set to add something rather different to the mix. Based on three of Millar’s stories – Sin City, The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard, the film is set in the dark, corrupt city of its title and tells three interweaving stories of revenge, murder and violent retribution.

As the novels already have a huge fan base, co-director Robert Rodriguez was more than aware of how carefully he would have to handle this particular project. “It’s probably the hardest I’ve worked on a movie,” he confesses. “I thought it was going to be easy – ‘hey, just copy what’s out of the book, and there you go!’” But, as he explains, Rodriguez soon realized that adapting the novels in an honest way was a lot more complicated. “It is a lot of work. I think somewhere near the end I realized, because it’s a sort of trilogy that all relates to the same day, so it was like doing three movies at once.”

Despite the added pressure involved with working on a project like this, Rodriguez had absolutely no doubts about bringing Miller’s stories to the big screen. “I was a fan of [his graphic novels] in particular,” he explains. “People thought it was such a great idea to make it into a movie, but it took me years to figure out. I always wanted to do a film noir, but never put two and two together that this should be the thing until a couple of years ago when, after doing the Spy Kids movies and learning so much about the lighting and technology, I realized I could make this movie. The time was right to make it look like the book.”

As the director is happy to confess, the original novels are so good that there wasn’t a lot of work involved in the screenwriting process. “The more I looked at the book to adapt it, I realized it didn’t need adapting! It was visual storytelling, and it worked so well on the page. I thought it would work exactly the same way on the screen.” In fact, Rodriguez was so enamoured with the graphic novels that he went out on a limb to ensure that as few changes as possible were made to it. “Traditionally what would have happened is that if you liked the Sin City book, you take it to a studio, they’d buy it and they would give it to a writer who would then change half of it because he’s got to earn his pay,” the director explains. “He wouldn’t do what I did, which was pick the book up and transcribe it directly word for word and then edit it down to pace. So I said ‘Let’s not change anything. Let’s not develop it. Let’s start shooting right out of the book. There won’t even be a screenplay, we’ll just shoot right out of the books.’ It’s the same visual storytelling mediums and that’s what makes the movie so unique, but it doesn’t feel like a movie. And I didn’t want to make a movie out of Sin City. I wanted to turn cinema into the comic.”

by Judy Sloane and Nikki Baughan

Get the full interview, plus stars Benicio Del Toro and Rosario Dawson in
Film Review (Jun)

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, Sin City © Miramax Films
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Film Review (Jun), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Jun)
#657, June 2005
ships from Apr 21 2005
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