”Cannes is a funny show,” says Frank Miller. ”I like to refer to it as Los Angeles writ large because the weather is generally even better, the people are even prettier, and the amount of money at stake is enormous.” Yep, sounds like the little Riviera fest we know and love. For the past week, the graphic novelist turned filmmaker has been taking part in the glamorous insanity of the South of France while he promotes his upcoming project, The Spirit. An adaptation of the Will Eisner comic about a masked crime fighter, Spirit will mark Miller’s first solo directing gig. (He and Robert Rodriguez co-directed Sin City, which they both accompanied to Cannes in 2005.) We sat with the black fedora-ed renaissance man for a decadent early evening cocktail — of Coca Cola.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how has Cannes been treating you? Robert Rodriguez is here, so that must be fun.
FRANK MILLER: Oh, it’s lovely. He’s my brother. It’s great to see him. He and I are just a couple of little kids having fun at the world’s expense. And we were just talking about our new projects, and we’re hoping to get back to Sin City next year.
Are you planning on two more sequels?
Well, we’ve got the stories for a lot more. There seems to be some confusion among the [studio] higher-ups about when we can go back, but we’ve got a script. We’re ready to go.
Cannes is pretty different from Comic-Con, I would imagine.
Comic-Con is getting more and more like it. It’s so gigantic at this point. It’s gotten huge because it represents more of a genre than a medium.
Let’s talk about The Spirit. How are you feeling about directing a movie by yourself?
It’s everything from scary to ”can’t wait!” The next thing I do is draw, so I’ll be in New York drawing a movie for a while. This is kind of like drawing a comic book only you’ve got 100 more panels each. And then we’re going to get down to the casting and all the wonders of preproduction. We’re talking about shooting possibly in November. I’m eager to get back to work. As much as I love doing my comics — that really satisfies the solitary part of my job — having another world that’s populated by people that I can yell at is wonderful. I can’t wait to be working with actors again. It’s my favorite part of the job.
Sin City and 300 [which is based on Miller’s graphic novel] have such distinct looks. What will The Spirit look like?
That’s a good question, because it’s definitely going to be a digital movie with live action. But the source material is going to set the visual tone of it. In terms of the effects, I have no doubt there will be innovation because all these brilliant people are waiting for problems to solve. This is an astonishing period of transition, and I’m really as happy, as you could imagine, to be a player at this time, creating this hybrid kind of film. My goal will be to make it look more like Fritz Lang than Star Wars.
Samuel L. Jackson is in negotiations to play the Octopus, the Spirit’s evil nemesis. What made him the man for the job?
He was my first choice. I’m a Samuel Jackson fan and I couldn’t think of a better foil for The Spirit. I mean, he’s big, he’s scary, he’s funny. He’s got every quality that I could ask for. And part way through the last draft, I found myself writing the character for him. I could hear his voice. And I think that there’s something in him that has been waiting for and will relish playing pure, crazy evil.
Do you have other ideas for casting?
Yeah, but I can’t really talk about them. The big question is, who’s going to be The Spirit? And that I honestly can’t answer yet. I’ll know as soon as he walks through the door. I think he’s likely to be someone unknown. Because it’s a very unusual part, and I want you to see the mask before you see the guy. I don’t want this to feel like a vehicle. On the other hand, some big name could walk through the door and I’ll say, ”Of course!” But I’ve got to see the face and talk to the guy. I’m going to assemble a killer cast. It’s gonna be big, with lots of beautiful women, which is never painful.
Were you surprised by the success of 300 [which has grossed $209 million to date]?
I’m always surprised by failure or success, but this was a whopper. When I first saw what [director] Zack [Synder] was doing, I got very excited. I thought it might be something that would really appeal to people. But you never know. Also, everybody thought that history material was dead. All you gotta do is tell a good story right. People show up.
I’m sure the studio wants a 300 sequel.
It’s kind of hard to do a sequel in a story where everybody dies. But it’s very rich material. Since I’m a military history buff anyway, I’m constantly reading about this stuff, but I would have to have another story that I absolutely fell in love with before I would do a companion piece to 300.